A Diverse Degree Option for Health Professionals


A certificate in public health is designed for working professionals who want to advance their undergraduate education, but aren’t necessarily ready to earn a master’s degree. Physicians, nurses, nutritionists, veterinarians and others who work in public health are good candidates for a certificate program.

There are two different types, or levels, of certificates students can earn. An executive-level certificate is for professionals who already have work experience in public health but that need additional training to move forward in their career. This program is typically short with intensive courses, and employers may help subsidize the cost. Junior-level certificates expose students with no prior public health experience, such as recent bachelor’s degree graduates in a related field. This program will cover the foundation topics of public health.


Public health certificate programs are generally 15 credit hours, or five three-credit classes from the master’s in public health curriculum. Students take all five classes within one calendar year and all classes can usually be taken online. Because courses are the same ones that master’s students take, credit hours are designed to transfer to a master’s program.

Common Certificate Courses

Coursework in a public health certificate program covers the foundation of public health, giving students a full spectrum of public health topics. Programs are designed this way so students can make an easy transition to a master’s program, even if they had no prior background in public health before earning the certificate.

While course requirements will vary from school to school, generally students will take the following classes to earn a public health certificate:

  • Basic Principles of Epidemiology
  • Public Health Policy and Management
  • Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Biostatistics for Public Health
  • Sociocultural & Behavioral Aspects of Public Health

Earning Your Public Health Certificate Online

Online learning is a great option for busy professionals. A certificate in public health can be completed entirely online at most colleges. Students can view class lectures and complete assignments at their convenience, from anywhere with an Internet connection-whether it’s their own home, the local coffee shop or overseas. Assignments are turned in via email and class discussions are conducted via an online course management system such as Blackboard.

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Students who choose to attend classes online should be self-motivated and dedicated to getting the most out of their education. They don’t have the in-person interaction that traditional brick-and-mortar programs offer, putting more responsibility on the student to get involved.

Are there any prerequisites for an online public health certificate?

Yes. Because public health certificate programs are often a stepping stone for a master’s in public health, students must have earned a bachelor’s degree prior to being accepted to a certificate program.

I don’t have any experience in public health or the health care field. Is a public health certificate a good choice for me?

Yes! A junior-level certificate is a perfect fit for those who have no experience in public health.

How long will it take me to complete my public health certificate?

Most programs are eight to twelve months long. Some programs will allow you to take longer, if necessary.