Nurses have been on the front lines of public health since the concept of “public health” first began developing in the late 19th century. After all, they are the ones working directly with patients, hands-on in the midst of epidemics, emergencies, and disasters. But until relatively recently, it was rare that nurses had the opportunity to take on leadership positions in the public health field.
That began to change as nursing became more credentialed and professionalized, with master’s and doctorate degrees. Today, nurses are more often recognized as crucial voices in the public health field, but it takes credentials and experience to be heard.
For working nurses in public health who want to make an impact in leadership and administration, a dual degree in nursing and public health is a natural choice. In recent years, colleges and universities have been developing dual programs combining the Master of Science in Nursing or the Doctor of Nursing Practice with the Master of Public Health. These dual programs combine the specialized expertise of each, to form something else: a nurse leader with mastery of public health.
Why Get a Dual Degree?
You may wonder what makes a dual degree worth it. After all, it takes longer than a single degree, and a lot more work. Why not just find one degree with the specialization you want?
But colleges and universities are adding dual degrees for a very good reason: they have real job-market impact. Dual degrees are more demanding and more productive; having a dual degree on your resume shows employers that you are dedicated, dependable, and dripping with expertise. Two complementary degrees, if designed and implemented well, are worth much more than the sum of their parts.
These programs are usually designed collaboratively between the nursing school and public health school (unless, of course, the university lacks one or the other). In most cases, the schools have arranged for some courses to share credit between the two schools. The benefit of the dual program, then, is that the shared credits mean students need fewer credits to complete the dual degree than they would need to take each separately. In other words, if an MPH is 36 credits, and the MSN is 40 credits, the dual program may only be 60 credits instead of 76.
The Most Affordable Dual MSN/DNP/MPH Ranking
Students who are value-conscious know that a dual nursing and public health degree program is worth the time, work, and cost, but MPH Online has put together a ranking of the nation’s best dual MSN or DNP and MPH degree programs. The order is simple: the most affordable, by in-state resident tuition (according to current IPEDS data).
All of the programs featured by MPH Online are regionally accredited. Almost all nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), and most of the public health programs are accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH).
1. University of Nevada, Reno – Reno, NV
Nevada’s public land-grant research university, the University of Nevada, Reno is the state’s flagship and most influential public educator. In fact, until 1965, when the Las Vegas branch became an independent institution (UNLV), UNR was the state’s only public university. As a land-grant university, UNR focuses on STEM and professional education, providing education to the people of Nevada through extension campuses and online programs as well. Most importantly, UNR is crucial to healthcare in Nevada, not only from the School of Medicine, but through medical outreach to Nevada’s far-flung, rural regions.
That role makes UNR an obvious site for public health and nursing, and the UNR dual MSN/MPH degree program shows the university’s commitment to keeping Nevada healthy. This dual graduate program prepares working nurses for positions in the public health sphere, using their experience and knowledge in direct patient care to impact populations. Students choose either Epidemiology or Social and Behavioral Health concentrations for the MPH, and either Nurse Educator, Family Nurse Practitioner, or Clinical Nurse Leader for the MSN. For the student who wants to make a big difference, the MPH/MSN dual degree is the way.
Dual Program: MPH/MSN
2. University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus – Aurora, CO
The University of Colorado Denver is the largest public research university in the state, and home to the Anschutz Medical Campus, the state’s premier academic health center. CU Denver began as an extension campus for the flagship CU Boulder in 1912, due to the demand for public higher education in the state’s largest city. After years of dispute with the private University of Denver, the University of Colorado also located their medical school in Denver, leading to the creation of the Anschutz Medical Campus. Home to all of CU’s health schools, including nursing and public health, AMC is widely recognized as one of the west’s finest medical educators.
CU Denver’s dual DNP/MPH degree program allows students to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice from the School of Nursing, and an MPH from the School of Public Health. This intensive program is designed for working nurses with a BSN or MSN, or for Advanced Practice RNs, and allows students to earn both degrees with 21 fewer credits than earning the two degrees separately. Students can use specialized electives to focus their learning to fit their current careers, or to take their careers in a different direction. The DNP requires 1000 hours of clinical practice, which can be fulfilled at locations across Colorado. With one of the lowest costs in the nation, it’s an affordable program that will work wonders for a nurse’s career.
