When you hear of epidemics such as Ebola, Zika virus and HIV AIDS; or read about the polluted water or disease in a flooded area of an American city, you can thank a public health practitioner for raising the alarm. One of the oldest government services in the United States, public health services originated in 1798, when the government established hospital services for merchant seamen. As the country grew, the role of the public health practitioner grew with it, to include services during emergencies or pandemics, healthcare regulations and standards and oversight of food and drug administration.
The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics identifies the public health career as one of the fastest growing areas and projects a 17% job growth rate over the next ten years. Salaries for this profession average $94,500 annually and positions may be found in hospitals, private clinics and government agencies.
Although a bachelors degree is necessary for an entry level role in this field, individuals with a Master of Public Health (MPH) can find expanded job opportunities in education, planning and implementation, policy and administration and will serve a critical role in the overall health and safety of the country.
Accreditation is important as you explore universities and colleges online. This assures you the that the school meets, and often exceeds, the standards required by the U.S. Department of Education. Typically, universities and colleges are accredited; and, in most graduate degrees, accredited by independent organizations such as the Council of Education for Public Health (CEPH). There are six regional accreditation organizations for colleges and universities. These include: The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSACS), The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS), The Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges (NASC), The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). Some schools offer accreditation through the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).
Graduate school isn't cheap, but the professional rewards and potential salary gains offset the cost in most cases. Be aware, that even though the degree is offered online, some schools will charge non-resident tuition. Additionally, look for schools that don't require additional fees for online degree programs to help reduce your overall cost.
If you're currently employed, it's often possible that your employer will offer tuition assistance as part of your benefits package. You should talk with your supervisor or Human Resources department to see if your employer is able to help you with tuition costs.
Federal Student Aid
There are few federally funded grants available for graduate students; but, loans are often available. Additionally, check with your school's program director to see if merit-based scholarships are available for your degree. Should you decide to apply for a federal student loan, you'll need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
Veterans, Spouses and Dependents
Many schools recognize the service of military personnel or veteran and may offer reduced tuition rates for this group. Your school should address this on its webpage. If not, contact the program director to see if you would qualify for a veteran, or active military, discount.
As done with 25 Best Value Online Master of Public Health ranking , Best Medical Degrees has identified ten of the cheapest online MPH degrees by evaluating information offered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. News and World Report, school tuition information, as well as the independent, public health education accreditation organization, the Council for Education of Public Health (CEPH).
1. New Mexico State University
This online Master of Public Health degree This online Master of Public Health degree is accredited by the Council of Education for Public Health (CEPH) and was initiated in 2008 to meet the needs of working professionals. New Mexico State University, located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the school has received U.S. News and World Report rankings in National Universities, Top Public Schools, Best Colleges for Veterans. Founded in 1888 as Las Cruses College, NMSU now boasts an enrollment of over 15,000 students.
The program offers an MPH in Community Health and a MPH in Health Management, Administration and Policy tracks. Graduates will be able to practice in diverse populations and plan, implement and evaluate public health projects and programs to service a general population. For those interested, New Mexico State University also offers a dual MPH/MSW degree which requires a total of 96 credit hours.
Length of Program: 42 Credit Hours
Estimated Program Tuition Cost: $9,070
2. Columbia Southern University
A relatively young school, Columbia Southern University was started in 1993 in Orange Beach, Alabama, when founder Robert Mays, Sr., developed two online bachelors degrees in environmental compliance and occupational health. Three years later, CSU began offering degrees in a variety of fields, including business administration, computer science, criminal justice administration and health administration. The Distance Education and Training Council granted national accreditation to CSU in 1996.
This Master of Public Health degree is within the school's College of Business and has a community health and education concentration. Coursework in this discipline will include public health concepts, principles of health behavior, strategies of health promotion, public health research methods and concepts of epidemiology. This degree trains students to be community health educators.
Length of Program: 36 Credit Hours
Estimated Program Tuition Cost: $9,900
3. American Public University
Originally started in 1991 by a retired Marine Corps captain to provide distance education for military personnel, American Pubic University has grown to offer 190 academic programs throughout the world. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, American Public University has been recognized by U.S. News and World Report #58 for its online bachelors program and "Best For Vets" by Military Times. The Master of Public Health program has applied for accreditation by Council on Education of Public Health (CEPH) and approval is pending.
American Public University provides a Master of Science in Public Health degree which can be completed in two years (full time) and is provided online. The school accepts up to 15 credit hours in transfer hours. Coursework includes studies in health policy, public health and environment, health care administration, disaster health management, ethical issues in public health and public health program planning and evaluation.
Length of Program: 47 Credit Hours
Estimated Program Tuition Cost: $16,450
4. Southern New Hampshire University
This New England school was founded as a secretarial school in 1932 and received a state charter in 1963 to become Southern New Hampshire University. Offering am online Master of Public Health, Southern New Hampshire is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. U.S. News and World Report has designated SNHU as #1 Innovative Schools, #131 Regional Universities and #90 Best Colleges for Veterans. The school offers tuition discounts for veterans and military personnel.
