When you want to become a public health lawyer, it is important to follow the right strategy (see What is Public Health Law?). While it is possible to work as a lawyer, and then decide to earn an MPH, or to work in public health and go back to school for a JD degree, today many prominent universities have developed dual Juris Doctor/Master of Public Health degree programs to do both in one shot. Some programs are online, or partially online – the MPH portion is more likely to incorporate online courses – but either will prepare you for a career as a public health attorney
A public health attorney works in a specialized area of the legal field. Public health lawyers focus on the law as it applies to the healthcare industry and public health as a sub-category of the healthcare industry. Public health lawyer jobs depend on the law firm and its focus for the lawyers involved in the firm. While specific responsibilities may vary slightly, the public health lawyer job description is similar in many law firms. The exact role of a public health attorney depends on multiple factors. They may work on paperwork, evaluate information, or present cases in a court of law. The exact role and job responsibilities may depend on the law firm and the focus of the firm.
Methodology: How We Ranked the Best JD/MPH Dual Degree Programs
MPHOnline is dedicated to directing public health professionals (and aspiring professionals) to programs that will make the biggest impact in their careers. For that reason, we ranked the best MPH/JD dual degree programs according to three criteria that matter in a practical way: Cost, Salary Potential, and Student Satisfaction. To make our ranking, we used data from College Scorecard, IPEDS, and Niche. Only accredited, reputable institutions were considered.
1. Washington University of St. Louis
Washington University of St. Louis features a dual JD/MPH program for graduate students. Throughout the curriculum, students explore topics such as global public health issues, hospital regulations, health laws, community outreach programs, and working with global health organizations like the World Health Organization. To apply for the joint degree program, applicants will need to send in applications to both the Law School and Brown School for admissions. The joint JD/MPH at Washington University of St. Louis has a high return on investment with two graduate-level degrees earned in a four-year timeframe.
Washington University of St. Louis was founded over 160 years ago as a private college. The quaint Missouri campus consists of 169 acres and is a short drive away from all of St. Louis’ top city attractions. Greek Life is a big part of the campus with over 35 percent of students belonging to the college’s fraternities and sororities. The college is home to one of the most exclusive collections of artwork with pieces by Jackson Pollock and Pablo Picasso.
Students from all over the country choose to enroll in one of the country’s most prestigious JD/MPH dual degree programs at UCLA. The program is designed for students looking to advance their careers in the field of medical policy and law. Course requirements take four years to complete with 120 law school credits and public health credits needed for graduation. Only a limited number of western state colleges have MPH JD dual degree programs for students and none have the same rigorous academic standards as UCLA.
The University of California in Los Angeles has a massive student body that exceeds 45,000. UCLA guarantees housing to undergraduates for at least three years, although many students find housing in the nearby Westwood neighborhood. UCLA competes in NCAA Division I athletics with very successful basketball and water polo teams. UCLA also has very high-ranking academic programs—especially in the field of engineering and education.
3. University of Florida
The University of Florida’s competitive MPH/JD dual degree program offers a top pick for students. The college designed the program to include a minimum of 12 credits that can be applied to both JD and MPH degree requirements. With this inclusion, the joint degree program can be completed at an accelerated rate of three years. Admission is required for both degrees within the program, but the intention of a joint degree doesn’t need to be declared immediately. Courses within the JD/MPH dual degree programs prepare University of Florida graduates for leadership careers in health policy.
University of Florida is a public institution with low tuition rates for in-state residents. The University of Florida is the largest college in the state with over 52,000 enrolled students. The school’s Florida Gators participate in sports within the NCAA Division I Southern Conference. Each year, the college is consistently ranked as a top pick for business and engineering majors. The college has high academic standards with only about 39 percent of applicants gaining admittance.
