By Zawn Villines
There’s no single perfect program that will magically turn every student into a public health expert. Instead, the key is to find the right program for your needs. Consequently, this list doesn’t rank programs from best to worst. Instead, it’s a mere compilation of the best schools so that you can then determine which school works for your needs. Some students may relish tiny classrooms and affectionate professors, while others crave large, competitive environments.
To evaluate whether a school was really among the “best,” here’s what we did.
1. We compiled a list of all master’s in public health degree programs at schools that are regionally accredited by one of six organizations authorized by the U.S. Department of Education. To learn more about accreditation, visit this link.
2. We reviewed student review sites, Internet complaints, and new stories listing challenges students experienced with their schools. Schools with serious challenges, such as a history of investigations by a government body, were removed from the list.
3. Programs that had a high-ranking slot (top 25 or better) in a national school ranking service such as U.S. News and World Report received two points. Schools that ranked on other ranking lists received one point.
4. We reviewed school-sponsored data about student outcomes, including graduation rates, post-graduation employment rates, and faculty-student ratios. Schools with more favorable student outcomes and faculty-student ratios below 1:30 received one point.
5. We evaluated special programs offered by the schools. Schools that offered programs such as paid internships, mandatory capstone projects, in-depth faculty advisement, or certifications in specific fields received one point.
Schools with the highest point tally are listed here. Schools that made the cut as low-cost programs charge students $24,000 or less per year of tuition, while schools in the cost-no-object list charge higher rates. Within each list, schools are listed from most expensive to least expensive.
So why aren’t schools ranked from best to worst? This list takes into account a wide variety of measures of school quality, including academic reputation, student satisfaction, the availability of internships and other resume-building programs, accessibility of professors and educational support staff, value-cost ratios, name recognition, and employment outcomes. The list also takes into account the cost of attendance, rather than just tuition costs, since additional expenses such as books, activity fees, and the cost of a long commute can all significantly increase the costs of a master’s program. Different students may prioritize each of these factors differently.
School curricula constantly change, so it’s important to carefully evaluate whether a school is right for your needs. Indeed, what makes many of these schools so excellent is the fact that they change their curricula annually, but this fact makes it necessary to evaluate whether the current manifestation of the curriculum is right for you. Remember, it’s not just a school’s ranking that matters, but also its ability to meet your individual needs, provide an academic culture that encourages learning, and help you find a job.
15 Best Cost-No-Object MPH Degree Programs
Dartmouth is a small but highly competitive school ranked 8th among MPH programs by U.S. News and World Report. Students rate Dartmouth highly, with Best Colleges listing Dartmouth as second-highest college nationwide in student satisfaction. Students can choose between a master of science in public health or a traditional MPH. They also can pursue part-time options or enroll in Dartmouth’s intensive one-year program. Tuition is $62,352 per year.
Yale University consistently tops virtually every list of best schools. It ranks 4th in overall student satisfaction, and U.S. News and World Report ranks it second in overall value and 13th among MPH programs. The program is research-intensive, and students have access to internship and training opportunities at a variety of nearby hospitals. The program is highly competitive, with a small faculty-to-student ratio. Each student is required to complete a public health practice experience, during which students gain real-world experience. Most students receive some form of financial aid, and tuition is $53,832, including fees, per year.
Harvard University is one of the most competitive and well-regarded universities in the world, and Best Colleges ranks it 5th highest in student satisfaction. It tops U.S. News and World Report’s list of the best college values, and is ranked the third best MPH program by U.S. News and World Report. Students who enroll in Harvard’s program can choose full or part-time degree paths. The university also offers summer-only programs and dual degrees. All students are required to select a specific specialty, and the degree requires 45 credit hours. Tuition hovers around $45,000 per year.
Students interested in the business side of health should consider Boston University, which Boston confers a dual master’s of business administration/master’s of public health on graduates. Students must enroll in the program on a full-time basis, and BU offers a strong focus on disease management. The school’s career office places heavy emphasis on post-graduation employment, and students just beginning their academic careers can opt to pursue a five-year master’s/bachelor’s program. Boston ranks 11th on U.S. News and World Report’s list of best MPH programs. Tuition is $22,843 per semester.
