Online Certificate Programs in Public Health with Course Info

Oct 19, 2021

Essential Information

Widely available at public and private universities, fully online public health certificate programs are designed to provide professional development for students as well as advanced knowledge for professionals in the field. These programs focus on the prevention aspects of public health, rather than on healing, and are aimed at graduate-level students who hold a bachelor's degree and have worked in healthcare or human services. Courses could explore epidemiology, environmental health or health behavior.

Students can complete a typical online certificate program in public health in 1-2 years. These programs sometimes use real-time chat and videoconferencing to create a virtual classroom at a set time; however, they also might utilize lectures delivered by podcast or video capture of an on-campus session, which allows students to take classes on their own schedule. This can be particularly beneficial for students who want or need to continue working while earning their certificate.

Common Courses

Certificate programs in this field generally cover biostatistics, epidemiology, heath care systems, environmental health and health behavior. The following descriptions provide details on what to expect in typical distance learning courses in public health.


Because public health services focus on population-wide health, students need to know how to compile, understand and use statistics that describe the population. Software helps students learn and practice biostatistical analysis, while the course also introduces fundamental statistics concepts, such as:

  • Chi-square tests
  • Descriptive statistics
  • Estimation
  • Hypothesis testing
  • Probability
  • Sampling
  • Statistical distributions
  • Simple and multiple linear regression


Epidemiology studies populations and cultures to determine factors that affect health and illnesses. Both community and clinic-based populations are studied. Online tools help students access epidemiological and vital statistics data and allows them to run simulations to explore the effects of various factors on public health.

U.S. Health Care Systems

This course teaches students to recognize the distribution of health and illness concepts and ideas. Students explore health care system organization, the relationship of organizations and distribution of health care. Health and illness are defined, and students learn the history of American health care systems.

Environmental Health

Environmental health courses examine the effects of the environment on populations and cultures. Students learn to assess, control and prevent environmental and occupational risk factors. Coursework covers asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal injuries and childhood impaired development. Students examine the impact on the environment caused by the following:

  • Outdoor and indoor air pollution
  • Pesticides
  • Toxic metals
  • Radiation
  • Occupational stressors, including noise pollution and repetitive motion

Health Behavior

This course looks at health and behavior from a community perspective. Students explore the role of social communication, influences on health decisions and models of health behavior. Social and behavioral sciences theories and public health concepts are studied, and students learn to apply these concepts throughout the health and illness cycles.

Working healthcare professionals can augment their knowledge of public health by earning an online graduate certificate in the field. Students could explore the many facets of community health by taking online courses like epidemiology, biostatistics, health behavior and U.S. health systems without disrupting their full-time work schedules.

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