Dual Program: DNP/MPH
3. University of Texas Health Science Center – Houston, TX
Located at the Texas Medical Center – the nation’s largest medical complex, founded in 1924 – the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston is an independent, health-focused university in the UT System. Founded in 1972, UT Health Science Center is the home of Houston’s foremost schools of medicine, nursing, public health, and more. Altogether, UTHealth graduates more medical professionals than any other medical school or university in Texas, while the School of Nursing and the School of Public Health are the highest-ranked programs of their kind in Texas.
Students can earn the UT Health dual MSN/MPH degree from these nationally-acclaimed nursing and public health schools. While students must be accepted into both schools separately, they complete only one thesis project and complete the two degrees with fewer credit hours. Separately, students learn advanced knowledge of public health policy and practice, while learning advanced clinical practice from the school of nursing. Then, courses taught by faculty from both schools bring the two together into a more in-depth and transformative way. UTHealth also offers a low tuition rate and the highest level of reputation for a real, affordable value.
Dual Program: MSN/MPH
Accreditation: CEPH and CCNE
4. University of Alabama at Birmingham – Birmingham, AL
The University of Alabama at Birmingham began humbly, as a University of Alabama extension campus in the state’s largest city. Today, though, UAB is a major public research university, and the only Carnegie Classification R1 research university in the state. UAB is also home to the UAB Health System, Alabama’s primary academic medical complex and one of the largest academic medical centers in the entire US. In addition, UAB’s School of Public Health, the university’s fastest-growing school, is the only accredited SOPH in Alabama, while the School of Nursing is Alabama’s highest U.S. News-ranked nursing school. Altogether, the University of Alabama at Birmingham is critical to Alabama’s health.
UAB’s nationally-renowned Public Health and Nursing schools come together to offer the UAB dual MSN/MPH degree program. Students can complete the 44-credit program in 2-3 years, depending on their schedule, and the MPH degree can be earned entirely online. There are two possible concentrations for the dual degree: Maternal & Child Health Policy & Leadership, or Health Behavior. Each of these programs combines credits so that students require fewer credits for the dual degree than each degree individually. With a reasonable tuition rate, UAB makes affordability and value a priority.
Dual Degree: MSN/MPH
Available Online (MPH Only)
5. University of South Florida – Tampa, FL
Founded in 1956, the University of South Florida had the distinction of being the first public university started from the bottom up in the 20th century. As impressive as that is, though, even more impressive is how USF’s reputation and esteem has grown in six decades of development. USF is ranked a top public university nationally by U.S. News & World Report, and has grown into one of Florida’s largest universities, with a reputation built on health sciences. The College of Public Health is one of only three CEPH-accredited public health schools in Florida, while the College of Nursing is ranked one of the top 50 graduate nursing schools in the nation by U.S. News.
The USF dual MPH/MSN degree program is an interdisciplinary, concurrent degree that allows students to earn an MPH in Occupational Health, and an MS in Occupational Health Nurse Practitioner and Adult Nurse Practitioner at the same time. Applicants must have a current RN license and a bachelor’s degree, though the bachelor’s does not have to be in nursing. Graduates are qualified to take the Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner exam in Florida, and may also qualify for the Occupational Health Nursing Certification exam. USF’s low tuition has made it a noted best value in national rankings, and the MPH/MSN is one of the most affordable dual MPH programs out there.
Dual Degree: MPH/MSN
Available Online (partially)
6. University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, NC
North Carolina’s flagship public research university, the University of North Carolina was founded in 1795, the first public university to open its doors to students. As a corner of the internationally-recognized Research Triangle, UNC has been central to innovations in every field, from the arts to medicine, and UNC Health Care is known as one of the world’s premier academic health centers. UNC’s Gillings School of Public Health, founded in 1940, was the first public health school in a public university, and it remains one of the primary leaders in the field, ranked first among public schools of public health by U.S. News & World Report.
