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Explore the Best PhD Programs in Health Education and Promotion Online

Earning a PhD in health education and promotion online can prepare you with the skills and expertise to make an even greater difference in the well-being of your community. Keep reading.

Search hundreds of top schools for the doctorate YOU want.

Written By

Ellery Weil

Last updated

Feb 14, 2024

When you hear “doctor” and “health” in the same sentence, you probably have something specific in mind — likely a person wearing a stethoscope and a white coat in a clinic or hospital. In short, you’re probably envisioning a physician. But that’s not the only kind of doctor who is vital to promoting health not only in individuals, but also entire populations.

Pursuing a PhD in health education online will earn you a doctorate and make you an expert in communicating vital health information to large groups of people, paying dividends across years and miles. With health education specialists projected to be in increasingly high demand over the next decade — and teachers of health specialties earning a median wage of $127,640 — you’ll also have access to exciting and lucrative career opportunities after you’ve graduated with your degree.

While this is a unique and specialized field of study — meaning you may not have as many options as other degrees — the online programs that do exist will enable you to earn your doctorate on a flexible schedule while still maintaining academic rigor and preparing you for a rewarding future. Read on to learn more and see if an online health education PhD program might be a fit for you.

School Spotlights: Top Health Education and Promotion PhDs Online

While everyone’s idea of the “best” program will be unique to them, there are a few particularly strong online PhD programs in health education and promotion currently available at accredited institutions. Have a look at these top-rated programs to see if they might be the one for you:

American College of Education

The American College of Education, or ACE, is an accredited, for-profit college specializing in online degrees in various education fields. Technically speaking, they do not offer an online PhD in health education — their program is a 64-credit EdD in Public Health Education, which is a different type of doctorate that can be completed in as little as 36 months. This program focuses on the management aspects of public health education and also includes coursework in statistics and research design.

If you’re interested in this program, you must have an undergraduate and/or master’s GPA of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale and complete an interview as part of your application. Applications are accepted year-round, with flexible start dates to fit your schedule. While financial aid is limited, ACE strives to keep tuition rates low, and a variety of tuition payment plans are available.

Loma Linda University

Loma Linda University is a private, religious university affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church with a focus on the health sciences and related fields. Its online doctoral program in health education and promotion is a DrPH, or Doctor of Public Health, in Health Education. While the program is primarily online with a mix of synchronous and blended coursework, students will have to visit Loma Linda’s California campus to defend their dissertation proposal, which will be an original research project proposal, and then to defend the dissertation itself. Students also benefit from optional on-campus summer courses.

While this program has a focus on health education and management, the course guide also includes a variety of medical science courses for a strong health foundation. Applications are available online, and financial aid, including assistance in applying for federal student aid, is available to current and prospective students.

Walden University

Walden University is a private, for-profit institution that grants a large number of online degrees every year. The school offers an online PhD in Health Education and Promotion, with two different track options depending on your educational background. While all applicants must hold a master’s degree, Walden has a PhD track for those who hold a master’s in health education, public health, or a related field, and a separate track for those who hold a master’s in an unrelated field; that makes this is an online PhD in health education and promotion that’s ideal for students seeking a career change or who have prior healthcare industry experience. You will also have a doctoral advisor to help you stay on track, regardless of which track of the program you pursue.

In addition to its office of financial aid providing you with any assistance you may need to apply for federal student aid, Walden also offers a variety of grants and scholarships, including several specific to doctoral students.

EdD vs. PhD: Which Degree Is Right for You?

In health education, as in all education-related academic fields, you might find yourself choosing between two different types of doctorates — a PhD or an EdD. While both are highly respected doctorates, they are geared towards different career paths, and this will be reflected in the type of work you’ll complete in your program. An EdD in health education, like the program offered at the University of Rochester, is a professional doctorate, meaning it’s geared towards those who are looking to take on leadership roles in currently existing health education programs with front-line applications.

Meanwhile, an online PhD in health education and promotion, or an in-person program like that offered by the University of Alabama, is a research doctorate, meaning it will contain a grounding in health education theory and a focus on conducting and analyzing original research. This is why you’ll likely complete a final thesis or dissertation based on your own original research. Furthermore, your online health education PhD will prepare you for a career in research and teach you how to craft and analyze health education strategies that are most effective at achieving their goals.

