Top 10 Affordable PhD Programs in Public Health 2021

The Doctor of Philosophy in Public Health (PhD) and the Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) programs profiled here are terminal degrees in public health. Readers will also find affordable programs closely related to public health listed. These programs are offered in a flexible format, most of them primarily online, with some requiring brief intensive on-campus classes or other requirements. Continue reading to find the public health doctoral program that will help you meet your academic and career goals in a flexible and affordable manner.

1. University of North Carolina, Charlotte, NC

2. University of Montana, Missoula, MT

3. East Carolina University, Greenville, NC

4. University of South Florida, Tampa, FL

5. University of North Carolina, Charlotte, NC

6. University of Illinois, Chicago, IL

7. Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA

8. Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA

9. A.T. Still University of Health Sciences, Kirksville, MO

10. Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD

Methodology for Ranking Public Health Doctorates

The College Navigator website and the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) website were used to develop the initial pool of accredited degree programs to determine these top ten affordable public health-related doctoral programs. Programs listed include the Doctor of Philosophy in Public Health (PhD), Doctor of Public Health (DrPH), Doctor of Education (EdD) in Health Professions and Doctorate of Health Science (DHSc) are listed. Programs are ranked based on in-state tuition rates and tuition rates for private schools. These tuition costs are for comparison purposes only, and prospective students should contact their school of interest directly for the most up to date tuition and program information.

Logo of Johns Hopkins for our ranking of best PhD Public Health programs

10. John Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD


Tuition $55,350


This DrPH program offered by Johns Hopkins University is a flexible online degree program with one week onsite institutes required in June and January. Full time students can complete this program in up to 7 years, part time students up to 9 years, and most students complete this robust DrPH in 5-7 years. This DrPH degree is sought after by mid-career public health professionals seeking leadership roles in public health organizations at home or abroad. Built around foundational public health competencies, students can choose from four concentrations, including Environmental Health, Health Equity and Social Justice, Health Policy and Management, or Implementation Science.

Logo of ATSU for our list of top PhD public health programs

9. A.T. Still University of Health Sciences, Kirksville, MO

EdD Health Professions

DHSc Health Sciences


Tuition $36,336

A.T. Still University’s affordable online EdD in Health Professions and DHSc in Health Sciences are flexible programs to advance careers in the health system. The EdD program focuses on developing health education professionals through practical, experience-based teaching. The EdD degree is designed for practicing clinicians, health educators, leaders and program directors who are pursuing teaching. With the shift in healthcare toward preventative care and education, graduates of this program can help fill the gap. ATSU’s DHSc online degree program promises to prepare graduates to assess and manage solutions for the challenges facing the population in access to healthcare, healthcare cost and quality. Graduates with this degree will be prepared in project management, leadership roles, upholding evidence-based practice, and research application to professional practice.

Drexel University logo for our ranking of top PhD in public health programs

8. Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA

DHSc Health Sciences


Tuition $35,181

This online Doctor of Health Science (DHSc) from Drexel University promises to prepare graduates to be leaders in healthcare. Students will graduate with the knowledge and skills to be effective educators, administrators, researchers and advocates for best practices in healthcare. Open to health professionals looking to advance their careers in leadership in education and clinical practice, this DHSc will provide a solid foundation for research with a focus in the student’s specialized area of interest. This affordable online DHSc is designed for students wanting to expand their expertise with broad based knowledge and skills that translate research evidence into practice.

Logo of Loma Linda University for our ranking of top PhD in public health degrees

7. Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA



Tuition $28,880

This affordable online DrPH in Health Education is designed for students wanting a health education specialty to develop research, writing, management and leadership skills to further their public health career. With advanced skills and knowledge in health education, graduates are prepared for advanced leadership in planning and evaluating health behavior, health advocacy and communication, analysis, and university-level teaching. Applicants can have little or no experience to enter this program. This online formatted program is targeted towards working professionals and includes synchronous learning and online and blended courses, and includes campus requirements during the research and defense process. Students may take summer courses in person if they so desire. This program can be completed in 3-5 years, with graduates anticipating employment in leadership roles in government, private or academic settings.