The Gillings School offers UNC’s MPH in Public Health Leadership with an Occupational Health Nursing track, bringing together an interdisciplinary slate of courses from public health, occupational health, and nursing. Applicants must be licensed as registered nurses and hold a BSN, as well as have at least two years of work experience in the field. In addition to coursework, students complete a master’s thesis project and a practicum experience. Full-time students can complete the program in as little as 16 months. With UNC and the Gillings School’s global reputation, the MPH-Occupational Health Nursing dual degree is worth far more than the reasonable tuition UNC charges, making it more than just affordable – it’s a bargain.
Degree: MPH-Occupational Health Nursing
7. Grand Canyon University – Phoenix, AZ
Founded in 1949 by the Southern Baptist Church in Prescott, AZ, Grand Canyon University was Phoenix, AZ’s premier private, Christian university for more than 60 years. In 2004, with financial difficulties forcing its hand, GCU made the unusual choice to move to a for-profit model, while still retaining its Christian orientation and reputation for quality. Today, Grand Canyon is one of the few for-profit colleges to hold regional accreditation, and to be ranked as a national university by publications like U.S. News & World Report. GCU is especially recognized for its online programs, particularly in healthcare fields.
Grand Canyon’s MSN in Public Health degree program comes from the CCNE-accredited College of Nursing and Health Care Professions. While Grand Canyon does not have a separate public health school, the College of Nursing offers a fully online MSN program that draws on the same expertise that makes up the MPH program. The MSN in Public Health program incorporates environmental health, epidemiology, evidence-based practice, and other public health-related areas alongside advanced nursing practice. Grand Canyon has made its reputation for accessibility and affordability, with online delivery, low tuition, and a national reputation.
Degree: MSN in Public Health
8. University of Maryland at Baltimore – Baltimore, MD
The University of Maryland at Baltimore dates back to the Maryland College of Medicine, founded in 1807. As such, UMB is the oldest University System of Maryland institution, one of the nation’s five oldest medical schools, and the first public medical school in the US. Today, UMB is home to the University of Maryland’s health sciences professional schools, including the schools of medicine, dentistry, nursing, and pharmacy, as well as the system’s law and social work graduate schools. The School of Nursing is ranked in the top 10 nursing schools nationally by U.S. News & World Report, as is the School of Pharmacy, and UMB is central to health education in Maryland.
The School of Nursing offers the UMB dual MSN/MPH degree program, an integrated, thorough professional degree combining all of the expertise of both programs. Students in the MSN/MPH program are allowed to concentrate in any of the MSN specializations, including Community/Public Health Nursing, Health Services Leadership and Management, and Nursing Informatics, as well as public health-related concentrations in Epidemiology or Community & Population Health. The two programs share 15 credits, as well as any courses that are cross-listed between the School of Nursing and the School of Medicine, and same capstone project can be used to finish both. Students can complete the dual degree in less than three years, all for a reasonable tuition rate.
Dual Degree: MSN/MPH
9. Nebraska Methodist College – Omaha, NE
One of the foremost private health science colleges in the Midwest, Nebraska Methodist College has been at the forefront of medical research and teaching since 1891. Originally a tiny nursing school led by Methodist deaconesses, today NMC is a comprehensive healthcare-oriented college with highly respected nursing, allied health, and health management degrees. NMC has earned recognition from the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, and been awarded Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation for its commitment to community and public health in Omaha and across Nebraska. NMC is also affiliated with the Methodist Health System, Nebraska’s premier private healthcare system.
NMC’s Doctor of Nursing Practice – Public Health Policy degree program is designed for future nursing leaders to have influence and impact at the highest levels of policy-making and care. Students are prepared for managerial, administrative, and educational positions within regional and national public-health initiatives, with a thorough knowledge of evidence-based practice and management experience. From healthcare delivery to clinical practice and research, NMC’s DNP graduates have the power and wisdom to lead holistic medical transformations. Full-time students can complete 50 credits and 960 clinical hours in just two years, all at an affordable tuition rate from one of the Midwest’s most trusted health educators.