4. University of Virginia
The dual JD/MPH degree from the University of Virginia was launched in 2003 through a collaborative effort from the School of Law, School of Medicine, and School of Arts and Sciences. Along with two graduate degrees conferred, enrolled students can choose a public health specialization. Options for the public health degree include generalist practice and law and ethics. A minimum of 116 credits from both degree programs are needed for graduation with residency semesters required at the School of Law and School of Medicine. Separately, the degrees would take seven years to complete but the University of Virginia enables students to graduate within six years.
As a public college in suburban Charlottesville, the University of Virginia has consistently been ranked as a Top 30 National University. The historic college was founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson and has the nickname of Mr. Jefferson’s University. The college has a rich history and is home to one of 25 copies of the Declaration of Independence. The University of Virginia has educated famed authors, senators, journalists, and sports stars. Considered a highly selective college, only about 25 percent of all applicants are accepted.
5. University of Wisconsin
University of Wisconsin offers a top pick out of all Midwest JD/MPH dual degree programs. The joint program emphasizes the importance of health policy and prepares graduates to be part of creating public health initiatives. A distinction of the University of Wisconsin’s JD/MPH program is that students can customize their curriculums. Students will concentrate their public health classes in areas such as biotechnology and international health policy. Environmental law and consumer health policy are certifications available through the School of Law. A total of seven semesters are required for graduation with five semesters toward law degree requirements and two semesters for the public health degree requirements.
As the largest public institution in the state, the University of Wisconsin has a total enrollment in excess of 44,000 students. The city-like campus is spread across over 900 acres in Madison. The 20 NCAA Division I teams from the college participate in the famed Big Ten Conference. The school has a very social atmosphere with close to 1,000 clubs, fraternities, and sororities sponsored by the college.
6. University of Pennsylvania
The JD/MPH program at the University of Pennsylvania was put together as a joint effort from the Law School and the Center for Public Health Initiatives. Applicants must apply to each school separately with 89 credits required for the JD portion and 14 credits for the MPH portion. For the MPH, 128 hours of clinical practice is also needed for graduation. The joint degree program helps students gain a high-level position quickly with all requirements met within four years.
The famed private University of Pennsylvania was founded by one of America’s founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin. University of Pennsylvania emphasizes the importance of giving back and works with different charities and advocacy groups on student projects throughout the Philadelphia area. The college has 12 different schools that offer graduate-level programs with the top-ranked schools including the Law School, School of Medicine, and School of Education.
7. Northeastern University
Interdisciplinary faculty members are responsible for teaching courses within Northeastern University’s JD/MPH dual degree program. Examples of courses offered for graduation include administrative law, social epidemiology, public health law, social health law, reproductive rights, and nonprofit organizations. As a graduation requirement of the joint degree program, a capstone project is needed on an Urban Health topic. Northeastern University offers students a high level of flexibility with concentrations available in public health and urban health.
Over the last decade, Northeastern University has experienced a tremendous amount of growth. Currently, all students complete a professional co-op by the time they graduate. The co-op offers practical experience and allows students to work at top companies throughout the country. The college is well-known for being a top recipient of public health funding from the National Institutes of Health and Department of Homeland Security.
8. University of Georgia
The University of Georgia’s JD/MPH dual degree program is a great opportunity for students interested in combining a career in law and public health. In just four short years, students can graduate with both a traditional law degree and master’s in public health. A total of 118 credits from law courses and public health courses are needed with the first two years featuring only classes from the JD program. Through the College of Public Health, students can choose one of the following concentration areas: Biostatistics, Disaster Management, Environmental Health Science, Epidemiology, Gerontology, Health Policy and Management, and Health Promotion and Behavior. Also, for the MPH portion, a 6-credit field placement is needed for graduation.
The University of Georgia has the distinction of being the birthplace of public higher education in America. Founded in 1785, the university is a comprehensive land and sea-grant institution composed of 17 schools and colleges, and is also home to the Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership. The fall 2019 student enrollment was just under 39,000.
