The Doctor of Public Health (abbr. DrPH or DPH; Latin Publica Sanitas Doctor) is a doctoral degree awarded in the field of Public Health. DrPH is the highest, and terminal, professional degree in the field of public health. It prepares its recipients for a leadership career in advanced public health practice and administration. Some of the DrPH holders also pursue academia including teaching and research. DrPH holders often occupy executive leadership roles in private and public sectors along with, non-profit and international health entities such as the WHO.

Comparison with Ph.D.

A DrPH is a leadership-centered, interdisciplinary, degree that equips its holders with the skill set necessary for public health practice as opposed to a Ph.D. which is purely a research-based degree only focusing on one topic within a certain field. The DrPH degree is categorized as a terminal professional degree on a par with doctor of medicine, doctor of education, doctor of social work, doctor of business administration, and doctor of psychology degrees.[1]

Admission Requirements Difference

Admission into a DrPH program requires a master of public health degree as a prerequisite. Furthermore, a DrPH requires several years of public health leadership and practice experience (generally, 5 years or more) for an admission. One may enter a Ph.D. or ScD program after completing a bachelor (undergrad) degree with no experience or advanced academic training.

Career Outcomes Training Difference

DrPH: Leadership and public health practice, applied research, and academia to a lesser extent. Ph.D.: Research and academia.

Typical Program Structure

Advanced Integrative Coursework

A typical accredited DrPH program requires roughly a two-year long intensive multidisciplinary coursework in advanced research methodology - similar to a Ph.D. Additionally, as a distinction and addition to a Ph.D., DrPH students also take advanced courses to gain analytical skills in leadership, management, systems thinking, communications, and health policy.

Public Health Residency (Public Health Leadership Practice Experience)

DrPH students are also required to complete a public health practice experience as a critical part of their DrPH program. Students apply the skills learned in public health practice to gain leadership experience and hone their skills through hands-on experience.

Exams: Comprehensive and Qualifying Exams

Most universities require a rigorous comprehensive exam at the end of first two-years of coursework and public health residency before a candidate may be advanced to the dissertation phase. Some DrPH programs, such as the Tufts University, require a Qualifying Exam - taken at the end of the first year -, along with the comprehensive exam, taken at the end of the second year.


DrPH students are required to complete and defend an applied public health practice-related dissertation during their candidacy phase, usually after the comprehensive exams, in order to complete the program.

DrPH Completion Time

The average time to complete a DrPH is roughly 4-7 years.

Universities Offering DrPH Degrees

United States

Some of the universities offering DrPH in the USA are listed below.

United Kingdom





Notable Holders of the DrPH Degree

Sara Josephine Baker - American physician notable for making contributions to public health, especially in the immigrant communities of New York City.

Sandro Galea - Dean of the Boston University School of Public Health.

Cheryl Healton - Dean of the College of Global Public Health at New York University.

Vicenç Navarro - Spanish sociologist and political scientist currently holding a chair in Social Sciences at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona.

Mary Pittman - President and chief executive officer of the Public Health Institute in Oakland, California.

Barbara Rimer - Dean of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Henry F. Vaughan - Founder and former Dean of the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Past president of the American Public Health Association.

Charles-Edward Amory Winslow - American bacteriologist and founder of Yale University's Department of Public Health (which subsequently became the Yale School of Public Health).

See also