Degree: DNP-Public Health Policy
10. University of Minnesota – Minneapolis, MN
Minnesota’s flagship public research university, and a nationally-renowned Public Ivy (a public university with the quality and reputation of the Ivy League), the University of Minnesota has been a center of research and learning for the Midwest since 1851. The UMN School of Nursing, in turn, was founded in 1909 as the first public nursing school housed in a university. One of the most cutting-edge nursing schools in the US, the UMN School of Nursing is ranked in the top 15 national nursing schools by U.S. News & World Report, with many individual programs in the top 5 and top 10. Nearly 1000 students attend the nursing school each year.
The School of Nursing offers the University of Minnesota dual DNP/MPH degree program for students who want to lead healthcare reform at the policy and practice levels. With a thorough education in both advanced nursing practice and theory, and in the complexities of the public health system, graduates of the dual DNP/MPH are prepared for leadership, management, and administration in government, education, nonprofits, and more. Fourteen credits apply to both the DNP and MPH degree, shortening the time and lowering the cost of two distinct degrees. UNM has been widely recognized for value, thanks to its exceptional reputation and affordability.
Dual Degree: DNP/MPH
11. Simmons College – Boston, MA
Simmons College was founded in 1899 with an innovative mission for the time: to prepare women for professional life, rather than just refinement or status. As such, Simmons was a pioneer in integrating work experience with classroom education for women, and was one of the most inclusive colleges of its time, welcoming African-American and Jewish students at a time when the elite New England liberal arts colleges were closed to them. Today, Simmons is recognized as one of the top women’s colleges (though graduate programs are coed), and remains both highly diverse, and highly respected.
The Simmons College dual MSN/MPH degree program is a unique collaboration between Simmons College and Harvard University. Students in the accelerated, 2-year dual program earn a Master of Science in Primary Health Care Nursing from Simmons College, while also earning a Master of Public Health from the Chan School of Public Health at Harvard. Applicants must be accepted to both institutions separately; admission requires a BSN and a current RN license. Students are also eligible to take, and prepared to pass, the Family Nurse Practitioner exam to work as a licensed FNP. With a dual degree from two renowned institutions, graduates of the Simmons MSN/MPH enter the job market with an advantage few others will ever have.
Dual Degree: MSN/MPH
12. La Salle University – Philadelphia, PA
Founded in 1863 by the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (better known as the De La Salle Brothers), a Catholic order dedicated to education, La Salle University is a Catholic institution known for value and quality. Ranked among the top regional colleges in the North by U.S. News & World Report, La Salle may be better known for its impact on social mobility. La Salle has been ranked by the Economist as one of the top universities in the nation for value-added, giving graduates an exceptional lift in post-graduation earnings and professional status. It’s all part of La Salle’s commitment to diversity and opportunity.
La Salle University’s dual MSN/MPH degree program is designed for public health nurses who intend to take on leadership roles within the system. Integrating clinical practice, healthcare administration, epidemiology, and research, the La Salle program is particularly focused on closing healthcare disparities in low-income, urban areas. A requirement of 512 clinical hours takes students into low-income urban and rural settings to practice patient care as well as advocacy and education. La Salle’s reputation, and its location in Philadelphia, gives graduates access to a job market in need of public health professionals.
Dual Degree: MSN/MPH
13. University of Pennsylvania – Philadelphia, PA
An Ivy League institution in Philadelphia, PA, the University of Pennsylvania has the highest level of pedigree. Founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1740, Penn’s original vision was to elevate modern science and liberal arts to the level of theology and the Greek and Roman classics, the basis of higher education in the 18th century. Today, most universities look like Franklin’s vision, and Penn continues to innovate and influence higher education. Penn Nursing ranks as the top nursing school in the world, and was one of the first, founded in 1886, while the Penn Center for Public Health is a uniquely interdisciplinary program redefining public health’s boundaries.
Penn’s dual MPH/MSN degree program combines these two areas of expertise into a degree for the healthcare system of today and tomorrow. The MPH brings together experts from eight different schools for an education that touches on every aspect of public health, from clinical research to government policy. The MSN in Health Leadership gives nurses expertise in project management, health policy, and other areas necessary to take on administrative roles in public health and health education. Taken together, shared credits shorten the path to both degrees, leaving the total at 16 credits (rather than the 26 it would take to earn the two degrees separately). Few institutions have the authority and reputability of Penn, making the dual MPH/MSN a career-making investment.
