May 18, 2021 | Brit Brogaard

A certificate in public health delivers the expertise needed to secure a job in public health or pursue advanced education in the discipline. Public health certificate programs provide an in-depth understanding of health science, environmental science, statistical analysis, and public health policy.

Most individuals pursue a public health certificate after obtaining a bachelor’s degree or acquiring industry experience. A certificate can help practitioners climb the career ladder.

What is a Certificate in Public Health?

A certificate demonstrates completion of specialized education in a specific focus area. Certificates are not the same as certification. Whereas a certificate delivers knowledge and skills in a particular academic discipline at a postsecondary school, certification is typically handled by government agencies and nonprofit institutions. Certification provides post-educational confirmation that a person possesses the necessary expertise for a specific job.

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Earning a bachelor’s degree requires general education courses, a major, and sometimes a minor. An undergraduate-level certificate focuses on training for a specific field. A graduate-level certificate offers an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of a discipline in less time than a master’s program.

How to Get a Certificate in Public Health

Earning a public health certificate online or in person typically requires the successful completion of 12-18 credits from the school’s undergraduate or master’s public health curricula. Most learners finish in 6-12 months of full-time study.

Typical prerequisites vary by program. Undergraduate public health certificate programs generally require industry experience and a high school diploma or GED certificate for admission. Graduate certificate programs commonly require a bachelor’s degree and relevant professional experience.

The cost of public health certificate programs varies by school and certificate type. To determine the cost of a specific program, prospective students may consult the school’s description of tuition and fees.

Career and Salary Outlook in Public Health

Earning a public health certificate can open doors to profitable careers across a variety of industries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a median salary of $74,560 for epidemiologists and $104,280 for health services managers as of May 2020. Many public health practitioners find employment in hospitals, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and private foundations.

Earning a public health certificate can open doors to profitable careers across a variety of industries.

Most public health jobs require a bachelor’s degree and relevant professional experience. However, earning a graduate certificate in the field can give applicants a competitive edge in the job market. Certification requirements and preferences vary with occupation and state. Securing a position in health education, for example, may require credentials as certified health education specialist or master certified health education specialist.

Below, we describe three popular public health careers.


Epidemiologists examine causes and patterns of disease. Typical job duties include overseeing public health programs, writing grant proposals to fund research, and gathering and analyzing data to identify causes of diseases. Most epidemiologists hold a master’s in public health.

Median Annual Salary: $74,560
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 5%

Health Educator and Community Health Worker

People in this occupation promote wellness and teach healthy behavior. Frequent responsibilities include assessing the health needs of communities, developing teaching materials, and advocating for public health issues. Most health educators hold a bachelor’s or master’s. Some employers require certification from the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC).

Median Annual Salary: $48,140
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 13%

Medical and Health Services Manager

Medical and health services managers direct business activities for healthcare providers. Typical job duties include recruiting staff members, improving the quality of healthcare services, and representing the facility at investor meetings. Healthcare managers typically hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Median Annual Salary: $104,280
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 32%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


Six regional accreditation agencies confer accreditation on postsecondary institutions that satisfy stringent academic standards. Earning a certificate from a regionally accredited school can help graduates compete on the job market and ensure that earned credits apply toward a more advanced degree.

Industry-specific accreditation can also affect a certificate’s value. The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) sets the standard for public health programs. A seal of approval from CEPH conveys that a public health certificate program meets rigorous industry standards. NCHEC-certification furthermore requires coursework from a CEPH-accredited program.


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Public health certificate curricula typically include basic classes that provide foundational knowledge of concepts, theories, and best practices. Common core courses include biostatistics for public health, principles of epidemiology, and public health policy and management.

Most public health certificate programs also offer electives to cultivate specialized knowledge in the discipline. Popular electives include foundations of global health, population health during a pandemic, and health across the gender spectrum.

Our list below provides sample descriptions of some of the courses learners may encounter in public health certificate programs.

Biostatistics for Public Health

This class provides an advanced introduction to biostatistical research and practice as it relates to public health. Students acquire advanced knowledge of descriptive statistics, graphical data representation, evaluation of diagnostic tests, statistical genetics, cohort and case control studies, and survival analysis.

Basic Principles of Epidemiology

In this course, students explore the basic principles and methods of public health epidemiology. Through teamwork, learners gain an in-depth understanding of the etiology and distribution of disease, epidemiologic study designs, outbreak investigations, and ethical issues in public health.

Public Health Policy and Management

This class covers health services administration and public health policy assessment. Through study of published research, enrollees gain insight into leading approaches to improving healthcare efficiency and quality. Students also learn to advocate for public health policy changes.

Professional Organizations in Public Health

American College of Epidemiology

Founded in 1979, the American College of Epidemiology supports and promotes the work of epidemiologists. The organization recognizes outstanding contributions to epidemiology; advocates for issues in the field; and sponsors scientific meetings, educational activities, and peer-viewed publications.

American Public Health Association

A professional organization comprising a diverse member community of public health practitioners, the American Public Health Association aims to strengthen the profession. APHA works to improve public health and equity in health status across all populations and communities.

American School Health Association

The American School Health Association works to ensure that K-12 schools provide ample opportunities for all students to learn and thrive. Members of this multidisciplinary organization include administrators, counselors, social workers, psychologists, nutritionists, health educators, and school nurses.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a certificate and a certification?

A certificate cultivates academic expertise in a specific discipline at a postsecondary institution. By contrast, certification provides post-educational confirmation that an individual possesses the skill set needed for a specific job.

What is the difference between a public health certificate and a public health degree?

A public health degree requires successful completion of both general education courses and specialized courses in public health. A public health certificate, by contrast, focuses entirely on delivering specialized knowledge in public health.

How much does a certificate in public health cost?

The cost of a certificate in public health varies by school and certificate type. To determine the cost of a specific program, prospective students may consult the school’s description of tuition and fees.

Can I earn a certificate in public health online?

Yes. Many public health certificate programs provide 100% synchronous or asynchronous online options. Some schools offer hybrid tracks combining remote learning with on-campus experience.