Public health includes a variety of occupations such as social workers, environmental researchers, health and safety specialists, and public policymakers. The need for public health professionals continues to rise: The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 15% job growth for all healthcare occupations from 2019-2029.

Public health is relevant to many contemporary problems. Professionals educate local communities on issues including mental health and disease prevention. They can combat other problems, such as how racism impacts a community's physical health.

A public health degree can lead to a fulfilling career. This guide covers what to expect from an associate degree in public health, including available occupations for graduates. For the best overview of online associate programs, check out the top-ranked public health programs for 2021 below.

Five Best Online Public Health Schools of 2021
Rank School Location
1 County College of Morris Randolph, NJ
2 College of Western Idaho Nampa, ID
3 Mid Michigan College Harrison, MI
4 Montgomery County Community College Blue Bell, PA
5 Anne Arundel Community College Arnold, MD

Featured Online Programs

Why Get an Online Public Health Associate Degree?

Public health professionals promote general well-being and healthy practices by serving communities or conducting research. Research organizations, hospitals, and government bodies like the Environmental Protection Agency all hire public health specialists.

Because every community benefits from public health programs and workers, public health associate degree graduates can find work across the United States. Working with local groups allows public health workers to develop a strong sense of place and purpose.

Some positions in public health require an associate degree, while others require further education or certifications. Requiring fewer credits, an associate degree may cost less and take less time to earn than higher degrees. An associate degree program primes students to enter the workforce or pursue additional degrees for career advancement.

Some of the benefits of earning a public health associate degree online include:

  • Strike a Balance

    An associate degree allows students to try postsecondary public health programs without a four-year full-time commitment. Upon graduation, students can decide whether they want to seek further education or enter the workforce.

  • Learn the Trade

    An associate program in public health gives students the tools to make a positive impact. The curriculum preps enrollees for entry-level positions by teaching theories, practices, and technical knowledge necessary in the field.

  • Develop Soft Skills

    The field of public health promotes universal skills such as leadership, project management, and data analysis. Associate degree-holders can apply these soft skills to many career fields.

Public Health Associate Versus Bachelor's Degrees

An associate degree can cost less and be quicker to complete, but a bachelor's in public health may create more job opportunities. On the other hand, bachelor's degrees usually result in a four-year commitment and higher costs.

Both degrees usually build off similar foundational classes. Bachelor's programs typically delve more deeply into topics, while associate degrees in public health are more limited to introductory coursework.

An associate degree can fit students working toward a specific job. A bachelor's might benefit learners that want to pursue public health but have not yet settled on a career path.

Comparing Associate and Bachelor's Degrees
Public Health Associate Degree Public Health Bachelor's Degree
Length 2 years full time; accelerated formats available 4 years full time; accelerated formats and combined bachelor's-master's degree tracks available
Usual Credit Requirements 60 credits 120 credits
Cost Fewer credits and semesters can lead to cheaper costs Usually more expensive due to increased credit requirements
Available Courses Fewer choices due to fewer credits Full access to undergraduate courses in the major
Curriculum Focused on public health topics Includes general studies for a well-rounded education
Job Prospects Select entry-level positions A larger selection of jobs that require a bachelor's
Goal Develop job-related skills or transfer to a bachelor's program Learning theories and foundations in the field to prepare for jobs
2020 Median Usual Weekly Earnings by Educational Attainment $940 $1,310
Read More About Public Health Bachelor's Programs

What To Expect From Associate in Public Health Programs

Associate public health programs prepare students to foster well-being within communities. These degrees generally require 60 credits across two years of full-time study. However, some schools offer accelerated formats for students who wish to earn their degree in a shorter time frame.

Schools can offer these programs in traditional, hybrid, or online formats. An online program can fit a busy learner's schedule and provide the flexibility needed for students with career or family obligations. Hybrid courses mix online and in-person learning, while on-campus programs give a traditional college learning experience. The format does not determine a program's quality, so students should seek the format that best fits their lifestyle.

Public health's interdisciplinary nature can lead to significant differences among programs' curricula, so students should find coursework that matches their employment goals. Many associate degrees also focus on developing universal soft skills such as leadership and program planning.

