Degree Information

Introduction

A graduate certificate in public health is ideal for students who want to obtain a broad foundation in the discipline but who do not have the time or means to earn a master’s in public health. Most graduate certificate programs cover the same core public health topics as master’s programs, including environmental health, social and behavioral health, biostatistics, epidemiology, and health policy and management. Students can complete most public health certification programs in a single calendar year.

Professionals with a graduate certificate in public health are qualified for more advanced positions than those with a bachelor’s in public health, including leadership roles in clinics, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and laboratories. Additionally, students can typically apply credits earned during a certificate program toward a master’s in public health.

Top Online Certificates in Public Health Programs

The list below ranks the best online public health certificate programs, each of which holds national accreditation from the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH). As the principal organization for evaluating public health programs, CEPH requires accredited programs to maintain high standards. Students planning to complete public health certificate programs online should consider their academic and professional goals and should research each potential program before making a selection.

Employment Outlook for Certificate in Public Health Graduates

Certificate in Public Health Salary

Individual salaries for public health professionals vary by experience and position. Generally, professionals with more experience earn higher salaries. The table below illustrates the salary increase that most public health professionals experience over the course of their careers.

Median Salary for Public Health Careers by Experience

Job Title Overall Median Salary Entry-Level Employees Mid-Career Employees Late-Career Employees
Public Health Specialist $48,415 $46,000 $46,000 $84,000
Public Health Analyst $60,649 $55,000 $78,000 $61,000
Epidemiologist $61,645 $57,000 $74,000 $87,000
Health Educator $43,650 $39,000 $46,000 $54,000
Public Health Nurse $55,157 $51,000 $56,000 $61,000

Certificate in Public Health Careers

Though certain career paths require additional education, a certificate is sufficient for most entry-level positions in the public health field. Graduates of public health certificate programs often enter the workforce immediately and progress to higher-paying positions. Below are five common careers for public health certificate holders.

  • Medical and health services managers: These professionals manage and oversee clinics, hospitals, governmental departments, and nonprofit organizations. This position typically requires additional education, such as a master’s in public health.
  • Healthcare social workers: These professionals focus on the counseling and psychosocial elements of social work. They manage cases, conduct interventions, and often work in the field with clients. Professionals with a certificate in public health may need to complete additional education to become healthcare social workers.
  • Epidemiologists: These professionals investigate patterns of disease to help reduce disease throughout the country. Most epidemiologists work in laboratories and offices, but some conduct fieldwork and collect data for experiments. Epidemiologists often have master’s degrees.
  • Health educators and community health workers: This position requires only a certificate in public health, although aspiring health educators may need additional education. These professionals promote wellness, collect data, and teach individuals and communities about healthy behaviors.
  • Dietitians and nutritionists: Dietitians and nutritionists advise individuals and groups on healthy diets and lifestyles. They often advise individuals with health conditions such as diabetes. This position requires a bachelor’s degree and state certification.
Position Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate
Healthcare Social Workers $55,510 16%
Dietitians and Nutritionists $58,920 15%
Health Educators and Community Health Workers $44,390 16%
Medical and Health Services Managers $96,540 20%
Epidemiologists $70,820 9%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Public Health Professional Organizations

Membership in a professional organization is valuable to public health professionals at any career stage. Many professional organizations offer advocacy, networking opportunities, and conferences. Members may also have access to publications, job boards, and continuing education opportunities. Below are three of the most active professional organizations in the field.

  • American Public Health Association: APHA offers a variety of services for members, including access to publications, advocacy, professional development opportunities, and discussions of salient public health issues, such as gun violence and climate change.
  • National Environmental Health Association: NEHA comprises environmental health professionals. The organization provides professional development opportunities, publications, and a calendar of local and national environmental health events.
  • Society for Public Health Education: SOPHE is an association of more than 4,000 health education professionals. Members improve public awareness, develop their professional skills, participate with local chapters, and advocate for policy changes.

Accreditation

Accreditation for Online Public Health Certification Programs

CEPH is the preeminent accrediting organization in the public health field. CEPH evaluates each program and ensures the program meets CEPH's standards of quality. CEPH-accredited programs must apply periodically for accreditation renewal; schools must maintain exceptional academic quality to continue to receive accreditation.

As a field-specific organization, CEPH awards national accreditation. Schools can also hold regional accreditation from one of six regional accrediting bodies. The Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation oversee both national and regional accreditation agencies.

