Online Masters in Public Health Programs

Education has evolved rapidly in the last 10-20 years. Schools now offer entire online programs for nearly every degree, and almost every school offers some sort of online or hybrid ecosystem.

Taking education online has been beneficial to students for a variety of reasons – the ease of setting their own schedule, the ability to obtain a degree from anywhere without disrupting your normal life, and the generally cheaper tuition rates being chief among them. An increasingly popular option is the Masters in Public Health (MPH) program.

What is an online masters in public health program?

An MPH is a graduate program that educates and equips students with the skills to improve community health. Students will become experts in biostatistics, health policy and regulations, social sciences, and environmental health. Students can even elect to focus on a particular location or problem they would like to solve. This prepares students for future work in advocacy & awareness, policy implementation, research, or education. 

Typically, the first half of the program focuses on introducing new concepts and skill sets. The second half of the program puts those skills to work. In a traditional, in-person learning environment this might mean group or individual research. In some cases this might mean consulting work with government officials, nonprofits, or other local businesses and think tanks. Most programs are around 45 credit hours long spreading the degree out over 1-2 years depending on availability. 

An online MPH program offers the benefits of an accredited degree with a more flexible education environment. Many schools offer hybrid programs that feature both in-class and online class offerings, and some offer entirely online programs. The entirely online programs are set up the same way as a traditional education and still equip the students with the necessary skills and experience to succeed. They start with the concepts and skill sets and then move into practical research – group or individual – to conclude. 

The online learning environment has evolved to the point that online degrees are as equally engaging and beneficial for students as a traditional education would be. Programs might offer recorded lectures or live streamed lectures that allow for in-class engagement. Typically online MPH programs will include peer to peer interaction during class or group projects and the ability to chat with and question professors. 

Why choose an online mph program?

Online MPH programs are becoming increasingly popular for a variety of reasons. As highlighted above, online programs – online MPH programs in particular – have become increasingly proficient. They offer the same level of education, expertise, and real-life skill acquisition as any other traditional or hybrid program would afford. Some of the most notable reasons students opt for the online program include:

  • Flexibility: Online programs are flexible all around. For one, you do not have to worry about being in a certain location at any time. Even for classes that have fixed meeting times, you can join in from anywhere in the world. Your personal life remains flexible so you can work, take care of a family, or travel. Secondly, some online MPH programs offer flexible course scheduling. This can mean multiple live classes allowing you to set your schedule or even recorded lectures that allow you to listen and learn at any time of the day. 
  • Cost Savings: Cost savings are abundant as well. Schools that offer entirely online MPH programs have fewer expenses to cover generally resulting in lower tuition. Additionally, students save on moving expenses, travel expenses, and other expenses that go along with the traditional learning environment. Plus, most schools offer scholarships for online students to take advantage of as well.
  • Variety of options: Another nice aspect of online learning is the ability to attend any online school. If you live in New York it might not be as realistic for you to attend a school in Arizona or California – work, family, or friends might be holding you back. With online programs, you can attend any school, get accredited, and live where you want. This makes for more options so you can find a school that truly fits your needs. 

Are online mph programs accredited?

If you are going to attend an online MPH program, it is important to make sure the university has an accredited MPH program. A degree from an accredited program is essentially proof that your degree has any value. Most schools will be accredited and they will advertise as much on their website and during the application process. However, it is still important to keep this in mind when you start looking for a program. 

To become accredited a university must undergo a rigorous review process. The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) works with the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) to offer programmatic accreditation to both online and traditional MPH programs. 

This is a thorough examination of the university’s educational excellence. The CEPH’s goals include: 

  • The furtherance of public health education systems
  • Ensuring health standards are met and maintained throughout the MPH program
  • Encourage programs to improve upon and advance public health education programs by way of research, training, publication, and consulting work

An online MPH program that is accredited by the CEPH and its partners offers a valuable program. Employers will take note of that when considering applicants for job openings. 

What are the admission requirements for an online mph program?

The admission requirements for online MPH programs will be similar to any other educational program, but will vary from school to school. A few things will be necessary for each:

  • A bachelor’s degree along with your transcripts
  • A minimum GPA 
  • GRE test scores
  • Resume
  • Letter(s) of recommendations
  • Personal statement

Although specific criteria vary, strong candidates for online MPH programs typically have a 3.0 GPA or greater, a GRE score of 300 or higher, and a degree in a relevant field such as biology, psychology, sociology, or statistics. 

The top MPH programs have more stringent requirements. They may expect a 3.5 GPA or higher and GRE scores in the 75th percentile or better. Check with your preferred schools to see what their specific requirements are. 

What is the typical curriculum of an online mph program?

MPH programs have two parts: coursework and practical experience or research. Students begin an MPH program by taking the necessary coursework needed to succeed in the field of public health. They learn the major themes, concepts, and strategies they will eventually put to use. Most programs have a concentrated focus in the following three domains:

  • Environmental health: this looks at the global health system in relation to economics, geo-politics, and culture.
  • Psychological and sociological issues: Dynamics vary across societies and even vary among individual people. Students in public health need to have a baseline understanding of how these dynamics play out. 
  • Core fields: these include basic biology, policy making, statistics, and theory relevant to public health work.

On top of the core coursework, students can elect to focus on a particular issue within the field of public health. They may take additional coursework or focus research projects on their particular domain. Common concentrations include: nutrition and health, environmental studies, leadership and policy directives, nursing, epidemiology, reproductive health, global sustainability, and health care and prevention. However, not all schools offer each type of specialized program. 

After completing the coursework students will gain some practical experience. Each school approaches this process differently. Some offer internships, consulting experience, and research positions. Others might expect students to complete a research project along with a paper to demonstrate their new skills. This part of the program is usually done towards the end of the program, and students may still complete a few courses while focusing on their projects. 

If you are seeking a dual degree such as an MPH/MBA or MPH/MD the curriculum will vary.

How long does an online mph program take?

Most online MPH programs take between 1 and 3 years. Programs typically consist of 45 credit hours spread out over that time. Length can increase or decrease depending on student preferences, part time or full time status, and availability and type of course offerings. Research or other independent study might also take varying lengths of time to compile and report.

Students seeking dual degrees should expect their program to take additional time to complete.

What scholarships are available for online mph programs? 

There are numerous scholarships available for students seeking an online MPH degree. Each school will have unique scholarships available for their admitted students. Other nonprofits and organizations have annual scholarships available for students as well. Some will cover the entire cost of tuition leaving you with zero debt, and others will help you chip away at the overall costs. 

  • Udall Scholarship – students focusing on environmental policy, education, health, engineering or other science related fields are eligible.
  • Albert W. Dent Graduate Student Scholarship – minority students who are entering their last year of full-time graduate studies in health care are eligible.
  • Harry J. Harwick Scholarship – the American College of Medical Practice Executives sponsors this annual scholarship for students in an accredited graduate program in health care fields.
  • Andrea M. Rossiter Scholarship – students in undergraduate or graduate programs in medical care are eligible.
  • Richard J. Stull Student Essay Competition – future leaders in health care write an essay describing important issues in their field to be eligible.