If you’re interested in a more general approach to education, you may want to consider researching an online PhD in education

Common Courses of Health Education PhD Programs

Health education is an interdisciplinary field, combining both the physical and social sciences. As such, in your online PhD in health education and promotion, you’ll be taking classes across a variety of disciplines, and you may have the opportunity to further diversify with electives. Here are some core courses you’re likely to encounter:

Advanced Health Promotion and Education

Advanced health promotion and education is a foundational course for an online PhD in health education — especially in a health education concentration. This course will inform the upper levels of health education and promotion, often with an eye toward developing management skills in a health education setting, whether that’s higher education, nonprofits, government work, a clinical setting, or something else. This is likely to be a required course, whatever your concentration or area of focus is.

Epidemiology and Biostatistics

One of the ways studying health education differs from studying medicine is that health education requires you to look at the health of broader populations, as well as that of individuals. As such, epidemiology, which studies disease patterns and risk factors across demographics and populations, is an important aspect of your degree. This course may also include an exploration of biostatistics, which will help you analyze population health from a mathematical perspective.

Global Health Issues and Interventions

While health policy and education generally looks at community health, global health takes this to a worldwide scale. In a course on global health issues and interventions, you’re likely to look at the health issues most salient to the developing world, including sanitation, disease, nutrition, and more. You will be exploring which interventions can best address these issues, and how to implement them on a large scale while being sensitive to different national policies and cultural identities.

Grant Writing and Funding Development

Nonprofit and public sector work is a common career path for graduates of online PhD programs in health education, and many academic programs offer courses that reflect this. One such course is grant writing and funding development. This is a vital skill in the nonprofit sector, which depends on grants, private funding, and other means of securing finances. This class will teach you how to develop grants and cultivate other funding opportunities to maximize potential success.

Health Communication Strategies

One of the great challenges of health education — and public health in general — is effectively communicating often-complex medical information to diverse audiences. Health communication strategies is a course that explores this problem and the different ways it can be addressed — including not only across different demographics and communities and how to address different levels of trust in the health system, but also across language barriers and other relevant distinctions.

Health Equity and Social Justice

Health equity and social justice is an informed, equity-focused look at health policy in a more general context. This course will explore potential causes of health inequalities including race, sexual orientation, gender, socioeconomic status, and more, and teach you to develop public health strategies that are not only mindful of the source of these disparities, but also seek to remedy them effectively. This course may include guest speakers from a variety of relevant demographics.

Components of an Online PhD in Health Education and Promotion

Coursework is only one aspect of a PhD or other doctoral program. In your online PhD in health education, you’ll be completing a variety of different components in order to complete your degree. Take a look at some of the different requirements you’ll need to satisfy before graduating with your doctorate:

Capstone Project or Dissertation

One of the factors that makes doctoral degrees, including online PhD programs in health education, “terminal” degrees — meaning there are no higher qualifications left for you to earn after completing this degree — is the completion of a capstone project, thesis, or dissertation. This is an original research project that you will design yourself, and you may have to defend a proposal before you can commence work on it. After you have completed your capstone or dissertation, you will often be asked to present it to a group of experts, known as a defense, where you will answer questions about your work and your conclusions.

Comprehensive Examinations

In most PhD in health education programs, whether they’re online or in person, you will need to complete comprehensive examinations to prove that you’ve mastered the material in your coursework and are prepared to undertake an advanced, doctoral-level research project, dissertation, or thesis. If your program requires comps, you will be informed of them well in advance of the exam date, and there should be opportunities for online study groups, video office hours with your instructors, and other techniques for test preparation.


You may already be aware of some of the individual courses you’re likely to take in the course of your degree, but you should also be aware of the role coursework will play more generally in your online PhD in health education. Coursework is the earliest portion of the degree and is meant to be highly advanced, especially as most online PhD programs in health education and promotion require you to have already completed a master’s degree before you enroll. Your degree will typically have a coursework requirement that will be completed in the first year or two — before you begin work on your dissertation.

Internships & Fieldwork

While not all PhD programs in health education require you to complete an internship or fieldwork, some make them a critical portion of your studies. Internships will give you hands-on experience in the field, including potentially the opportunity to gain academic publication credits. On the other hand, fieldwork is largely something you will arrange for and conduct yourself — often as part of your dissertation. In the case of fieldwork, you will likely need to submit a proposal and get approval for it, including reviewing any potential ethical issues.


There are typically two kinds of prerequisites in a PhD program: The first are the requirements you must have completed before your program even starts — for example, many online PhD programs in health education require all students to have completed a master’s degree to even apply; the other type of prerequisites are courses that may not be specific to your field of study, but will be required by all doctoral students at your school. Some of the most common prerequisite courses are in research methodology, research ethics, and other courses meant to prepare you for your dissertation or capstone project.