What is the difference between a DrPH and a PhD in Public Health?
By Sam MacArthur

To answer this question, we need to take a suggestion from Mr. Steven R. Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” He states that one should “begin with the end in mind.” Ask yourself – what do you want your career to look like? Are you drawn to the field of research, or do you have a passion for science? Are you one who desires to work in the area of public health as a leader, as an instrument of change, or as an advocate working to benefit the “greater good”? Knowing where you want to end your education, and where you want to begin your career, will help you decide whether a PhD in Public Health, or a Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) is the right choice for you.

Featured Programs

Are You a Scientist? Do You Love Research?

The PhD is usually an academic or research degree. In the simplest of terms, a PhD in Public Health prepares you for a research career as you examine issues affecting public health. Taking this route in public health will put you at the forefront of researching the needs and identifying barriers, then using this information to promote positive change. Our society is continually diversifying and evolving and with that change, our public health outlook is in constant need of improvement. In a research career, you will find opportunities to tap into your critical thinking, and use your assessment skills to build theories and strategies for stopping population-based diseases and disabilities.

Careers that do that kind of study include biostatisticians, epidemiologists and biotech/lab researchers. Another area to shine would be taking on a leadership role in professional communications and public relations related to timely issues in public health. This can be done as a Global Health Professional or Consultant, or perhaps as a Public Health Policy Advisor. Some graduates pursue the opportunity to teach at the college level as faculty members and professors. Others become postdoctoral fellows. By choosing to earn your PhD in Public Health, you will have many career options.

Do You Strive to Become an Effective Leader Advocating for Policy and Change?

The DrPH is a professional degree. It’s the right choice if you are already in the field of public health and want to further your career. The DrPH improves knowledge and analytical skills in leadership, policy, program management, and professional communication. As most programs require an applicant to already hold an MPH degree, choosing an online program will be the most convenient and effective way to obtain this degree. Many top-notch online DrPH programs will enhance your career while allowing you to keep your current job.

In a DrPh program, you will learn to critically evaluate and apply public health strategies. You will examine how the public is informed and influenced, and what strategies work to improve communication. You may also take a look at how economic theories relate to public health policy across diverse populations. After completion of their DrPH, paths open to graduates have a wide range: Health Department Directors, Public Health Information Officers, Policy Advisors, Public Health Program Directors, or National and International Health Consultants. Some graduates become faculty members or lecturers as well, but less frequently than PhDs.

Which Path Is Best for You?

As you begin the next step in your education, you should do so with the end in mind. The difference between a DrPH and a PhD are clear; they are different paths for different goals. For either degree, top-tier online programs are convenient. Each degree puts you in the public health field, and both degrees advance your career – but those who want to educate and research should choose the PhD, while those who want to lead and manage should look into the DrPH. Knowing where you want to end up will start you on the right path full of many ways to make life better for millions.