Logo of UIC for our list of top PhD programs in public health

6. University of Illinois, Chicago, IL



In-State Tuition $13,276

Out-of-State Tuition $23,850

This affordable online Doctor in Public Health (DrPH) degree is a comprehensive leadership training program in all areas of public health. Students are exposed to the latest research, practice and theory in public health. This program is designed for mid-career public health professionals seeking to broaden their public health knowledge and practice. Students enjoy the flexibility to learn online from any location with a vibrant learning community and renowned faculty. Graduates from this affordable DrPH program can expect to have the skills needed to lead in research and policy making, and to assume leadership roles in health systems at the local, national and international level.

Logo of UNC Chapel Hill for our list of best PhD public health degrees

5. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC

Executive DrPH


In-State Tuition $10,552

Out-of-State Tuition $28,278

This competitive online DrPH program from UNC is designed for working professionals with the potential to become leaders committed to improving public health in the US or abroad. Fifteen students are admitted to this online phd in public health program each year, with applicants having at least five years in a leadership position in the health field. Classes are taught one evening per week via an internet video platform. On campus visits are required in August, January and May for 3-4 days each, with flexibility for overseas or other remote students. Students begin dissertation planning in year one and most complete it in three years, with some taking up to five years to complete.

Logo of USF for our ranking of top PhD programs in public health

4. University of South Florida, Tampa, FL



In-State Tuition $8,350

Out-of-State Tuition $19,048

This Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) offered by the University of South Florida is the most affordable accredited online PhD in public health program. With an emphasis on advanced public health education, this training is designed for students seeking a role in practice-based settings such as a health department, a non-profit, health services, international or community-based organization. Students develop expertise in the development, implementation and evaluation of evidence-based public health practice. Students attend three on-campus DrPH Institutes, allowing for professionals in the workforce to network with others in their program. Although this is an online phd in public health tudents may opt to take on-campus courses, should their location allow. With concentrations in Advanced Practice Leadership in Public Health and PUblic Health and Clinical Laboratory Science and Practice, this affordable DrPH program from USF may be the one for you.

Logo of ECU for our listing of best PhD public health programs

3. East Carolina University, Greenville, NC



In-State Tuition $4749

Out-of-State Tuition $17,898

East Carolina University’s affordable online or on-campus DrPH is offered with a concentration in Environmental and Occupational Health (EOH) and Health Policy, Administration and Leadership (HPAL). This DrPH is the terminal degree for those pursuing a career in public health research. This program’s goal is to advance leadership in public health, focusing on rural, multi-cultural and underserved communities. Graduates are skilled as leaders, teachers, innovators and researchers in public health, implementing and creating evidence-based public health goals that are effective in the community.

Logo of University of Montana for our ranking of top PhD in public health degree programs

2. University of Montana, Missoula, MT

PhD Public Health


In-State Tuition $4716

Out-of-State Tuition $20,064

This affordable PhD in Public Health is offered through the University of Montana with the mission to educate the next generation of public health researchers with the skills needed to collaborate across disciplines. Graduates of this PhD program will be poised to produce new knowledge, contributing to solving complex health problems. Applicants are required to have a Master of Public Health (MPH or equivalent) to enter this research-oriented doctoral program. This on-campus program requires students to be in Missoula to work with their Research Advisor throughout the program. UM’s PhD in Public Health is a 60 credit program, with up to 15 credits able to be transferred upon approval from another institution.

Logo of UNC Charlotte for our ranking of top PhD programs in public health

1. University of North Carolina, Charlotte, NC

PhD Public Health Sciences


In-State Tuition $4,337

Out-of-State Tuition $17,771

This affordable PhD program in Public Health Sciences offered by the University of North Carolina, Charlotte is focused to train public health researchers and professionals with skills needed to approach current public health issues affecting individuals, communities, and populations. Although not online, this program is the most affordable PhD in public health of all the accredited programs available in the United States. This program is offered with a concentration in Behavioral Sciences, emphasizing the investigation of health determinants and the relationship in prevention and management of disease in diverse and vulnerable populations. The primary emphasis of this program is understanding and developing programs that address influencing factors of health behaviors and outcomes. This PhD in Public Health Sciences with a Behavioral Sciences concentration has an emphasis on qualitative and quantitative methods, and the study of social and cultural factors influencing health behaviors. Check out UNC’s website for more information on this affordable PhD in Public Health Sciences.