The degree includes study in public health principles, social and behavioral studies, health policy and management, biostatistics and population-based epidemiology coursework. This plan of study complies with requirements of the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) and the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH). Successful graduates will be prepared to analyze and communicate public health strategies and plans, implement social and behavioral science for research and analysis and develop evidence-based, community public health programs.
Length of Program: 36 Credit Hours
Estimated Program Tuition Cost: $22,572
5. University of South Carolina
This Columbia, South Carolina university was founded in 1801 as Columbia State College and currently has an enrollment of over 29,000 students. USC holds accreditation from the Council on Education in Public Health (CEPH) and has been rated #52 in Top Public Schools, #89 Best Schools for Veterans and #108 in National Universities. The MPH degree with a concentration in health promotion, education and behavior, is offered online and can be completed within 22-24 months.
Students will study approaches and concepts for health administration, concepts of environmental health science, concepts and methods in health promotion, applied health communication, race, ethnicity and health, as well as a practicum seminar and field experience.
Length of Program: 45 Credit Hours
Estimated Program Tuition Cost: $24,891
6. University of Massachusetts-Amherst
This program from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) and a member of ASPPH. There are two Master of Public Health concentrations in Public Health Practice or Public Health Nutrition. Originally developed in 1938, the Department of Public Health has an interdisciplinary approach, incorporating studies in kinesiology, nutrition and communication disorders into the curriculum. U.S. News and World Report has ranked UMASS-Amherst #76 in National Universities, #62 Best Colleges for Veterans and #29 Best Public Schools.
The Public Health Practice study includes U.S. health system, principles of epidemiology, environmental health practice and application of social and behavioral theory. The MPH, nutrition concentration, includes a curriculum of nutritional epidemiology, public health nutrition, nutritional assessment and introduction to the U.S. health system. Students may want to check with the program director to see if there are merit-based, graduate scholarships available.
Length of Program: 42 Credit Hours
Estimated Program Tuition Cost: $25,410
7. University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions
This public Florida school was founded in 1853 and has a current student population in excess of 33,000. Accredited by CEPH, this program offers a Master of Public Health with concentrations in Public Health Practice and Social and Behavioral Science. The University of Florida has been ranked #47 in National Universities by U.S. News and World Report and also has received recognition as #18 Most Innovative Schools.
The curriculum for this MPH will vary depending on concentration, but coursework includes statistical methods for health science, principles of epidemiology in public health, introduction to the U.S. health system, psychological, sociological and behavioral issues in public health. There is a public health internship and major paper/presentation required for this degree.
Length of Program: 48 Hours
Estimated Program Tuition Cost: $26,400
8. University of Des Moines
Started as a school of osteopathy in 1898, Des Moines University offers a Master of Public Health with three concentrations in General Public Health, Health Service Management and Health Promotion. The school offers, as well, a dual degree opportunity in MPH Dual Degrees in Master of Public Health and Clinical Dual Degree, Master of Public Health and Master of Healthcare Administration and Master of Public Health and Doctor of Jurisprudence (in collaboration with Drake University).
Coursework will vary depending on the concentration selected. The program may be completed in three years and the school boasts of a 92% employment rate upon program completion. Des Moines University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and the MPH program has received CEPH accreditation.
Length of Program: 46 Credit Hours
Estimated Program Tuition Cost: $27,508
9. Walden University
Founded in 1970 by teachers wanting to offer educational opportunities for working adults, Walden University is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), Walden University is a propriety school that is part of a global network of over 80 universities. Walden University offers a Master of Public Health degree 100% online.
Coursework will include perspectives on healthcare and the developing professional, socio-ecological aspects of healthcare, biological foundations of healthcare, applied research in public health, environmental health: local to global and program planning, implementation and evaluation. Walden University offers a grant titled "MPH-Change Maker", which automatically reduces tuition for the final four courses of the MPH by $5,915.
Length of Program: 64 Credit Hours
Estimated Program Tuition Cost: N/A
10. Kent State University
This Master of Public Health degree may be completed in two years. Kent State University, located in Kent, Ohio, has been in operation since 1910, and has a current enrollment of over 28,000 students and offers 300 undergraduate and graduate degrees. U.S. News and World Report has designated Kent State University as #98 in Top Public Schools, #175 in National Universities and #139 Best Schools for Veterans.
Students will follow a course of study that includes, among others, biostatistics in public health, environmental health concepts in public health, fundamentals of public health epidemiology, health care systems, Obamacare and national health reform and a practicum experience. The degree is broken down into five major areas, six core courses, six discipline specific course, a practicum and a culminating comprehensive exam.
Length of Program: 46 Credit Hours
Estimated Program Tuition Cost: $30,010