Public health professionals work to promote wellness and disease prevention among groups, communities, and societies as a whole. This is a multi-disciplinary field that incorporates concepts in biostatistics, epidemiology, sociology, public policy, health care law and ethics, and health education, among other areas. Classes in management and health care economics may also be included in this type of program. At the doctoral level, students will conduct advanced research in their chosen area of specialization. Career options include academia, health policy, health education, and health care administration, to name a few.
Why a Doctorate?
A doctoral degree in public health can be an excellent option in you are interested in teaching at the college level, since most schools require a Ph.D. for professors. In addition, you might also pursue a career in health policy, advanced research, or upper level administration. Students will gain the credentials and research expertise they need to become leaders in the field. Employment for doctorate degree holders may be found with colleges and universities, government agencies, hospitals, or non-profit organizations.
Getting Into a Doctoral Program
Since there are fewer programs available at this level and more advanced research is required, you should expect a more rigorous admissions process. Please be sure to verify eligibility requirements with each school, but here are a few common criteria to consider:
- A master’s degree from an accredited university
- Official transcripts from all colleges you have attended
- Minimum GPA (as outlined by the school)
- GRE or GMAT test scores (if required)
- Resume or curriculum vitae
- Application form and fee
- Statement of purpose
- Letters of recommendation
Inside a Public Health Doctoral Program
If you would like to earn your doctoral degree in public health online this will typically take three to five years of study. Of course, this will all depend on how many courses you take at once, any breaks from the program, and how long it takes you to complete your dissertation. Common courses may include topics in epidemiology, biostatistics, health in underserved communities, health education, public policy, and health care law and ethics. At this level of study, students will have the flexibility to shape the curriculum to their specific research interests.
Online doctoral degree programs in public health will usually be administered in an asynchronous format. This means there are no scheduled class times, and students are free to log in to the virtual classroom at any time that fits with their busy work and family schedules. Chat, virtual meeting software, streaming video, and interactive discussion boards help students communicate regularly and efficiently with their fellow students and faculty advisors.
What’s Next for Public Health Doctorate Holders?
Graduates of this type of program are equipped with the industry knowledge and advanced research expertise to work in health policy, education, or administration. Jobs may be available with colleges and universities, hospitals, non-profit organizations, and government agencies. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job prospects are very strong in these areas. In fact, the demand for social and community service managers is expected to increase by 27% over the projection period of 2010 to 2020. For health educators, this figure is 37%. These are both significantly higher than the 14% growth predicted for jobs overall during this time frame.
The reported mean annual wage for social and community service managers was $64,460 in 2012. For postsecondary teachers in health specialties, the mean annual wage was $100,370 that same year. Please note, these are only estimates. Actual pay can vary based on location, level of experience, education, and the specific employer.