Best Undergraduate Certificates in Public Health Online

Earning an undergraduate public health certificate prepares students for challenging and satisfying careers in environmental health, public education, biostatistics, and informatics.

Many public health careers offer exceptionally promising employment outlooks. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 25% job growth for substance abuse counselors and 32% for public health administrators from 2019-2029, substantially faster than the average for all jobs.

This page ranks the top public health certificate programs for 2021. We also discuss what to expect from an undergraduate certificate, the benefits of earning a public health certificate, and how to find the right certificate program.

2021’s Five Best Public Health Certificate Programs
1Indiana University–Purdue University IndianapolisIndianapolis, IN
2Kent State UniversityKent, OH
3Wytheville Community CollegeWytheville, VA
4Western Kentucky UniversityBowling Green, KY
5Metropolitan Community CollegeOmaha, NE

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Why Get a Public Health Certificate?

Public health certificate programs teach students how to apply public health theory and practice to address population health issues. Individuals with a public health certificate often pursue higher-level degrees or find entry-level employment in community health, emergency preparedness, and substance abuse.

Public health certificate programs appeal to students interested in contributing to improvements in community health and well-being. The profession often attracts individuals who possess qualities like empathy, compassion, and a strong sense of justice.

Colleges increasingly offer public health certificates online. Remote education and in-state programs at public institutions often charge the most affordable tuition rates.

Below, we discuss three additional benefits of earning a public health certificate.

  • Time Efficiency

    A public health certificate takes less time to complete than a bachelor’s degree in public health. While you may want to pursue a bachelor’s later on, earning a certificate allows you to determine whether a public health career suits you.

  • Versatile, Transferable Skills

    Public health certificate programs help students cultivate core competencies in teamwork, critical thinking, and public outreach. These sought-after skills easily transfer across roles and industries.

  • A Chance to Make a Social Impact

    Many public health careers provide opportunities to make a lasting social impact or contribute to humanitarian causes. This benefit makes the public health profession especially attractive to those seeking meaningful employment.

Should You Get a Certificate or an Associate Degree?

Students who want to get a sense of the profession before getting a degree can benefit from pursuing a public health certificate.

Earning a public health associate degree involves additional time to complete general education coursework. A certificate program also offers an excellent opportunity to begin a career for those whose qualifications do not meet degree admission requirements.

Below, we compare how public health certificate programs typically stack up against associate degrees.

Comparing Certificate and Associate Programs
Public Health CertificatePublic Health Associate Degree
Length1-2 semesters of full-time studyTwo years of full-time study
Credit Load15-20 credits60 credits
Admission RequirementsA minimum GPA of 2.0A minimum GPA of 2.5-3.0 and SAT or ACT scores
Common CoursesCommunity health, biostatistics, epidemiology, health administration, and environmental healthGeneral education courses, community health, biostatistics, epidemiology, health administration, and environmental health
GoalPrepare for entry-level jobs or higher degrees in public healthPrepare for entry-level jobs or higher degrees in public health
Jobs After GraduationSubstance abuse counselor, community health worker, medical secretary, patient services coordinatorSubstance abuse counselor, community health worker, medical secretary, patient services coordinator, health coach, community outreach coordinator

Source: BLS

What To Expect From a Public Health Certificate

Public health certificate programs develop in-demand soft skills, including creativity, strategic thinking, and cultural awareness. Learners also acquire skills like grant writing, conflict resolution, and project management.

Earning a public health certificate may require 15-20 credits. Most full-time students finish in one year or less. Learners can typically apply credits earned in a certificate program toward a higher-level degree, as long as the school holds accreditation.

Common coursework for certificate programs includes biostatistics, principles of disease prevention, and community health. Tuition rates vary by school, but public in-state institutions and online programs tend to offer the most affordable tuition rates. Students can explore financing options such as grants, scholarships, and loans to help cover the cost of tuition.