9. University of Maryland
The University of Maryland’s JD/MPH program has the goal of training lawyers to work within the field of health policy. Applicants to both degree programs have two options for the MPH portion; they can pursue their degrees at either the University of Maryland School of Medicine or the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Concentrations are available within the MPH degree track such as global health, population health, and epidemiology. The University of Maryland accelerates graduation timeframes for students with at least 9 non-law credits being applied to JD requirements.
University of Maryland is located within the city of Baltimore and features an interdisciplinary graduate school. The college is home to one of the best research hospitals in the country with large biomedical research endowments being received annually. Law, medicine, public health, and social work courses are all offered on the Baltimore campus. Over 6,500 students are enrolled within the programs at the college’s graduate school with highlights including small class sizes with 9 to 1 ratios.
10. Georgetown University
The JD/MPH degree program is considered two separate degrees at Georgetown University. For the JD degree, 85 credits are needed for conferment. For the Master of Public Health, 80 units are required. Ten of the MPH credit units can be applied toward the JD degree. The first year of study is spent within the Law School completing 30 credits of study. Then, an 11-month residency program for the MPH is needed at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Finally, the student will return to the Law School for two years to meet JD requirements.
Georgetown University is a private urban college located in the heart of the nation’s capital. Students reside in the downtown area of the university and all undergraduates except for seniors must live on campus. Georgetown University has one of the best basketball teams in the country with multiple titles won within the NCAA Division I.
11. Harvard University
Harvard University is likely considered the most prestigious of all MPH JD dual degree programs available. The program is jointly offered through Harvard Law School and the Harvard Chan School of Public Health. Throughout the course of study, matriculated students learn about health law, public health programs, epidemiology, global health initiatives, and medical policies and regulations. Harvard University has a very high success rate with graduates securing leadership positions within academia, research, advocacy, government, and law firm settings.
Harvard University is known as one of the top ranked Ivy League colleges in the country. The private university was founded in 1636 and is home to one of the oldest collections of antique books in the world. Athletics is a big part of the campus experience with the stadium usually packed for football games. The annual football game with rivals Yale University is considered a highlight event of the year.
12. University of Michigan
The JD/MPH program from the University of Michigan follows a schedule that allows students to earn both degrees within four years. The MPH portion can be done through one of two options: a MPH track or a MPSA track. The former is largely focused on policy-making within the health field while the latter has courses on health care management and research. Law school requirements include courses such as administrative law, bioethics, elder law, and public healthcare policies.
As a top 25 National University, the University of Michigan aims to educate leaders within all areas of industry. The college is highly selective with less than 25 percent of applicants gaining admittances to the public college. The college sponsors more than 1,900 student clubs and dozens of fraternities and sororities. Located in Ann Arbor, students enjoy an active social life with the city considered one of the best college towns in the United States.
13. University of Oklahoma
The JD/MPH program from the University of Oklahoma was created in partnership between the College of Public Health and OU College of Law. For graduation, students need to complete 90 JD credit hours and 44 MPH credit hours. Nine credits of MPH coursework can be applied toward the student’s JD requirements. All joint degree students must finish one year of law school before taking concurrent classes. The University of Oklahoma’s JD/MPH program is considered one of the best values in the Midwest.
University of Oklahoma is a public college with low in-state tuition rates. The city-like campus is large with academic buildings spread out over 4,000 acres. More than a quarter of students pledge Greek Life. The college is home to the National Weather Center with research projects at the facility open to all students.
14. University of Minnesota
The University of Alabama’s JD/MPH dual degree program in public health law will give students the skills they need to effectively navigate the complicated interactions between healthcare delivery systems and the legal world that surrounds them. Most of this school’s JD/MPH courses are available online, offer competitive tuition, and all of them provide a skill set that is in high demand. Professionals in the overlapping fields of health and law can expect to face an open job market after graduation as medical institutions are scrambling to obtain security on shifting legal grounds, making MPH JD dual degree programs a hot commodity in the job market of 2020 and beyond.