Columbia University is a highly competitive school that ranks 5th on U.S. News and World Reports list of MPH programs, and 8th on U.S. News and World Report’s list of best value colleges. Best Colleges ranks it 8th in student satisfaction. Students can choose between full-time, part-time, and accelerated options, and can opt for a specialty in health care management. Columbia uses a cohort model of education, so students take most of their classes with the same 100 students. Students can also choose certificate concentration options, and most students complete a practicum. Tuition is $35,000 per year.
University of California at Los Angeles
Ranked the 5th best college value by Kiplinger and the 10th best MPH program by U.S. News and World Report, the University of California at Los Angeles affords students access to myriad internship oppoortunities at local health facilities. Students are strongly encouraged to pursue internships and independent projects, and UCLA keeps class sizes small, so students have access to lots of one-on-one mentorship from the school’s faculty. Tuition is $15,582 per semester for California residents, and $27,827 for non-residents.
Cornell University offers several MPH programs instead of just one option. Students can choose between an MPH or an MBA in health administration. The university also offers a five-year combined master’s/bachelor’s degree program. Cornell is highly competitive, with small class sizes and a very active alumni group. Students have access to full and part-time options, as well as executive programs. U.S. News and World Report ranks Cornell’s MPH program 14th nationwide, and tuition is $30,785 per year for full-time students.
Ranked 6th by U.S. News and World Report, Emory University offers traditional learning, as well as a discounted online-only program. The school focuses strongly on epidemiology and behavioral health, ands students have access to Emory University Hospital as well as the nearby U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Students can also choose from numerous dual degree options, and some students complete the MPH program while in medical school. Tuition is $14,900 per semester for most students, but Emory’s expedited three-semester program costs $19,900 per semester.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
For students hoping to specialize in a particular sub-discipline within the field of public health, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is an ideal option. The university offers a wide variety of specialties in fields such as behavioral health, biostatistics, and maternal and child health. Ranked number two by U.S. News and World Report, UNC is home to dozens of strategic health initiatives to combat cancer, obesity, and other public health problems. The university is a major research hub, and students get small class sizes as well as the chance to choose between distance learning and traditional programs. For students who want to pick up additional qualifications, UNC offers a diverse certification program. Tuition varies depending on specialty, student classification, and other factors, but generally hovers around $15,000 per year for North Carolina residents and $30,000 per year for non-residents.
Drexel University is well-known fr the diversity and versatility of its programs. Students can pursue a five-year dual master’s/bachelor’s degree program in public health. The school is small, with a cohort model of education and a strong emphasis on research. Most faculty members are experienced health care professionals, and the university places a heavy emphasis on post-graduation employment. For students interested in continuing their education, Drexel also offers a PhD in public health. Drexel’s university-wide emphasis on health care programs such as nursing and health management also makes it a good option for students who want to network with other health professionals. Tuition is $1,045 per credit hour.
University of Pittsburgh
Ranked 11th by U.S. News and World Report, the University of Pittsburgh has a strong orientation toward practical research. Students are required to write a published thesis and complete 44 credits. Most students pursue internships at one of the nearby teaching hospitals, and students have the option to pursue a variety of specialties, such as biostatistics. The school ranks as the 19th best educational value, with tuition of $12,160 for Pennsylvania residents and $19,925 for non-residents.
University of Michigan at Ann Arbor
Ranked 4th MPH program in the country by U.S. News and World Report, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor is a major health care research hub. The university prides itself on its diversity, and offers students a variety of joint degree programs. Most students receive financial aid, and the school has a reputation for nurturing keen intellect and strong critical thinking skills; UMich is ranked 6th for smartest students by Business Insider. Tuition is $12,000 per year for Michigan residents, and $20,000 for out-of-state students.
Tulane University offers both traditional MPH programs as well as a master’s of science in public health. Students can also chose from a variety of specialties, including epidemiology and biostatistics. Ranked 13th by U.S. News and World Report, Tulane offers small class sizes and higher than average post-graduation employment. Most students complete an internship and capstone project, and Tulane also offers opportunities for independent study. Tuition hovers around $12,000 per semester.
Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University is consistently ranked among the best universities in the world, and is noted especially for its strong health care programs. U.S. News and World Report lists Johns Hopkins as the number one masters of public health program in the country. The university offers full-time, online, and part-time options, and its full-time MPH program takes just 11 months to complete. The school boasts a stellar faculty, with 600 full-time professors and a highly diverse student body. The MPH program is oriented toward health care professionals, and 40% of students are currently physicians. Tuition is $11,832 per term for full-time students, and the full-time program typically takes three terms.
George Washington University
For students who want to emphasize health policy and legislative efforts, George Washington University can be an ideal choice. The school offers full and part-time options. Students enjoy access to a variety of internships and job opportunities at local medical facilities, as well as small class sizes and a faculty full of experienced medical professionals. Students can also choose between a variety of specialty options. U.S. News and World Report lists GWU as the 16th best MPH program. Tuition is $11,832 per term.
15 Best Low-Cost MPH Degree Programs
University of Alberta
The University of Alberta places students with a cohort of peers for the first year, and offers core classes online, making it an ideal program for busy professionals. Students can take classes at their own pace, and the program itself is highly customizable. Each student is required to gain real-world experience by completing a four-month, full-time practicum. Students can also choose among a variety of health care specialties. Depending on the specialty a student chooses, the program takes anywhere from 16 to 24 months to complete. Tuition is $8,800 per semester.
University of South Carolina
Ranked 23rd nationwide by U.S. News and World Report, the University of South Carolina’s MPH program prides itself on small class sizes and personalized attention. Students have a wide slate of electives to choose from, and the school has an incredibly high job placement rate – between 95% and 100% for recent graduates; the majority of graduates have a job within three months of graduating. Most students pursue paid internships, and the schools career office aids in placing students in internships that require a 10 to 20 hour commitment per week. For South Carolina residents, tuition is $7,012 per semester; for non-residents, tuition is $14,185.
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Ranked 34th by U.S. News and World Report, this small campus offers personalized attention and a low faculty-to-student ratio. The MPH program requires fourteen three-hour courses, and most students receive financial aid. UMass has a strong reputation for placing students in competitive internships, and the school’s career office offers personalized career counseling and placement assistance. Students must also complete a 120-hour practicum that can boost their resumes and help them gain practical skills, and the program ends with a capstone project. Tuition is $7,000 per semester, plus fees.
University of South Florida
Ranked 21s by U.S. News and World Report, the University of South Florida offers both online and traditional classroom options. Students can choose from specialties such as epidemiology, population and community health, and global health. USF also offers certificate programs in a variety of specialties; students can pursue these certificates in addition to or in place of a master’s degree. Most students are employed within six months of graduating, and USF boasts an active alumni association that can help students network and find jobs. Full-time out-of-state students pay in-state tuition rates of $525 per credit hour. Students taking online courses must also pay a $90 per course online fee.
University of Maryland
Ranked 30th by U.S. News and World Report, the University of Maryland offers both standalone MPH programs and dual MD/MPH training. The curriculum is widely regarded as one of the most challenging MPH programs in the country, and Maryland keeps class sizes small and student-faculty ratios low. The medical school connected to UM means that students can network with other colleagues in the health care profession, and MPH students have access to a broad variety of internships at local clinics and hospitals. Tuition varies depending upon student classification, the specific classes you take, and similar factors, but generally hovers around $12,000.
University of Florida
The University of Florida is known for its diverse and customizable program options. Students can pursue dual degrees in fields such as veterinary medicine or business. UF also offers a wide variety of public health specialties. Ranked 28th in the country by U.S. News and World Report, UF also offers a five-year dual bachelors/master’s program in public health. Students pursuing a master’s degree at the university can choose between online, accelerated, and traditional course work. Tuition is determined by student status and the specific MPH program in which you enroll, but is generally around $6,000 per semester for in-state students.
Rush University offers a diverse array of health care-oriented degrees, including both bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in health systems management. The school’s master of public health program pairs students with professionals in the field and places heavy emphasis on hands-on experience. Rush offers dual degree options, as well as an alternative to the MPH for students interested in management – a master of business administration with a concentration in health care administration. The program features a low student-teacher ratio, and assigns each student a faculty mentor. Tuition is $11,616 per semester for full-time students.