Read More About Public Health Certificates

Admissions Process

Top public health certificate programs generally require a high school degree or GED certificate. Applicants must typically submit a resume, letters of recommendation, personal essays, and a nonrefundable application fee. Many public health certificate programs waive standardized test scores for U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and DACA recipients.

Public health certificate programs may require a minimum GPA of 2.0 or relevant work experience. The best associate and bachelor’s programs in public health, by contrast, often require a minimum GPA of 2.5-3.0 and SAT or ACT scores. High school graduates without the requisite grades or test scores for a standard program may gain a boost by completing a certificate program.

Different Certificate Types

Students pursuing a public health certificate can choose among several formats and concentrations. Delivery formats include on-campus, online, and hybrid options. The online program format varies across schools. Synchronous online programs conduct live classes at specific times. Asynchronous programs, by contrast, allow learners to study at their own pace.

Online programs offer great flexibility for students with work and family commitments. However, conventional on-campus programs may offer greater access to job fairs, extracurricular activities, career counseling, and in-person networking events.

Not all public health certificate programs offer traditional concentrations. But many programs allow students to specialize through a combination of electives. Popular focus areas include environmental health, child obesity prevention, and substance abuse counseling.

Popular Public Health Certificate Courses

Typical curricula include core requirements such as biostatistics, epidemiology, and public health administration. Electives may include suicide prevention, environmental infertility, and food apartheid in America.

Below, we provide sample descriptions of courses learners may encounter in a public health certificate program.

Public Health Policy and Administration

This core course cultivates communication, leadership, and interpersonal skills, along with proficiencies in public health policy and administration. The class culminates in a community health project that provides hands-on experience with community health assessment, public policy review, and public advocacy.

Epidemiology and Biostatistics

In this core class, learners gain insight into the basic principles and methods of epidemiology and biostatistics. Topics covered include epidemiologic study design, biostatistical methods and analyses, and disease outbreak investigation. The course often includes a field trip to an agency such as the National Institute of Health.

Addiction Treatment

This advanced survey course offers an overview of the science of addiction, current trends in addiction treatment, and substance abuse outreach programs. Through an examination of case studies, learners gain practical knowledge of leading approaches to substance abuse counseling.

Seminar in Environmental Health

In this discussion-driven seminar, attendees explore major perspectives on the maintenance and promotion of environmental health. The seminar cultivates proficiencies in children’s environmental health, chemical and other environmental exposures, healthy community design, and climate change mitigation.

How Much Do Public Health Certificates Cost?

The cost of a public health certificate program varies with school type (public or private), program format (on-campus or online), and student residency (in-state or out-of-state).

Public in-state institutions tend to offer the most affordable public health certificate programs. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, undergraduate tuition and fees for public in-state schools averaged $9,212 as of the 2018-19 academic year.

Private and out-of-statecolleges and universities tend to cost significantly more, averaging $31,875 and $26,382 annually for undergraduate tuition and fees as of 2019. However, some private and public schools charge lower rates for distance learners.

Other program expenses include textbooks, technology fees, and potential lost income. Prospective on-campus students should also factor in costs of room and board, other on-campus fees, and commuting.

Public Health Jobs and Salaries

A certificate in public health can open doors to well-paying, rewarding careers such as health educator, substance abuse counselor, and public health administrator. The BLS reports median annual earnings of $47,660 for substance abuse counselors and $104,280 for public health administrators.

Practicing unsupervised as a substance abuse counselor in private practice generally requires a master’s degree and licensure. However, a bachelor’s degree or a public health certificate, along with relevant work experience, may suffice for many public health roles in private industry, public health departments, and nonprofit organizations.

Below, we outline some potential public health careers:

Substance Abuse Counselor

Substance abuse counselors advise people with drug and alcohol addictions. Frequent responsibilities include assessing clients’ treatment readiness, developing treatment goals, and conducting substance abuse outreach programs. Counselors in private practice must obtain licensure.