Dual Degree: MPH/MSN
14. Rush University – Chicago, IL
Rush University is one of the oldest medical schools in the Midwest, founded in Chicago in 1837 to provide medical education for the small but growing city. Rush grew with the city, and as Chicago became a major metropolitan area, Rush established a teaching hospital (1883), School of Nursing (1903), and numerous education programs. Today, Rush is a deeply rooted and influential part of Chicago life, and one of the most acclaimed medical universities in the Midwest. Rush Medical Center is ranked as one of the top teaching hospitals both regionally and nationally by U.S. News & World Report, and Rush Nursing is ranked as one of the best nursing schools in America.
Rush University’s Advanced Public Health Nursing DNP degree program is intended for nurses who want to take on high-level leadership positions in community and population health settings. The DNP focuses on evidence-based research and practice, along with health promotion, disease prevention, and program management, preparing leaders and administrators who not only know theory, but have direct knowledge of care and practice. This part-time, fully online program can be completed in just 2 years, and with an average class size of 10, students get personal attention and guidance. Rush charges no hidden fees, and its reputation and connections make the DNP an investment in the future of healthcare.
Dual Degree: DNP-Advanced Public Health Nursing
15. Emory University – Atlanta, GA
Emory University was founded in 1836 as a Methodist college, and stands today as one of the illustrious Southern Ivies, the elite group of private research universities that rival the Ivy League. While Emory has had major influence on the cultural and academic life of Atlanta and the South, the university is best known nationally and internationally for health. Emory Healthcare is Georgia’s largest and most respected healthcare network, and Emory is classified as a top-tier research university by the Carnegie Foundation. Emory’s Woodruff School of Nursing is regularly ranked among the top 5 nursing schools in the world, while the Rollins School of Public Health is tied to the public health network of Atlanta, home of the CDC.
With the Woodruff School and Rollins School, Emory’s dual MSN/MPH degree program is a contender for the most reputable program of its kind. The MSN/MPH brings together advanced clinical practice with knowledge of public health, and students have access to resources from the CDC, the American Cancer Society, and the Carter Center – resources that other public health programs dream of. Graduates may also be qualified for Nurse Practitioner or Certified Nurse Midwife exams, depending on their specialization. The program can be completed in as little as six semesters, and Emory’s tuition looks like a bargain when the average Emory MSN graduate makes upwards of six figures.
Dual Degree: MSN/MPH
Accreditation: CCNE and CEPH
16. Yale University – New Haven, CT
Yale University needs no introduction. The third college founded in the American colonies, in 1703, Yale stands out even among the Ivy League and has historically had only Harvard to contend with as the preeminent American university. While Yale is not typically known for health, it deserves to be. The Yale School of Nursing, founded in 1923, is regularly ranked in the top 10 and top 20 among nursing schools by U.S. News & World Report, and is the most selective nursing school in the US. The Yale School of Public Health was one of the first public health schools, dating back to 1915, and helped define the field of public health for over a century.
Yale’s dual MSN/MPH degree brings these two acclaimed schools together to prepare students to combine clinical practice, leadership, and policy-making in their careers. This fully integrated, complementary program offers students the best of both programs, while creating a degree that adds up to much more than the sum of its parts – a confident, career-ready nurse leader. For full-time students, the program takes three years, with the first year focused on public health, the second year on nursing, and the third year in both. Graduating with a Yale degree is its own value, and Yale MSN/MPH graduates have access to the highest levels of authority and responsibility.
Dual Degree: MSN/MPH
Accreditation: CCNE and CEPH
17. New York University – New York, NY
New York University was founded in 1831 and helped set the course for New York City to become the world’s foremost metropolis. As a leading private research university, NYU is regularly ranked as one of the top 20 universities in the world, as well as a top national institution, by publications like the Center for World University Rankings and U.S. News & World Report. NYU is also a leader in health sciences, with the top-ranked Meyers College of Nursing and the College of Global Public Health standing as model programs. The Meyers College, in particular, is the second-largest, and one of the most selective, nursing schools in the nation.
