Online PhD in Health Education

Many sectors of the economy are shrinking, but one that's growing rapidly is health care. As Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers age, they will need more and more attention to their health, and an online doctorate in Health Education from an accredited school can give you the skills you need to help them get that attention. If you're skilled in Health Education, you can teach the caregivers how to take care of their patients and clients, as well as providing health education for members of your community.

Candidates applying for online doctoral programs in Health Education should have a master's degree in a health related area. Degrees that best prepare you for this field of study include:

  • Master's in Physicians Assistant Advanced Studies
  • Master of Health Administration
  • Master's in Dental Health or Public Health with a concentration in Dentistry
  • Master of Public Health

Additionally, at least 3 years of experience as a health care professional is preferred and, in fact required, by some top programs. Students pursuing an online doctorate in Health Education will be expected to take from 9-15 courses at some institutions, and upwards of 20 courses at others. They will also be expected to write a dissertation that brings a practical application of health education theory to their practice. The entire plan of study usually takes 3-4 years to complete. For example, Walden University offers an online PhD in Public Health with a specialization in Health Promotion and Education. This course of study requires 120 credit hours, however, students can transfer up to 46 credits from previous graduate level education.

About Online PhD Programs in Health Education

Programs like Walden University's online PhD in Health Education are aimed at helping experienced health care professionals develop the necessary expertise to deal with the quickly evolving field of health education, outreach, and administration. Curriculum is centered around courses to develop both critical thinking and research skills with a focus on real-world health issues affecting communities as well as global populations. Students enrolled in online Health Education doctorate programs will also be expected to write a dissertation that brings a practical application of health education theory to their practice. About one quarter of Walden University's online Health Education PhD focuses on developing, proposing, writing, and presenting this dissertation.

Foundation Courses:

  • Principles of Communication in Public Health. Builds written, oral, and online communication skills needed to be successful as public health professionals.
  • Health Policy and Management. Analyzes the organization, financing, and delivery of health care with the goal of improving outcomes for both individuals and populations.
  • Leadership, Professionalism, and Ethics in Public Health Practice. In depth examination of theories on leadership and professionalism when dealing with ethical dilemmas, social justice, and diverse populations and constituencies.

Core Courses:

  • Promoting Population Health. Overview of social foundations, leadership, and research skills for the implementation of public health initiatives.
  • Public Health Informatics. Examines the application of information technology such as database design, data storage, architecture, and computer networking in public health and education.
  • Research Theory, Design, and Methods. Course focusing on the philosophy of science, the importance of theory in research, and the research processes.

Specialization Courses:

  • Public Campaigns for Health Promotion and Education. Investigation of mass communication and media marketing to promote health awareness and education programs.
  • Health Promotion and Education Interventions in Diverse Populations. Examines the planning and organization of health promotion programs for underserved, economically disadvantaged, and underrepresented populations.
  • Qualitative Reasoning and Analysis. Equips students with the necessary knowledge base to organize and implement a qualitative research plan.


  • Public Health Dissertation. In-depth exploration in an area of study of the student's choosing. Students complete a prospectus, proposal, Institutional Review Board application, and dissertation.

After the completion of foundational and core curriculum, students in the online Health Education PhD program enroll in the dissertation course and will continue to enroll every term until the project is complete. Students work on their dissertation independently with the supervision of a committee chair and members and are required to participate in weekly learning platform classroom sessions. The dissertation makes up approximately one quarter of the online PhD in Health Education. Some examples of past dissertation topics include:

  • Childhood obesity and legislation
  • Self-management of health using the Internet
  • Public health and national resource conservancy

The online PhD in Health Education also requires four PhD residencies. Each is a four day face to face session with other students aimed at fostering your development as a scholar-practitioner.

Value and Criticisms of Online PhD Programs in Health Education

Given the increasing importance of the internet and digital media in education and social awareness, online doctoral programs in Health Education certainly demonstrate a familiarity with this technology and a willingness to take advantage of this type of learning. An online program allows health professionals to enhance their critical thinking skills, practical knowledge, and ability to handle public health dilemmas in a rapidly growing field. Earning your Health Education doctorate degree online may be beneficial because it can allow you to remain at work and possibly take advantage of tuition reimbursement. However, for some individuals this may be too disruptive to their work life and may not be the right choice. Pursuing a Health Education PhD online requires time and dedication. Students that are successful in online doctoral programs are focused, goal-oriented and self-motivated.

Application & Admission Requirements

Most Health Education PhD programs online are looking for candidates with relevant professional or academic experience and require a certain level of academic achievement to ensure students are prepared for the rigors of a PhD program. Here is an example of the requirements for Walden University's PhD in Health Promotion and Education:

  • A master's degree or higher to ensure students are prepared for the level of academic work at the doctoral level.
  • At least three years of related professional or academic experience. Selecting candidates with adequate experience in their industry improves the quality of discussion and research conducted within the program.
  • Application form and fee along with a goal statement expressing your motivations for attending the program, your areas of interest, and goals after the completion of the program.
  • Two professional references attesting to the quality of your past work experience.

Career Options & Job Market

The best online PhD programs in Health Education are aware that one of society's most pressing challenges is to provide for high-quality health care that is available to as many people as possible. Health care educators and others with online doctorate degrees in Health Education will be a major part of meeting that challenge in the future. Once you've earned your online doctorate, you can be part of several different careers in health education that will allow you to be part of the solution.

    • Health education professor. Online doctoral degrees in Health Education qualify graduates to teach health studies in any post-secondary setting, which can earn you an average of $103,340 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
    • Health department educator. The average health educator salary goes up depending on experience and education—putting those with a PhD in health Education near the top of the range at $60,810. These educators work in local health departments and other local agencies to teach their communities about good health practices.
    • Health care administrator. Hospital administrators make between $39,109 and $130,874. They help put into place community education programs and make connections between the hospital and the community.

Online PhD degrees in Health Education from accredited schools will open doors into community service, policy making, and education. If you want to serve others, make the future better, and make a good living for yourself, this might be an excellent choice for you.

Where to Find Information

How to Get Funding

Federal and institutional financial aid are available for most programs. Check with the specific school when you are considering pursuing a Health Education PhD online to assess the total cost for the program and see what type of aid you might qualify for.

Also, keep in mind that some employers might offer tuition reimbursement for further education in your field. Contact your employer's human resources department for more information.

  • FAFSA. Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
  • Student Aid on the Web. Free information from the Department of Education about how to apply for federal aid.
  • FastWeb. Search a variety of different private scholarships and awards.

Essential Advice

  • Check Requirements. The majority of online PhD programs in Health Education require applicants to have at least a master's degree. Other requirements may include a minimum number of years of experience in the field and letters of recommendation attesting to your experience either in a professional or academic setting.
  • Look for the best online programs for your own needs. Keep in mind top online Health Education doctorate programs incorporate both theoretical and applied education and are aimed at taking real-world professional experience to the next level.
  • Try talking with past graduates and current faculty. This can give you a better sense of the experience you are likely to have in the program and can help you gauge whether or not this, or other online doctorate programs in Health Education, are the right fit for your educational goals.
  • Explore federal and institutional financial aid options as well as the possibility of employer reimbursement. While typically earning your Health Education PhD online is less costly than a traditional on-campus program, you should always look to see which program offers the best aid packages. Think twice before considering a program that does not offer many options for financial assistance. Also, check with your employer's human resources department about the possibility of tuition reimbursement.