Required Education: Varies from a high school diploma to a master’s degree
Job Outlook (2019-29):+25%
Median Annual Salary:$47,660

Health Educator

Health educators inform the public about how to maintain and improve health. Typical job duties include evaluating the health status of populations, organizing health promotion events, and advocating for healthcare policy changes. Earning a certified health education specialist credential may provide a competitive edge in hiring.

Required Education: Bachelor’s degree
Job Outlook (2019-29):+13%
Median Annual Salary:$48,140

Public Health Administrator

Public health administrators supervise activities in health service departments or organizations. Frequent responsibilities include training new recruits, advocating for improvements in public health services, and representing the department or organization at public events. Many employers require relevant professional experience.

Required Education: Bachelor’s degree
Job Outlook (2019-29):+32%
Median Annual Salary:$104,280

Explore Public Health Careers

Choosing the Right Certificate Program

This list of public health certificate programs offers an excellent starting point for prospective students. However, learners should also consider factors like cost, accreditation, and future education opportunities.

  • Accreditation

    Attending a regionally accredited institution ensures rigorous academic standards, access to federal financial aid, and credit transfer between programs and schools. Many of the best public health certificate programs also hold industry-specific accreditation from the Council on Education for Public Health.

  • Cost

    Prices for public health certificate programs vary by school. The best programs typically charge more than less prestigious options. However, attending a distance learning program or an in-state public college can cut costs.

  • Future Education Opportunities

    Prospective learners who plan to pursue further education at the same institution may want to select a public health certificate program that allows intra-institutional credit transfer.

Frequently Asked Questions

What degree should I get to work in public health?

Most public health jobs require a bachelor’s degree in the field and/or relevant work experience. A graduate certificate or master’s in public health can increase a job applicant’s competitive advantage.

Can I get a public health certificate online?

Yes. Many top colleges offer a public health certificate online. Programs at in-state public schools often cost less than alternatives. Some schools may also charge less for online students.

What can I do with a certificate in public health?

Graduates with an undergraduate certificate in public health can apply to a bachelor’s program in public health or find work in fields like epidemiology, community health, and environmental health.

How do you become a public health practitioner?

Most public health practitioners hold at least a bachelor’s degree in public health. However, students with an undergraduate public health certificate and relevant professional experience qualify for some entry-level positions in the field.

The Top Five Public Health Certificate Programs for 2021

Health professionals from various backgrounds can launch or advance their careers by earning public health certificates. This academic program requires fewer credits than an associate degree and offers opportunities for students to boost their credentials.

The five public health certificate programs listed below all hold regional accreditation, with some receiving programmatic accreditation. These schools are accredited by one or more of the following agencies:

  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)
Our Ranking Methodology

1. Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis

This urban research university in Indianapolis blends two historic universities: Purdue and Indiana University. Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) began more than 50 years ago and now offers over 550 academic programs.

Undergraduate Certificate in Community Health

IUPUI students seeking practical experience in managing real-world health problems can obtain the school’s undergraduate certificate in community health. This 27-credit program prepares future professionals to pursue certified health education specialist certification.

Certificate students enroll in nine three-credit courses — seven required subjects and two electives. Core courses cover careers in public health, theoretical foundations of community health, and assessment and planning for community health promotion. Electives include coursework in behavior change, cultural implications for community health, or a community health practicum.

Applying to IUPUI

An IUPUI student who plans to add a community health certificate must complete the Fairbanks School of Public Health undergraduate minor and certificate declaration form.

Program at a Glance

School Type: Public
Accreditation: HLC, CEPH
Required Credits: 27 credits
Delivery Format: On campus

2. Kent State University

Located in Ohio, Kent State University (KSU) enrolls more than 38,000 students across eight campuses and online. The school maintains an alumni network of over 258,000 and graduates 10,000 students each year.