The Admissions Process

Most schools accept digital applications through their website. Students may pay an application fee. Applications usually require prospective learners to hold a high school diploma or GED certificate.

Some public health departments require additional materials like a resume or statement of purpose. Colleges can also set minimum GPAs or test scores for entry, and this data may also determine course placement.

Read More in our Undergrad Application and Transfer Guide

Degree and Concentration Options

While most schools have a dedicated public health associate degree, some might offer public health as a specialization within a broader program like health sciences. Prospective students should examine each school's offerings carefully to ensure the coursework aligns with their career goals.

Graduates usually receive an associate of science (AS) in public health. However, some institutions may offer an associate of arts (AA) or an associate of applied science (AAS) in public health instead.

An AA program usually includes more general education and liberal arts classes. The AAS degree takes the opposite approach, focusing on practical skills for the workplace. An AS in public health strikes a balance between the AA and the AAS.

Popular Public Health Courses

Every public health associate degree's curriculum depends on the jobs it prepares students for. However, many schools feature similar core classes and electives. The courses listed below are typical courses included in an online public health associate degree curriculum.

Public Health in America

This course explores public health in the U.S. Learners study how the environment and social behavior affect public health. The course also examines public health responses and teaches students to create response plans.

Introduction to Epidemiology

This class covers the foundations of epidemiology, the study of how diseases and health concerns spread and affect populations. Students learn to analyze and interpret data surrounding diseases and how to avoid errors in their analyses.

Public Health and Environmental Justice

The environmental justice seminar examines how public health and justice fit together in the modern world. Participants study the impact of social issues on public health systems, especially those affecting Indigenous groups and racial minorities. Students also explore topics such as climate change and environmental racism.

Assessing and Planning Health Programs

Enrollees study public health from administrative and organizational perspectives. The class begins with methods to assess community health and how to better it through programming. Learners gain project management skills as they plan and run community events.

How Much Will an Associate in Public Health Cost?

The cost of a public health associate degree greatly impacts a student's choice in programs. One of the biggest factors affecting price is the type of school. The average tuition and fees of private schools in 2020-21 came to $35,087, according to U.S. News & World Report. In comparison, the average out-of-state rates for public institutions in the same year was $21,184, while in-state students at public schools paid $9,687 on average in 2020-21.

Schools may offer a separate tuition rate for fully online students. For public schools, these rates may match in-state tuition for all students, regardless of state residency. In some cases, students may apply for tuition waivers to forego out-of-state fees.

Degree-seekers can apply for financial aid to help pay for their education. Loans entail repayment with interest, while grants and scholarships do not require repayment. Look at the linked page below to learn more about financial aid.

Jobs for Associate in Public Health Graduates

An associate degree provides a solid foundation for public health jobs, but applicants might need additional certifications or licensure for some jobs. The BLS projects several public health careers to experience job growth from 2019-2029. Because public health specialists can benefit any community, these positions will likely remain in demand.

Popular public health careers typically pay salaries ranging from $35,000-$76,000, according to the BLS. With relevant experience, employees can earn promotions and higher wages. An associate degree can also set students up to pursue further education.

Registered Nurse

Registered nurses provide patient care, health education, and support for patients and families. These duties include managing medical records and operating medical equipment such as ventilators and IV pumps. A specialized version of this job, public health nurse, focuses on community outreach and education.

Required Education: Associate degree or postsecondary certificates
Job Outlook (2019-29): +7%
Median Annual Salary: $75,330

Environmental Technician

Environmental science and protection technicians investigate the public and private spheres for health and safety hazards. These duties include examining local ecosystems for pollution and harmful waste products. They collect samples for lab analysis and maintain equipment that measures waste in the environment.

Required Education: Associate degree
Job Outlook (2019-29): +8%
Median Annual Salary: $46,850

EMTs and Paramedics

Emergency medical technicians and paramedics respond to emergencies and provide immediate medical care on site. The job requires stress management and communication skills. These workers must hold state licensure. This job can jumpstart a career in emergency management after several years of experience and further education.