The University of Minnesota School of Public Health has been serving students since 1944 and has developed a reputation for excellence in Biostatistics, Environmental Health Sciences, Epidemiology & Community Health, and Health Policy & Management. The UofM School of Public Health offers the nation’s first Master of Healthcare Administration program and features the third largest research portfolio at UofM. It is the first maternal & child health program in the nation and was ranked 9th by U.S. News and World Report.
15. University at Buffalo
The University of Buffalo is now offering an MPH/JD dual degree program through the Dept. of Epidemiology and Environmental Health. Students will develop the skills needed to help healthcare institutions cope with the shifting interrelationship between the healthcare industry and the legal system. Successful students will obtain comprehensive foundational public health knowledge and the skills needed to address current and emerging public health problems. UofB’s JD/MPH dual degree programs enable students to navigate complex health/legal issues, making them a prime target for employers.
The University of Buffalo Dept. of Epidemiology and Environmental Health has developed a reputation for transforming motivated students into leaders in the field of health services and health services administration. Dating back to the late 1800s, they have been a leader in medicine and law since the 1940s. Their philosophy is about a commitment to student success. Students enjoy the hands-on experience they obtain, including meaningful research opportunities and lessons that last for a lifetime.
16. University of Nebraska
The University of Nebraska JD/MPH dual degree programs are designed to cater to the needs of students who seek specialized training in public health law. Biomedical ethics and public health policy represent the cutting edge in the area of resolving the nation’s longstanding roadblocks to medical and social health. Students who complete the MPH JD dual degree programs will obtain the expertise needed to provide critical legal consultation to healthcare institutions who are struggling to keep up with the ever-changing relationship between healthcare and the law.
The UofN Medical Center is well known for its success in promoting the health and wellbeing of the populations its serves through research, education and service. It stands out as a center for learning by incorporating its educational programs with practical, hands-on experience opportunities. Students benefit from obtaining real-world experience in real healthcare settings in a cross-disciplinary environment. The school has earned a reputation over the years for giving its students a competitive edge.
17. University of Washington
The University of Washington School of Law’s JD/MPH dual degree programs adhere to the school’s signature interdisciplinary approach, taking advantage of the school’s unique leadership position to add value to the skills students obtain. As the practice of law grows in complexity, so does the connection between the legal field and that of public health and medicine. Students will learn the skills to help institutions successfully navigate these shifting grounds. Careers in this field are expected to be both highly lucrative and available.
UW’s Department of Law was established in 1885, placing it at the forefront of these overlapping fields. UW School of Law students will benefit from the school’s unique commitment to diversity and inclusion, as well as the school’s sterling reputation for excellence. UW Law offers students the best of both worlds as a tight-knit community and its reputation for greatness, giving its students the credibility they deserve and the connections they need for a lifetime of success.
18. Rutgers University
Rutgers University JD/MPH dual degree programs offer students in good standing the opportunity to develop expertise in biomedical health law. The university offers a range of programs in this area, including Health Sciences, Osteopathic Medicine, Legal Philosophy, and much more. Rutgers’ offerings in these overlapping fields is arguably more comprehensive than any other school in the country. These MPH JD dual degree programs offer students the chance to obtain training in a growing field from top thought leaders in the industry.
Rutgers is among the nation’s top universities. Founded in 1766 it is the 8th oldest college in the nation, and it is the largest public research institution in the New Jersey area. Students who study here will benefit from the unmatched legal expertise of Rutgers instructors, and proximity to the greater New York metropolitan area, where opportunities for real-world learning and network building are second to none. Successful Rutgers students have a reputation for greatness. Do you have what it takes?
19. Columbia University
Columbia Law School JD/MPH dual degree programs in Arts and Sciences; Business; Journalism; Public Health, Architecture, Planning, and preservation, and International and Public Affairs offer students a wide range of high-demand expertise with an overlapping framework of legal understanding that makes developing professionals highly valuable to any prospective place of business. Students may work with educators from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. These MPH JD dual degree programs offer a high degree of prestige at a cost that is competitive with other top colleges.