Certificate in Public Health

Non-public health majors can enhance their degrees with certificates in public health at KSU. Through this certificate, students explore environmental health concepts, emerging issues in public health, and the behavioral and social aspects of disease prevention.

KSU’s 18-credit program requires six courses, including essentials of epidemiology, introduction to biostatistics, introduction to global health, and public health policy and decision-making. Degree-seekers enrolled in a nursing, biology, chemistry, or health education major can use this certificate to enhance their success in their field.

Applying to KSU

Each first-year student must submit an application showing ACT and/or SAT scores, a high school diploma with a college preparatory curriculum, and a strong cumulative grade point average. Transfer students must meet different requirements.

Program at a Glance

School Type: Public
Accreditation: HLC, CEPH
Tuition: $520/credit (in state); $530/credit (out of state)
Required Credits: 18 credits
Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous) or on campus

3. Wytheville Community College

Situated in Virginia, Wytheville Community College (WCC) began in 1963 with 107 students and five full-time faculty members. Today, the institution enrolls more than 3,400 students.

Career Studies Certificate in Public Health

Students interested in public health careers can pursue WCC’s 18-credit certificate. This program helps learners meet their occupational and professional goals without completing associate or bachelor’s degrees.

WCC’s curriculum requires six three-credit courses, including global health, principles of epidemiology, and environmental and occupational health. Most students take three courses in the first semester and the final three courses in their second semester.

Throughout the program, enrollees learn to address global health issues by working in public health initiatives, including infectious diseases and environmental hazards.

Applying to WCC

Each candidate can submit an application online or print a form from the website to send in the mail. Applicants must provide transcripts.

Program at a Glance

School Type: Public
Accreditation: SACSCOC
Tuition: $155/credit (in state); $331/credit (out of state)
Required Credits: 18 credits
Program Length: 1-2 semesters
Delivery Format: On campus

4. Western Kentucky University

Western Kentucky University (WKU) enrolls more than 17,500 students on its Bowling Green campus. The school offers 69 certificates and 94 bachelor’s degrees, along with several graduate programs.

Public Health Certificate

Students interested in public health can pursue WKU’s 18-credit certificate. In this program, learners dive into core public health skills, concepts, and competencies.

The certificate’s coursework comprises six three-credit courses, including epidemiology, health program administration, and biostatistics.

Graduates can pursue roles in nonprofit organizations, college health centers, or mental health agencies. Students can also add on another certificate, such as occupational safety and health and long-term care administration.

Applying to WKU

Each candidate needs at least 30 credits with a minimum 2.3 GPA. These required credits include specific courses in communication, psychology, biology, and chemistry.

Program at a Glance

School Type: Public
Accreditation: SACSCOC
Tuition: $450/credit (in state); $1,104/credit (out of state)
Required Credits: 18 credits
Delivery Format: On campus

5. Metropolitan Community College

Founded in 1974, Metropolitan Community College (MCC) serves students in Dodge, Douglas, Sarpy, and Washington counties in Nebraska. The school now enrolls more than 25,000 credit students and 20,000 non-credit learners in over 100 1-2 year programs.

Certificate of Achievement in Public Health

Aspiring health workers can launch their careers with MCC’s 48-credit certificate. Each enrollee completes 13.5 general education credits and 34.5 credits in the major. Courses include children’s health and nutrition, school-age child development and programming, and community health prevention.

Students also complete a one-credit course in employability skills fundamentals and a six-credit internship. Internships deliver 240 hours of practical, supervised training in approved settings. To graduate, students need a minimum of a C in each course.

Applying to MCC

To enroll at MCC, prospective students need to complete an application and schedule assessment tests or submit test scores. Before registering for classes, enrollees meet with success navigators for coaching.

Program at a Glance

School Type: Public
Accreditation: HLC
Tuition: $66/credit (in state); $99/credit (out of state)
Required Credits: 48 credits
Delivery Format: 100% online or on campus

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