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A Doctor of Public Health at Boston University in his full academic regalia. Note that the color of the hood, salmon pink, is the academic color of Public Health, which differs from the PhD (blue)

The Doctor of Public Health (abbr. DrPH or DPH; Latin 'Publica Sanitas Doctor') is a professional doctoral degree awarded in the field of Public Health. The DrPH is seen as an advanced and terminal degree that prepares its recipients for a leadership career in advanced public health practice, leadership, and administration.[1] According to the UN, the world face unprecedented challenges such as climate change, NCDs, aging populations, health crises, wealth gap, and the overreliance on the internet.[2] DrPH programs were created with the idea that the public health challenges of the 21st century require a new public health leadership. For instance, DrPH graduates have expertise in evidence-based public health practice and research have the competences to convene diverse stakeholders, communicate across a range of sectors, and settings, synthesize findings, and generate practice-based evidence.[3]

Given the core competencies developed during the program, DrPH graduates often occupy executive leadership roles in private and public sectors along with non-profits, universities and multilateral entities such as WHO and the World Bank. In addition, some DrPH graduates pursue academia including teaching and research.


Core competency modelEdit

Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) Core Competency Model

The common elements addressed in all DrPH degrees are: 1) a professionally-oriented and competency-based curriculum and 2) core competency domains.[3] The DrPH core competency model highlights the transformative leadership role that DrPH graduates play in advancing the field of research and practice in public health. According to The Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH), the DrPH competency model has seven domains of skills that every DrPH program should aim to develop:

  • Advocacy: Ability to influence decision-making processes related to public health policies and practices.
  • Communication: Ability to assess and to use communication strategies across different audiences and stakeholders.
  • Community/Cultural orientation: Ability to communicate and interact with people from diverse communities, nationalities, and cultures.
  • Critical Analysis: Ability to synthesize and apply evidence-based research and theory from different fields to solve public health challenges.
  • Leadership: Ability to create and communicate a shared vision, inspire trust, and motivate others to achieve higher goals or an enlightened purpose.
  • Management: Ability to provide responsible strategic and operational guidance within public and private organizations to achieve individual and community health and wellbeing.
  • Professionalism and Ethics: Ability to identify, discuss, and analyze an ethical issue, and balance the claims of personal liberty with the responsibility to protect the health of a population.[1]

Combined, these skills allows DrPH graduates to create linkages and synergies between research and practice. Often, rather than serving as technical experts, DrPH graduates are more likely to supervise or collaborate with technical experts to solve multifaceted 21st century problems. For instance, their roles require breadth across many areas of public health rather than depth of technical skills in a single one.[1] By having these competencies the ASPH considers the DrPH a professional degree offered for advanced education and training in public health leadership.[4] An entire list of domains and skills can be found here.

Comparison with a Ph.D.Edit

A DrPH is a leadership-centered, interdisciplinary degree that equips its holders with the skills set necessary for public health practice as opposed to a Ph.D. which is purely a research-based degree often focusing on one topic within a certain public health field.

Furthermore, a DrPH degree is categorized as a terminal professional degree on a par with a Ph.D., doctor of education, doctor of social work, doctor of medicine, doctor of business administration, and doctor of psychology degrees.[5][6] Erroneously, some employers and faculty consider the DrPH a less prestigious degree than these other doctorates.[7]

Even when the DrPH is a prestigious and well-recognized degree, the number of DrPH holders graduating annually from accredited schools is quite low compared with the number of PhD degrees awarded. For example, in 2010, there were only 126 DrPH graduates, in contrast to 776 Ph.D., degrees awarded from 26 of the 46 schools of public health.[8]

Difference in admission requirementsEdit

Admission into a DrPH program usually required a master of public health degree as a prerequisite; however, this is changing and more schools now are accepting students without any masters or other degrees (i.e., MD, DO). Generally, DrPH programs require several years of public health leadership and practice experience (usually 5 years or more) for an admission. In contrast, 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 differenceEdit

DrPH: Leadership and public health practice, applied research, implementation research, public health policy, politics, and academia to a lesser extent.

Ph.D: Research and academia.

Typical program structureEdit

Advanced integrative courseworkEdit

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, enabling change, communications, and health policy.

Public health leadership practice experienceEdit

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 and a field-based culminating public health experience.

Most universities require a rigorous comprehensive exam at the end of first two-years of coursework and a public health practical experience before a candidate may be advanced to the dissertation phase. For example, the DrPH programs at Tufts and Harvard require a Qualifying Exam taken at the end of the first year.


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

DrPH Completion TimeEdit

The average time to complete a DrPH is roughly 3–7 years. Harvard has one of the shortest programs; it is only three years long.

Universities offering DrPH degreesEdit

United StatesEdit

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

United KingdomEdit





Notable Holders of the DrPH DegreeEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Calhoun, Judith G.; McElligott, John E.; Weist, Elizabeth M.; Raczynski, James M. (January 2012). "Core Competencies for Doctoral Education in Public Health". American Journal of Public Health. 102 (1): 22–29. doi:10.2105/ajph.2011.300469. ISSN 0090-0036. PMC 3490571. PMID 22095342.
  2. ^ "UN Secretary General names seven biggest threats to humanity". TASS (in Russian). Retrieved 2018-12-11.
  3. ^ a b "ASPPH | The DrPH". Retrieved 2018-12-11.
  4. ^ "PhD Completion and Attrition: Policy, Numbers, Leadership, and Next Steps | Council of Graduate Schools". Retrieved 2018-12-11.
  5. ^ "A REVIEW OF THE STATUS OF THE DOCTOR OF PUBLIC HEALTH DEGREE AND IDENTIFICATION OF FUTURE ISSUES". Public Health Rep. 2009. PMC 2602921. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  6. ^ "ASPPH | DrPH Model". Retrieved 2018-11-28.
  7. ^ Curtis, LaShawn M.; Marx, John H. (September 2008). "Untapped Resources: Exploring the Need to Invest in Doctor of Public Health–Degree Training and Leadership Development". American Journal of Public Health. 98 (9): 1547–1549. doi:10.2105/ajph.2007.119313. ISSN 0090-0036. PMC 2509606.
  8. ^ "Final ASPH Report 2010" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on |archive-url= requires |archive-date= (help).
  9. ^