Why does this list include terminal degrees that are not specifically public health?

The interdisciplinary and collaborative field of public health overlaps with other fields and these programs were included. Public health professionals can be clinicians, program directors, researchers and educators, to name a few areas. The programs listed are geared toward public health and related disciplines.

Do all applicants to a doctoral program have to have a degree in a related field?

Many programs do require a master’s degree, such as a MPH, to apply. Some programs require work experience in addition to educational requirements. Some may require remedial courses in public health to apply. Prepared candidates for the top programs often possess both experience and education. Contact the programs of interest to find out application requirements.

What is the difference between a PhD and a DrPH?

The PhD in Public Health is designed for scientists, while the DrPH is designed for public health professionals. People wanting to work with programs and policies often seek the DrPH to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to work as an effective leader.

What do people do with a terminal degree in public health?

The field of public health is interdisciplinary, with collaboration across fields, and people can pursue a variety of directions in their career. Some conduct public health research, some work directly with individuals and the public to improve community health and wellness through disease prevention and other health initiatives. Some are advocates to increase access to healthcare or teach at the university level. Graduates will advance their career options and have new leadership opportunities in the field of healthcare and public health.

What are typical requirements for this degree?

Typical coursework includes research methods, statistics, evidence-based practice, program assessment and evaluation, and health policy analysis, to name a few. In addition, students may do research, create their portfolio, go through a practicum experience, and complete and defend a dissertation.

How long can it take to complete my degree?

A terminal degree in public health may take four years full time to complete, with part-time students taking up to 9 years. Typically, students complete about 60 credits of required coursework, in addition to a dissertation. Requirements vary from program to program, so be sure to check out the details for your program of interest.

What kind of PhD in public health should I get?

A terminal degree develops skills that can lead to a more advanced position in the field. Many programs offer specialization or customization of the study plan to fit your specific interests and career goals. Check out the flexibility to customize the program so that it fits your needs.

Why get my terminal degree through an online program?

Online programs offer a flexible and often cost-saving option to those who want to continue working while pursuing their degree, or cannot move due to other responsibilities. Students may enjoy working from wherever they are, fitting their online phd in public health into their schedules as they wish.

Does it really matter if my program is accredited?

Although you may see programs not listed here that look interesting, some lack accreditation. The list found in this article only lists accredited programs. Accreditation ensures a quality program, worthy of your time and money. If you’re going to make the effort to pursue your terminal degree, it is best that it is accredited.

How do I finance my online degree?

Students often research funding opportunities such as scholarships, grants, loans and work study. If you are still employed, your employer may have a tuition program for company employees wishing to go back to school. Speak with someone in financial aid at your program of interest to find out what is available through the school.Â

How much money do people make with this degree?

In addition to variations of professional experience, geographical location, and type of workplace, salaries vary greatly. Here is a short list from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:Â

Medical and health services managers: $99,730

Biostatistician: $88,190

College Professor: $78,740

Epidemiologist: $69,660

What are some of the professional organizations in public health?

The professional organizations in public health help emerging professionals gain access to networking opportunities, attend conferences, obtain career guidance, and get needed continuing education. Organizations include: American Public Health Association, United States Public Health Service, and Council on Education for Public Health.Â

How is the job outlook in public health?

A PhD in public health opens the door to in-demand careers. Across the board, public health is a growing field, with above average growth expected.

How do I choose an online program that’s right for me?

Once you’ve decided to pursue your degree online, contact your program of interest to find out details about the online phd in public health not revealed on the website. Make sure any on-campus requirements suit you, and check out scholarship information, as well as verifying if there is a faculty member doing research in your area of interest. Find the online phd in public health program that fits your educational interest, financial ability, and your life.

By Carol Dolan BS RN BSN CDCES

October 2020

Carol graduated with her BS in Nutrition from Montclair State University and her BSN in Nursing from Rowan University. She is a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES) currently working with adults and children living with diabetes in both outpatient and inpatient settings.

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This concludes our coverage of the top affordable PhD in public health programs for 2021.