Required Education: Postsecondary education and state licensure
Job Outlook (2019-29): +6%
Median Annual Salary: $36,650

Explore Public Health Careers

Choosing the Right Public Health Program

Our rankings are a great place to start the search for an online public health program, but degree-seekers must consider other factors.

A public health program's location can influence its curricular focus, as different communities face different public health problems. For example, an associate degree program in West Virginia might discuss black lung disease, a form of pneumoconiosis common in workers who inhale coal dust.

However, public health degrees in northern Ohio — only one state away — may tackle the toxic algae found in Lake Erie that caused the 2014 water crisis in Toledo. Every community confronts unique challenges depending on the local environment and other factors.

A public health program's location can influence its curricular focus, as different communities face different public health problems.

Accreditation is also a crucial consideration. Accreditation falls into three major categories: national, regional, and program-specific. National accreditation applies to a wide variety of vocational and trade schools; as a result, national accreditation features fewer universal standards.

Regional accreditation usually entails stricter universal standards and therefore holds more value. Schools earn regional accreditation from one of six U.S. Department of Education-endorsed accrediting bodies. Program-specific accreditation comes from professional organizations that assess education programs related to the field.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a public health associate?

The term "public health associate" has several meanings: The term may refer to someone who works in the public health field. It can also denote a public health associate degree. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also offers a public health associate program, which lasts two years and assigns participants to public health organizations around the nation.

What qualifications do you need to work in public health?

The necessary qualifications depend on the position. Some public health jobs, such as EMTs and paramedics, require state certifications and licensure. An associate degree meets minimum qualifications for multiple public health positions, but some employers might prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree.

What can you do with an associate degree in public health?

Associate degree-holders can sit in for the National Council Licensure Examination to become registered nurses. An associate degree can lead to positions such as environmental technician and EMT. Students can also pursue a bachelor's degree by transferring credits earned from an associate program.

What careers fall under public health?

Public health encompasses many careers, including community planners, epidemiologists, social workers, and scientists. Any job that draws connections between health-related issues and local communities fits beneath the public health umbrella.

The Top Five Online Associate Degrees in Public Health for 2021

Health education and promotion benefit individuals, families, and communities. A public health associate degree may provide foundational education for nurses, community health organizers, and nutrition educators. Degree-seekers can explore the top five online public health programs for 2021 with our ranked list of accredited schools.

Accreditation highlights quality programs that meet standards of academic excellence. Each school on our list holds regional accreditation. The following accrediting bodies endorse the schools in our ranking.

  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
Our Ranking Methodology

1. County College of Morris

Located in Randolph, New Jersey, CCM's 222-acre campus hosts more than 45 associate degree programs. Recently, CCM has expanded its offerings to include music technology and cybersecurity.

Associate in Science Degree in Public Health

Housed in CCM's Department of Health and Exercise Science, the AS in public health prepares graduates for public health careers in medical facilities and organizations. The college's articulation agreements with Rutgers University–New Brunswick and William Paterson University allow graduates to seamlessly transition into a bachelor's-level program.

Students complete general education courses in communication, social science, humanities, math, and technology. The curriculum continues with core public health courses in first aid, anatomy and physiology, personal and family nutrition, and medical terminology.

Applying to CCM

CCM applicants must pay a $30 application fee and submit high school or college transcripts. Most incoming students must take ACCUPLACER tests prior to scheduling courses.

Program at a Glance

School Type: Public
Accreditation: MSCHE
Tuition: $148/credit (in county); $292/credit (out of county); $418/credit (out of state)
Required Credits: 60 credits
Delivery Format: 100% online, on campus, or hybrid

2. College of Western Idaho

CWI's liberal arts, science, and workforce development programs serve more than 29,000 learners annually. Focused on student success beyond the classroom, the college serves its regional community through innovative teaching.

Associate of Arts in Public Health

CWI's public health associate degree provides students with hands-on healthcare experiences. Field and lab experiences develop knowledge and skills in wellness, disease prevention, and health promotion and education. Internship opportunities allow students to explore public health careers.