Columbia Law School is famous for its dedication to educational and intellectual rigor and the high level of scholarship of its faculty. It is known for its celebrated factuality members, groundbreaking research, its tradition of public service, experiential learning, global reach, and its robust career services. Students enjoy being a part of one of the most lively and highly regarded legal communities in the nation, with opportunities for real-world learning that are second to none.
20. University of Houston
The University of Houston Law Center Law Schools Dual Degree Programs available at the UH Law Center offer students the opportunity to earn two degrees in less time than it would normally take to complete them one after the other. These include; their Joint J.D./LL.M. Program, Master of Business Administration, Master of Arts in History, Master of Social Work, Master of Public Health, Medical Doctorate, and more. Students following these courses of study will obtain degrees through these MPH JD dual degree programs quickly, becoming valuable assets in the job market when students at other colleges are still wading through the process.
UofH has earned a reputation for helping students to cope with confusing and difficult economic times. They understand students have to carefully weigh their options and have taken pains to make their programs more attractive, more competitive, and more valuable after graduation day. They take pride in offering the best overall value to students while still delivering quality professionals to the business and professional community.
21. University of Connecticut
The University of Connecticut MPH JD dual degree programs, including Essentials of Social Inequality & Health Disparities; Eliminating Social Inequality & Health Disparities; Health Administration; Social & Behavioral Foundations of Public Health; Epidemiology & Biostatistics I & II, and much more give students the unique opportunity to develop valuable expertise in the overlapping fields of medicine and law. These MPH JD dual degree programs are highly competitive, cost-effective, and offer students the skills they need to excel in this growing field.
The University of Connecticut takes great pride in stripping their school, facility, and programs of unnecessary extras that cost students money and slow down the process of learning. UonC’s students are known for exceeding the expectations of the institutions and organizations they work in and the people they benefit. The school’s dedication to research and innovation has made it a standout, not only in the region but across the nation.
22. University of Miami
The University of Miami J.D./M.P.H. in Public Health Law gives students the skills they need to navigate the changing landscape that is the relationship between the mental health industry and the legal system. Students will gain an understanding of the fundamentals of the mental health profession and the legal framework that regulates it. Courses are hands-on, affordable, and deliver competitive skills through these MPH JD dual degree programs.
The UofM represents students from more than 35 states in the Union and offers 60 majors. More than 125 undergraduate schools send their students to UofM for further studies and more than half of the students are multi-lingual. UofM is known for its competitive scholarship programs, student services, and its award-winning community outreach programs and efforts. Student employment services are second to none, and students enjoy the tropical weather and the fast and fun atmosphere that Miami is famous for.
23. University of Illinois at Chicago
The University of Illinois at Chicago Health Policy and Administration JD/MPH dual degree programs offer student lawyers the opportunity to develop expertise in areas of medicine and public health that professionals and employers say are becoming critical for the health of these organizations. Students will have the flexibility to pursue a career in law at a traditional law office. They may also seek positions as consultants to healthcare organizations as these institutions seek to navigate the complexities of the overlap between law and medicine. These MPH JD dual degree programs are affordable, competitive, and offer skills that are in high demand.
UofI at Chicago prides itself on its reputation for protecting the health and well being of the people of the greater Chicago area. This part of the country is famous for its contributions to manufacturing, politics, and business. It revels in its direct connection to American history and values students of all backgrounds. UofI is famous for its contributions to the field of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.
24. University of Pittsburgh
The University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health and School of Law have linked arms to create their own one of a kind JD/MPH dual degree programs. These provide the student with an interdisciplinary course of learning in both law and public health, integrating legal issues, health policy, and management into a comprehensive framework that is growing in demand. Students will be prepared to deal with the many legalities, issues, and difficulties affecting the realm of personal and public health provision as it is related to the legal system. UofP’s MPH JD dual degree programs come with the school’s promise of authoritative scholarship and rigor, making successful students highly sought after assets by organizations from coast to coast.