NYU’s dual MSN/MPH degree program is developed in collaboration between the Meyers College and the College of Global Public Health. Students increase their skills and knowledge in both nursing practice and the state of public health, and four specializations are available: Pediatrics, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care, and Psychiatric Mental Health, each tied to global health concerns. The MSN portion of the degree also qualifies the graduate for state licensure and national certification. New York is an international center for public health research, and NYU’s dual MSN/MPH belongs at the top.
Dual Degree: MSN/MPH
18. Case Western Reserve University – Cleveland, OH
Case Western Reserve University is one of the most decorated and prominent private research universities in the Midwest. Formed from the merger of Western Reserve University (1826) and the Case Institute of Technology (1881), Case Western was a significant player in making Cleveland the industrial capital of Ohio. Case is particularly known for medical and health sciences programs, and is central to healthcare in Cleveland and Ohio in general, including the Cleveland Clinic, the University Hospitals of Cleveland, and the Cleveland VA Medical Center. The Bolton School of Nursing, dating back to 1898, is the second-oldest university nursing school in the nation, and one of the most respected.
Case Western’s dual MSN/MPH degree program draws on the long-standing excellence of the Bolton School, and the CEPH-accredited MPH program. With U.S. News recognition as one of the nation’s top graduate nursing schools, the MSN program prepares students for advanced practice and leadership, while the MPH gives students the means to enter the public health field, or advance in their current career. The dual degree will generally take one year beyond either individual program, so full-time students can complete the MSN/MPH within three years, and emerge with a trusted, market-ready set of credentials.
Dual Degree: MSN/MPH
Accreditation: CCNE and CEPH
19. Vanderbilt University – Nashville, TN
Like Emory University (#16 above), Vanderbilt University is named among the elite Southern Ivies, and is one of the most prestigious universities in Tennessee. Founded in 1873 with a $1 million gift from Cornelius Vanderbilt, VU was intended to bring peace to the Reconstruction-era South through education. Over its century and a half, Vanderbilt became a cultural center for Tennessee in literature and the arts, but also took on a leading role in healthcare. The Vanderbilt University Medical Center ranks as Tennessee’s foremost academic medical center and teaching hospital, and the School of Nursing is regularly ranked by U.S. News & World Report as a top 20 nursing school.
Vanderbilt’s dual DNP/MPH degree program offers students the highest degree in the nursing field alongside the Master of Public Health. The DNP prepares nurses for advanced nursing practice, as well as clinical nurse education, while the MPH gives students the credentials needed for a career in public health. Three MPH concentrations are available: Epidemiology, Global Health, and Health Policy. The DNP courses are available in a low-residency format, with most coursework done online, and three 1-week residencies each year. With access to one of the South’s most respected medical centers, the Vanderbilt DNP/MPH means success.
Dual Degree: DNP/MPH
Accreditation: CCNE and CEPH
Available in Hybrid Format (DNP)
20. Johns Hopkins University – Baltimore, MD
It goes without saying that Johns Hopkins University is the first name in American medical education. Founded in 1876, Johns Hopkins brought the European model of the research university – where scholars conduct innovative research as well as teaching students – to the United States, revolutionizing higher education. And Johns Hopkins is known for some of the most respected health science programs in the world. That includes the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, ranked the #2 nursing school in the nation by U.S. News, and the Bloomberg School of Public Health, the oldest and largest public health school in the world.
The School of Nursing and the Bloomberg School offer the Johns Hopkins dual MSN/MPH degree program, an interdisciplinary, joint specialization for nurses who want to move into positions of authority where they can affect population health. Students learn to plan and manage programs for at-risk populations, in setting varying from government and nonprofit to academic and faith-based organizations. The program is available almost entirely online, though some on-campus immersion experiences are required; around 80% of courses are fully online. No matter the format, Johns Hopkins’ reputation and connections make the dual MSN/MPH one of the most exceptional programs of its kind.
Dual Degree: MSN/MPH
Accreditation: CCNE and CEPH
Available in Hybrid Format