Although it’s ranked 8th by U.S. News and World Report, the University of California at Berkeley has managed to keep costs low, causing it to be ranked by U.S. News and World Report as the 11th best value in education. Students can choose among a variety of specialties, such as infectious diseases and maternal and child health, and gain access to a variety of local health care facilities, as well as a highly active alumni association. Berkeley also offers both on-campus and online degree options, as well as numerous joint degrees. Tuition is $11,286 for in-state students.
Capella University isn’t particularly competitive in its admissions process, but still offers students a relatively high post-graduation employment rate and intense assistance with resume preparation and finding a job. This makes it an ideal choice for busy professionals who are too overwhelmed to spend endless hours preparing transcripts. Its MPH program requires 48 credit hours, uses small class sizes, offers professors who have worked extensively in the field, and is available completely online. Students can choose a specific public health concentration, and Capella offers a very short admission timetable, with classes starting year-round. Tuition is $480 per credit hour.
Kaplan University has several locations, each of which has slightly different post-graduation employment rates. However, the university focuses heavily on helping students locate jobs, and job search skills are emphasizes in nearly every class. The school’s MPH program requires 60 credit hours, and typically takes about two years to complete. Students must also complete a capstone project. Kaplan University is relatively uncompetitive, accepting the overwhelming majority of applicants and requiring no specific prerequisites other than a college degree. Kaplan offers a short admissions timetable and flexible classroom start dates. The entire program costs $25,000, and most students receive financial aid.
University of Kentucky
Students interested in public health can complete their entire academic careers at the University of Kentucky, since the school offers both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public health. Ranked 25th nationwide by U.S. News and World Report, UK allows students to choose from several different concentrations, including epidemiology, biostatistics, and community health. The University of Kentucky places a strong emphasis on research, and many MPH students are able to pursue independent studies under the direction of a professor. Class sizes are small, and most students complete internships. Every student is required to complete a capstone research project. Tuition is $5,600 per semester for residents of Kentucky, and $12,332 for non-resident students.
University at Albany, State University of New York
The University atAlbany at the State University of New York has a stellar reputation for excellent faculty and a competitive academic environment. The school’s MPH program is offered online only, requiring no in-class or on-campus time, making it an ideal choice for busy professionals and distance learners. Students are required to complete a nine-hour practice internship, but can waive six hours of the requirement if they have previous health care experience. Students are also required to complete a capstone project under the direct guidance of a professor. Tuition is $10,000 per semester for out-of-state students, and $5,000 per semester for in-state students.
Fort Hays State University
Fort Hays State University is an ideal choice for students who want a short, career-oriented program. MPH students take only 30 hours of classes. The degree is online only, and 12 course hours focus on a specific major topic of the student’s choosing. Students also have the option to seek dual degrees as they pursue their master’s. At the end of the program, every student is required to complete a three-hour capstone project or internship designed to help build a student’s resume while offering real-world public health experience. Tuition is $7,241 per year.
University of Texas
The University of Texas allows students to select from several different concentrations, while offering students access to jobs and internships in a major medical hub. Students must complete 45 semester hours of coursework, in addition to a supervised practice. Each specialty has a specific set of competencies, and career preparation plays a key role in each program. Most students receive financial aid, and U.S. News and World Report ranks the University of Texas’s affordable program as the 15th best in the nation. Tuition is $5,500 per year for residents, and $17,600 for non-residents.
University of Georgia
The University of Georgia’s MPH program is specifically designed for health care professionals. Classes are on-campus only, since UGA uses a cohort model of education and offers small class sizes. The program takes two years to complete, and students who wish to avoid taking the GRE are permitted to submit MCAT scores instead. Students are strongly encouraged to complete an internship, and can choose from a wide variety of socialized electives. UGA’s program is ranked 34th by U.S. News and World Report. Tuition is $4,465 per semester for in-state students, and $12,003 for out-of-state students.
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About the Author:
Zawn Villines is a freelance writer based in Atlanta, Georgia. She specializes in health journalism.