As branches of the state research university, UofP’s Schools of Public Health and School of Law are known for their practical, and real-world approach to learning, law, and medicine. Founded in 1787, students enjoy the chance to become a part of a growing American tradition, serving communities and institutions all across the country and the globe. Student pride is at an all-time high, as UofP continues to rack up awards for scholarship and success across multiple categories.
25. Emory University
The Rollins School of Public Health offers Emory University’s JD/MPH: Law and Public Health dual degree program. This course of dual study will endow the student with the skills necessary to help legal clients, health organizations, and other institutions to navigate the tenuous ground that exists between the realms of law and medicine. By combining these programs, students learn to develop specialized expertise in public health-related legal issues. Students will appreciate the pains Emory University has gone through to make their MPH JD dual degree program comprehensive, authoritative, and affordable.
EU is dedicated to empowering students with the ability to identify, analyze, and engage with today’s most pressing public health issues. This community-oriented program comes with the unique ability to address these kinds of concerns in a hands-on fashion that makes Emory students forces to be reckoned with in the job market. Ranked number five among the nation’s public health programs, staff and students alike know, they are a team that’s tough to beat.
How Do I Become a Public Health Lawyer?
The first step in becoming a public health lawyer is your undergraduate degree. As a general rule, you do not need to study a specific field or industry at the undergraduate level to qualify for a law degree. If you are planning to consider a job as a public health lawyer, then you may want to focus on fields that relate to the industry. For example, you may study biology or civics. Students may also benefit from history degrees since it gives you a firm grasp of the way laws have changed over time.
Prepare for the LSAT to get into law school. You will need to take the exam to qualify for law school and your Juris Doctor, or JD, program. When you finish the test, apply for schools that offer a JD and a master of public health, or MPH. You can focus on dual degrees to prepare for your work as a public health attorney. During your studies as a lawyer, take electives that focus on healthcare laws.
The final step of becoming a lawyer in the public health field is with the BAR exam. Prepare for the exam in advance and take the test. When you have your degree and you pass the BAR, you are qualified to work as a lawyer. Focus on law firms that work with public health and healthcare law to gain the experience you need for your career.
What Does a Public Health Lawyer Do?
As a general rule, a lawyer focusing on public health laws will write and evaluate policies that may apply to public health. You may work in a government role designing and adjusting policies to fit the needs of a general population. A lawyer may also work directly with clients and interview a client in relation to public health cases.
Lawyers may also focus on researching existing laws and evaluating the way the laws may impact public safety and health in a modern environment. In cases where you work with a government agency or consult for an agency, you may also focus on research to clarify specific details or information or to advise about changes that may improve a situation.
How Much Can I Make as a Public Health Attorney?
When it comes to public health lawyer salary details, you should expect some variation based on your specialty within the industry, as well as your experience and location. The average salary for a lawyer is around $115,000 per year; however, you may start out with a lower salary and the potential to increase your salary over time in public health is high.
The median income for healthcare attorneys is around $82,000 per year to start. The range for healthcare lawyers is between $82,000 and $230,000 per year. Attorneys who work in corporate health settings may earn more when compared to lawyers who work in small firms or with government agencies. The specific area of the public health industry may also impact your salary. Working in areas that focus on property rights as it applies to the public health sector may result in a higher income when compared to working in consulting or research roles.
Expect your salary to change over time and for different locations to impact your salary potential. Multiple factors may contribute to changes in your salary and you should expect to make more money as you gain experience. You can also expect to earn more in areas with a higher cost of living or with a high demand for lawyers with a focus on public health and safety.
Exact salary and income may vary widely, so evaluate the details of a specific position and the income range before determining if a role fits your goals for your career and your long-term plans for career growth. You may notice that different roles set different rates for your income, so verify the job responsibilities of the position before applying for a job.