Students pursuing a graduate certificate in public health online should choose a program with both regional and national accreditation. Verify a program's accreditation status using the lists of accredited schools and programs provided by CHEA and CEPH.

Application Process

The Certificate in Public Health Application Process

Public health certificate programs often have more accessible admission requirements than master of public health programs. Certificate programs often waive minimum GPA requirements; applicants need only a bachelor's degree and letters of recommendation. Many schools offer a graduate certificate in public health program as a pathway to a master's program. Typically, students must earn a minimum GPA in the certificate program to gain admission to the master's program.

The most competitive candidates for admission to certificate programs have professional experience in the public health field, a high undergraduate GPA, and undergraduate coursework in public health and biology. Applicants can improve their chances of admission by meeting the school's priority deadline.

The following list includes descriptions of typical application requirements.

  1. Transcripts: A transcript is a list of a student's completed undergraduate courses and corresponding grades. Higher grades increase the student's chances of admission to certificate programs.
  2. Resume/work experience: A resume is a catalog of an individual's professional experience. The strongest applicants to graduate certificate programs have previous work or volunteer experience in the public health field.
  3. Test scores: Some public health certificate programs require applicants to submit GRE scores. However, certificate programs are less likely to require standardized test scores than master's programs.
  4. Statement of purpose/essay: A statement of purpose is a written essay describing the student's reasons for pursuing a graduate certificate in public health. The strongest applicants submit statements of purpose that align with the program's stated goals.
  5. Letters of recommendation: Applicants must typically submit letters of recommendation from professors, supervisors, or other authority figures who have worked closely with the applicant in an academic or professional setting.

Earning an Online Certificate in Public Health

Many students choose to earn their public health certificate online. Distance education programs are ideal for self-starters with strong time-management skills. Most online programs consist of asynchronous coursework; students complete weekly assignments and attend no scheduled classes. The asynchronous format allows students to work full time or fulfil personal obligations while earning their public health certification.

Through online programs, students can attend the nation's top public health programs without leaving their communities. Though public health certificate programs rarely include practicum or internship requirements, students who attend online master's programs often complete in-person requirements locally. Most programs include no on-campus components, and students typically complete public health certificate programs online within one year.

Many online public health programs follow a cohort model; students complete a prescribed sequence of coursework with a small group of peers. This model provides accountability and networking opportunities. Cohort models integrate peer interaction -- one of the greatest benefits of on-campus programs -- into the online learning environment.

Educational Paths for Certificate in Public Health Graduates

After completing public health certificate programs, students can transfer to associate, bachelor's, or master's programs. According to PayScale, a bachelor's degree in public health often leads to jobs with high levels of employee satisfaction. Below are three common undergraduate degrees for students with a certificate in public health.

  • Bachelor of science in public health: Students who pursue a BS in public health generally hold a certificate with a specialization in a clinical field, such as epidemiology or biostatistics. Graduates typically work in clinical settings, such as hospitals.
  • Bachelor of arts in public health: The BA in public health is ideal for students who plan to enter non-clinical fields, such as education, policy, or healthcare management. Graduates often work in nonprofit organizations and government agencies.
  • Associate degree in public health: An associate in public health generally requires 60 credits of general education requirements and introductory public health coursework. Graduates often continue their public health education by pursuing bachelor's degrees.

Concentrations

Types of Public Health Certificates

Public health certificates are available in a variety of specialities, which may be clinical or non-clinical. Professionals with a public health certificate in epidemiology or biostatistics often work in hospitals, clinics, or laboratories, while those with a certificate in healthcare management or health policy may work within government or nonprofit offices. Students should consider the certificate options that best fit their professional goals.

  • Health policy and law: This non-clinical certificate prepares graduates to create policies addressing public health issues, such as mental health and climate change. Graduates often work in governmental agencies or nonprofit organizations that focus on advocacy and policy.
  • Epidemiology and biostatistics: Students explore the causes and prevention of human disease and learn how to conduct fieldwork and research. Graduates often pursue positions as epidemiologists in clinical settings such as laboratories and hospitals.
  • Healthcare management: Students learn how to improve contemporary healthcare delivery systems. Healthcare management certificate programs prepare students for leadership roles in the industry. Prospective students should look for programs with accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education.
  • Health communication and promotion: This certificate provides strong communication skills and prepares students to promote healthy lifestyles and behaviors within communities. This pre-professional certificate typically leads to employment as a health educator or community health worker.
  • Environmental hazard assessment: Students learn about toxicology, risk assessment, and health management in the context of environmental health. Graduates often pursue positions with organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.