Graduate Certificates

May 18, 2021 | Holland Webb

New and experienced professionals can advance their careers by earning a graduate certificate in public health. Many certificates take around one year to complete and often cost less than a master’s degree. Certificate programs can help prepare learners for career advancement or a graduate degree in the field.

What is a Graduate Certificate in Public Health?

Certificate programs allow students to gain advanced public health knowledge without the time commitment of a graduate degree.

Certificate and certification are not interchangeable. Schools award certificates to students for academic accomplishments. Professional associations award certifications to candidates who meet certain educational and experience requirements.

While a certificate is an academic qualification, it does not confer a degree. Many students who complete a graduate certificate, however, can often transfer their credits into a master’s program in public health.

How to Get a Graduate Certificate in Public Health

Aspiring public health leaders can earn a graduate certificate in less time than a master’s degree. Public health graduate certificate programs usually take around one year to complete.

Students generally need 12-18 credits to earn a graduate certificate. Many schools allow degree-seekers with a graduate certificate to transfer those credits directly into a master’s program. However, transfer credit limits may apply.

Although tuition rates vary by institution, a graduate certificate typically costs less than a master’s degree because less credits are required.

Admission to a certificate program typically requires a bachelor’s degree in any field and professional or academic references. Unlike master’s programs, graduate certificate programs rarely require GRE scores for admission.

Generally, graduate credits cost more than undergraduate credits. Although tuition rates vary by institution, a graduate certificate typically costs less than a master’s degree because less credits are required. While financial aid may be limited for students in certificate programs, they should still submit a Federal Application for Federal Aid.

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Career and Salary Outlook in Public Health

Graduates of public health certificate programs can pursue a variety of career paths. Public health professionals conduct research, manage health programs, or oversee healthcare facilities. Most professions in this field require at least a bachelor’s degree, and many employers prefer applicants with graduate coursework.

A few public health professions require certification. For instance, some health educators need to hold a certified health education specialist (CHES) or a master certified health education specialist (MCHES) credential from the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc.


Epidemiologists investigate the causes and patterns of diseases that affect entire populations. They research, collect information, and analyze data to determine factors that impact a community’s health. They may also manage community health or research programs. Some epidemiologists work with public policymakers to create health policies.

Median Annual Salary (2020): $74,560
Projected Growth Rate (2019-2029): 5%

Health Educators and Community Health Workers

Though distinct from each other, these public health professions may work in tandem. Health educators teach people about wellness. Community health workers create a bridge between healthcare providers and the wider community. They may also collect data, devise strategies, or communicate with local leaders. Both careers require skills in communication, analytics, and instruction.

Median Annual Salary (2020): $48,140
Projected Growth Rate (2019-2029): 13%

Medical and Health Services Managers

Also called healthcare executives, medical and health services managers oversee medical facilities, departments within a facility, or a group of physicians. These professionals focus on regulatory compliance, personnel management, or technology development. While a bachelor’s degree is required for this career, graduate degrees are common.

Median Annual Salary (2020): $104,280
Projected Growth Rate (2019-2029): 32%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


An accredited school has undergone voluntary third-party review from a federally recognized accrediting organization. Accreditation can be national, regional, or programmatic. The Council on Education for Public Health approves public health programs.

Six different associations confer regional accreditation, the most widely recognized form of accreditation. Regional accreditation is important because it ensures that students are receiving a quality education, are eligible for financial aid, and can transfer credits between institutions.


A graduate certificate in public health usually requires students to complete 3-6 courses, but the curriculum varies among schools. Programs generally cover the following core public health components: epidemiology, environmental health, population health, and data analysis and collection. The courses outlined below are a representative sample of a public health curriculum.

Principles of Epidemiology

Students in this course learn the fundamentals of epidemiological investigation into both infectious and non-infectious diseases. The course covers the basics of disease in a population, including risk, causation, and transmission.

Environmental Health

This course examines the environmental challenges to human health, including waste management, human-made disasters, and food safety. Students learn to identify hazards, assess risks, and protect the population.

Quantitative Methods for Public Health

Enrollees in this course discover how to collect, assess, and communicate quantitative data relevant to public health. The course provides instruction in conducting epidemiological studies, using bio-statistical software, and making data-driven decisions.

Individual, Community, and Population Health

In this course, students learn the basics of designing, implementing, managing, monitoring, and evaluating a public health program. The course covers the determinants of health and explores ways to address problems at the individual, community, and social levels.

Principles of Biostatistics

This course provides a theoretical foundation for biostatistics, including data collection, probability theory, and statistical error. Students learn to select appropriate tests and apply statistical tools in research and data analysis.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a certificate and a certification?

A college, university, or other postsecondary educational institution awards certificates to students for completing required academic coursework. A professional board or association awards certification to applicants based on demonstrated knowledge and skill. Typically, applicants must pass an exam to qualify for certification.

What is the difference between a graduate certificate and a master’s degree?

A graduate certificate program typically takes less time to complete than a master’s program because it requires fewer credits. A graduate certificate may serve as a gateway to a graduate program in public health.

Can I get a graduate certificate in public health without a bachelor’s degree in public health?

While each school sets its own admission requirements, most prospective students do not need an undergraduate degree in public health to qualify for a graduate certificate program. Typically, a bachelor’s degree in any subject will suffice.

How much does a graduate public health certificate cost?

Tuition expenses vary widely among schools. Typically, a graduate certificate in public health will be less expensive than a graduate degree because it requires fewer credits.

Can I earn a graduate public health certificate online?

Many graduate public health certificates are available entirely online, while others may include some on-campus requirements. Most certificates require 3-6 courses and take about a year to complete.

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