The 61-credit curriculum includes foundational courses in writing and statistical reasoning. Additional coursework covers health and wellness, chemistry, psychology, environmental health, and nutrition. Students choose from a selection of elective, communication, and science courses. A two-credit exercise and health science capstone leads to a professional portfolio.

Applying to CWI

Degree-seekers must submit an online application and official high school, GED, or college transcripts before completing a new student orientation. Applicants also need ACT, SAT, AP, CLEP, or other relevant placement test scores.

Program at a Glance

School Type: Public
Accreditation: NWCCU
Tuition: $139/credit (in district); $189/credit (out of district); $306/credit (out of state)
Required Credits: 61 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Delivery Format: On campus or hybrid

3. Mid Michigan College

Founded in 1965, Mid offers nearly 50 degrees and certificates through two campuses and online. Committed to workforce training, the school constructed the Michigan Technical Education Center in 2001.

Associate in Applied Science in Public Health

Mid's MiTransfer public health pathway facilitates seamless transfer to multiple in-state colleges and universities for bachelor's degree continuation. Alternatively, learners can select the public health transfer pathway to transfer up to 50 credits to Central Michigan University's bachelor's in public health.

Students must take at least 15 credits on campus. The curriculum covers topics in communication, ethical issues, healthy lifestyles, healthcare delivery, and health profession leadership. A public health internship provides hands-on, supervised work experience in a healthcare setting.

Applying to Mid

Online students should submit an online application, high school or college transcripts, and SAT or ACT scores. Applicants must set up a myMid account and participate in new student orientation.

Program at a Glance

School Type: Public
Accreditation: HLC
Tuition: $137/credit (in district); $229/credit (out of district)
Required Credits: 63-64 credits
Program Length: 4-5 semesters
Delivery Format: Hybrid

4. Montgomery County Community College

Located in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Montco operates two campuses, a culinary arts center, and multiple online programs. Students can participate in more than 30 clubs and organizations, including a student radio station and the Student Engineering Association.

Associate of Science in Public Health

Montco's 61-credit online associate degree in public health caters to students planning to continue their health career education at the bachelor's level. The program received the Riegelman Award for Excellence in 2018. Learners can choose a part-time or full-time schedule with general education, core, and elective classes. The program's online courses feature small class sizes and convenient access through Blackboard.

General education topics include English, mathematics, and communications. The core curriculum explores subjects in environmental health, basic nutrition, biology, environmental biology, and sociology. Six elective credits round out the program.

Applying to Montco

After submitting an online application, Montco applicants should create a Montco Connect account and complete a career assessment. Prospective students may then submit high school, GED, or college transcripts and ACT, SAT, or other standardized test scores.

Program at a Glance

School Type: Public
Accreditation: MSCHE
Tuition: $144/credit (in county); $288/credit (out of county); $432/credit (out of state)
Required Credits: 61 credits
Program Length: 4 semesters (full time); 9 semesters (part time)
Delivery Format: Online with some on-campus requirements or on campus

5. Anne Arundel Community College

Established in 1961 in Arnold, Maryland, AACC's campus features art galleries and a performing arts center. The school's associate and certificate programs enroll more than 18,000 students annually.

Public Health Professions - Public Health (AS)

AACC's AS in public health professions prepares learners for in-demand health education roles. Students must complete 35 general education credits on campus before transitioning to 100% online coursework. Learners choose between synchronous and asynchronous online classes.

The 25-credit core curriculum covers topics in global health, emerging public health issues, epidemiology, and health behavior. Learners take seven elective credits in subjects like women's health, social research methods, emergency medical care, and anatomy and physiology.

Applying to AACC

Prospective AACC students can submit an application online or by mail. Applicants must include high school transcripts or GED examination results with their application. Alternatively, candidates can submit a copy of their high school diploma or GED certificate.

Program at a Glance

School Type: Public
Accreditation: MSCHE
Tuition: $120/credit (in county); $253/credit (out of county); $408/credit (out of state)
Required Credits: 60 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Delivery Format: Hybrid

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