What is a DrPH and what can you do with it?

October 9, 2017

A Doctor of Public Health, or DrPH, degree is designed for people who already have their Master of Public Health (or similar degree) and work in the public health industry.

“A DrPH is a doctoral degree for public health scholar-practitioners,” according to Dr. Susan Nohelty, lead faculty at Capella University’s School of Nursing and Health Sciences Department of Public Health. Here, Nohelty provides insight into what a DrPH program entails and career options for graduates of the program.

Q. Is a DrPH different than a PhD, and if so, how?


A. Yes, the DrPH and PhD are different.

A DrPH focuses on the practical application of public health principles across a variety of settings such as health departments, communications, health advocacy, community organizations, marketing, and others. Essentially, obtaining a DrPH prepares one to take on a leadership role in a variety of public health settings.

A PhD in public health is focused on research and scholarship. A PhD could become a scholar-practitioner similar to the DrPH, but the PhD will have a finely developed skill set as an advanced researcher, including public health theory, methodology, statistics, and research design.

PhDs often pursue academic positions in higher education, as well as leadership positions in the industry.

Q. What kind of skills will be learned in a DrPH program?


A. The skills learned in a DrPH program are geared towards practice and field education.

The degree is multidisciplinary and will cover everything from communications and marketing to public policy, policy analysis, advocacy, quality improvements, and finance. The focus is on training students and practitioners to be leaders in the industry.

    Skills learned in the DrPH program will include:

  • Using evidence-based approaches to public health issues
  • Advocacy and policy implementation to improve public health
  • Planning and management to promote community health
  • Leadership and communication within diverse populations
  • Using systems thinking to approach public health issues
  • Interprofessional collaboration to improve population health

Q. What courses and training are offered in a DrPH program?


A. DrPH courses focus on investigation, assessment, and mitigation of public health problems.

DrPH students learn how to create and implement strategies to combat public health crises and develop skills to assess and evaluate their outcomes. They practice research and surveillance of public health issues and learn about the role and impact of diversity (e.g., culture, ethnicity, race, gender, religion) in community health.

Students will also examine leadership principles and theories as well as the political process as it relates to public health. Other areas covered often include collaboration with other health-related disciplines, health disparities within populations, ethical principles, and utilization of resources.

Typical courses offered in a DrPH program include:

  • History and Theory of Public Health
  • Advanced Practice in Epidemiology
  • Leadership and Emerging Trends in Public Health
  • Community Health Behavior and Promotion
  • Design and Implementation of Public Health Strategies

Q. What careers should a person with a DrPH consider exploring?


A. The DrPH program is unique in that it focuses on developing future leaders in public health practice in a broad range of work settings and job roles.

   Related job titles to explore* include:

  • Health scientist
  • Principal investigator
  • Health policy analyst
  • Public/community health program consultant
  • Public health advisor
  • Epidemiologist (non-clinical)
  • Program director
  • Health researcher
  • Research analyst
  • Adjunct, part-time, or full-time faculty

Learn more about Capella’sDoctor of Public Healthprogram.

*These are examples intended to serve as a general guide. Because many factors determine what position an individual may attain, Capella cannot guarantee that a graduate will secure any specific job title.

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