Skip to Content
Resource Articles //

What’s the Difference Between a DrPH vs. a PhD in Public Health?

The degree you choose will determine your coursework and influence your career path

The field of public health strives to make our communities and our world a better place to live. But every facet of public health—from clean water projects to disease prevention to environmental cleanup to education initiatives—needs strong, skilled leaders. That’s where you can come in. With a doctorate in public health, you can acquire the knowledge you need to help advance public health. The only question is, should you earn a Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)or a PhD in Public Health? The answer depends on what you want to study and what field of public health you want to enter.

The Core Difference

In the simplest terms, a DrPH is designed for public health professionals while a PhD in Public Health is designed for scientists. If you want to work in the field, enacting programs and policies, the DrPH can help you acquire the top-level knowledge you’ll need to be an effective leader. If you want to conduct research into issues affecting public health, the PhD in Public Health can help you focus on a research specialty, kick-start your research career, and put you on the path to making important contributions to our understanding of public health problems and solutions.

What’s the Difference Between a DrPH vs. a PhD in Public Health?

Differences in Curricula

In a DrPH program, you’ll have the opportunity to learn how to:

  • Critically evaluate the interdisciplinary role of stakeholders in the application and evaluation of population-based public health strategies.
  • Evaluate approaches to inform and influence public health interventions and strategies.
  • Apply research methods in the investigation of public health problems.
  • Critically evaluate evidence-based research, theories, and models used in public health.
  • Apply systems-thinking skills and strategies for the promotion of public health policy and advocacy. 
  • Apply evidence-based research and practices to promote positive social change.
  • Examine the application of economic theories in relation to public health systems across diverse community settings.
  • Apply community health assessment techniques to identify, prioritize, and formulate solutions to community public health problems.
  • Apply ethical principles in public health practice.  

In a Public Health PhD program, you can learn how to:

  • Utilize critical thinking and assessment skills to analyze barriers, assess needs, and advance the knowledge and practice of public health.
  • Evaluate and apply population-based theories and strategies used in the prevention of disease and disability.
  • Lead and inform professional communication, marketing, and public relations on key issues in public health. 
  • Apply fiscal and organizational tenets to public health program leadership.
  • Demonstrate advanced competency in health informatics and surveillance techniques used in public health programs.
  • Apply public health research to promote positive social change concerning the health of diverse populations.  

Differences in Careers

While both the DrPH and the PhD in Public Health can help you become a leader in the public health field, the careers of graduates tend to be different.*

DrPH program graduates often work as:

  • Medical directors (physicians/clinicians as a practice degree)
  • Health department directors
  • Public health information officers
  • Health policy advisors
  • Public health consultants 
  • Health officers
  • Public health program directors
  • Community health manager/directors
  • Faculty members or lecturers  

Public Health PhD program graduates often become:

  • Biostatisticians
  • Epidemiologists
  • Public health researchers
  • Faculty members or professors
  • Post-doctoral fellows 
  • Global health professionals or consultants
  • Public health consultants
  • Public health policy advisors
  • Biotech/lab researchers  

How You Can Earn Your Doctoral Degree

One of the best ways to earn your DrPH or your PhD in Public Health is through an online university. When you enroll in an online doctoral program, you don’t have to upend your life to earn your doctoral degree. Instead, you can complete the majority of your online DrPH program or your online PhD program from home while continuing to hold down your current job. This level of flexibility and convenience allows you to advance your career without having to take a break from your career.

Public health is extremely important to every community in the world. Through an online Doctor of Public Health program or an online PhD in Public Health program, you can acquire the knowledge you need to become a leader in this vital field.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an online DrPH degree and an online PhD in Public Health degree. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

*Career options may require additional experience, training, or other factors beyond the successful completion of a degree program.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,