Public health is an intersectional discipline, sitting at a crossroads between the medical, environmental, political and social sciences. It takes rigorous training to learn how to work within the various systems involved and contribute to advancements in health and safety, and a degree from one of the best schools for public health can start you off well on your way.
Degree programs in public health are available at all points on the academic spectrum, from the doctoral level on down to non-degree undergraduate certificates that may take a year or less to complete. Many employers require candidates to hold at least a bachelor's degree, but educational requirements vary from position to position.
If you're a working health care professional and don't have enough free time on weekdays to pursue a traditional degree plan, look into online public health degrees. Online degrees for public health students often permit the completion of lectures and assignments on your own time, making vital continued education programs more accessible for busy adults.
Best Colleges for Public Health Degree Programs
We gathered National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data on more than 250 schools and ran it through our system of analytics to find out which were the top schools nationwide for public health. Click the button to learn more about our methodology, and read on for the list of the ten best colleges for public health degree programs.
East Carolina University earned the No. 1 ranking overall thanks to a solid performance across multiple categories. The Greenville, North Carolina, school ranked No. 4 for affordability, No. 3 for its graduation rate, No. 4 for distance education enrollment and No. 5 for its student-faculty ratio.
The bachelor's degree in public health studies at ECU is designed to teach students the knowledge and skills they need to either work in the public health field directly after graduation or go on to continue their education in a range of health-related fields. Concentration areas for the program include community health education and worksite health promotion.
The University of North Carolina at Asheville packages its degree program for public health students as a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in health and wellness promotion. The curriculum is designed to help students better understand obstacles to individual and community health and develop strategies for communicating with individuals and groups about how to overcome them.
UNC Asheville's degree catalog also features a unique concentration program designed to take a hard look at one of the most important individual factors in public health — the food we eat. The interdisciplinary cluster in food, food systems and culture requires a minimum of 12 credit hours and includes courses in nutrition, food chemistry, agriculture and the pathophysiology of chronic illness.
Mississippi University for Women took the No. 2 spot in our affordability category, charging students an average annual amount of less than $5,800 in the 2015-16 academic year. It also had one of the highest admission rates of the 250 schools we looked at in this analysis — more than 96 percent of qualified applicants were accepted in 2015.
If you've earned an associate's degree, up to 62 hours of coursework can be transferred into the B.S. program in public health education at Mississippi University for Women. If you have an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in an Allied Health field, up to 43 career and technical school credits may transfer into the Bachelor of Applied Science (B.A.S.) program.
Only one other school on our list had a higher graduation rate than the University of Utah, a large campus with a student-faculty ratio of 16:1. The Salt Lake City institution pulled in high marks on our flexibility metric, thanks to features such as its placement services for alumni and weekend or evening campus-based courses designed for students who are busy during normal working hours.
The University of Utah has an extensive catalog of graduate degrees in public health, including several Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) programs and a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program. A community health emphasis to an bachelor's degree in health is available for undergraduate students looking to prepare for a public health career.
The lowest average tuition and fees cost of any school that made our top ten can be found at this Idaho outpost of Brigham Young University, a private university with its roots in the Mormon faith. Students at BYUI paid an average amount of $3,830 for the year in 2015, nearly two thousand dollars less than our list's No. 2 school in that category.
This eastern Idaho institution offers a B.S. in public health that can be earned entirely through distance education, if you're shopping around for online public health degrees. The curriculum for the online program includes a mix of health care, community health, nutrition and administration courses.
The better than 93 percent graduation rate at Johns Hopkins University took the No. 1 spot among schools on our list and made the top five of all 250 colleges and universities we surveyed. The Baltimore, Maryland, institution also posted our list's highest proportion of public health students among its 2015 graduating class — nearly 11 percent of the over 8,100 degrees awarded in 2015.
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) students at Johns Hopkins take approximately 70 credit hours of major-specific coursework and complete an applied experience section with at least 80 hours of documented service in a public health setting. A five- or six-year joint bachelor's and master's program is also available for students planning to go on to the graduate level.
Portland State University earned the No. 7 spot on our list partially on the strength of its fiscal investment in student success. The Oregon institution set aside nearly 45 percent of its annual budget for instructional improvements and academic support expenses, ranking No. 4 among schools on our list in both spending categories.
Campus-based students at Portland State University can earn either a B.A. or B.S. in health studies with an emphasis in community health education, which blends public health and related research with study of public education, community organizing and policy development. The online catalog doesn't list any fully online degrees for public health majors, but the online bachelor's degree in urban and public affairs contains a public health component.
This public research university in Tucson, Arizona, awarded the largest number of degrees overall of any institution that made our list, conferring diplomas on a total of 9,932 graduates in 2015, and did so with the fifth-ranked graduation rate among our top ten schools. The B.S. in public health at the University of Arizona contains a fieldwork section that must be done on-site at a public health establishment, but the coursework portion can be completed entirely online.
UA also offers several graduate certificates that can add value to your public health skillset once you've completed your bachelor's program. As well as a 15-credit certificate in general public health, students can choose from a list that includes applied nutrition, medical and community health information and global health and development.
Founded in 1969, the Shreveport location of the Louisiana State University System stood out as one of the top destinations for students seeking partially online public health degrees. Many general education requirements for the B.S. in community health are likely to be available online, and nearly two-thirds of the student body took at least some coursework in the virtual classroom in 2015.
The list of concentrations for your community health degree at LSU Shreveport includes options for direct practice professions as well as those on the administrative and academic side. Aspiring practitioners can specialize in strength and conditioning, pre-physical therapy and pre-occupational therapy, while future scholars or administrators may choose among health behavior, health and fitness management and non-profit leadership.
This Edmond, Oklahoma, institution reported the third lowest average cost of tuition and fees among schools that made our top ten, charging students just over $6,000 for the year in 2015. Campus-based flexibility was a bright spot here, with weekend/evening courses, placement services and alternative tuition payment plans all available, and more than 28 percent of students took at least some courses online.
The curriculum for the community/public health B.S. program at the University of Central Oklahoma covers health and aging, media advocacy, program planning, community intervention and more over its 124-credit span. UCO is also the only institution in the state of Oklahoma to host a chapter of Eta Sigma Gamma, the national honor society for the health education profession.
Public Health Degree Programs and Common Career Paths
Depending on the public health career you're seeking, you may need anywhere from an undergraduate education on up to a graduate, doctoral or professional degree. A wide variety of entry-level jobs are available with a bachelor's degree, however, in settings such as nonprofit organizations, health insurance companies, community health centers, hospitals and clinics.
Career Outlook for Public Health Majors
Being aware of the direction in which the public health career market is likely to move can help you plan your time in school to better prepare you for the inevitable job search that comes once you've finished your degree. Here are some employment projections from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.
PROJECTED JOB GROWTH(%)
|Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary||$121,620||201,920||23.2%|
|Medical and Health Services Managers||$115,160||394,910||17.6%|
|Community Health Workers||$44,390||58,950||12.5%|
|Health Education Specialists||$60,500||58,590||10.3%|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Public Health
Both public and private organizations recognize the need for advanced public health solutions, and as such there are numerous scholarships available for students pursuing degrees in the field. Some have a national scope, like the National Environmental Health Association/American Academy of Sanitarians (NEHA/AAS) scholarship, while others focus on specific regions or career segments. Here's a short list of financial aid programs for public health students.
Renewable for an additional year if funds are available.