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The Best Online Public Health Nursing Programs

Sherry Christiansen
Updated November 30, 2023
Reviewed by
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Public health nursing is a growing field and presents a great opportunity to make a difference. Find the best master's in public health nursing program for your career goals.
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Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

Credit: Courtney Hale / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Nurses planning to work in leadership roles in schools, federal and state agencies, community wellness centers, or nonprofits can earn a master’s of science in nursing (MSN) or doctor of nursing practice (DNP) in public health nursing.

If you are exploring options for online public health nursing programs, this guide can help. Find out what to look for, why accreditation is essential, how to pay for a graduate degree in nursing, and what you can do with an online public health nursing degree.

We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best online public health nursing programs, making it easier for you to find a program that works for you. Our methodology is based on metrics that we believe matter most to students, including: Academic quality, affordability, reputation, and program offerings.

Featured Online Master’s in Public Health Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

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Learn More About the Best Online Public Health Nursing Programs & Schools

See our methodology to learn more about how we create our rankings.
#1 The Best Online Public Health Nursing Programs

Jacksonville State University

  • Location-markerJacksonville, AL
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$9,720
  • Out-of-state$19,440
  • Retention Rate73%
  • Acceptance Rate64%
  • Students Enrolled9,238
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment82%
  • AccreditationYes
#2 The Best Online Public Health Nursing Programs

Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health

  • Location-markerOmaha, NE
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$15,089
  • Out-of-state$15,089
  • Retention Rate78%
  • Acceptance Rate92%
  • Students Enrolled1,212
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment78%
  • AccreditationYes

At a Glance: The Top 2 Online Public Health Nursing Programs

  1. Jacksonville State University
  2. Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health

Using Our Rankings: What to Look For in an Online Public Health Nursing Program

There are several key factors to consider when selecting an online public health nursing program. It’s essential to consider a program’s admission requirements, prerequisites for clinical experience, accreditation status, length, and the school’s retention and job placement rates.

Admission Requirements

Knowing a program’s admission requirements informs prospective students about their likelihood for acceptance. Admission requirements can also provide insight into what the school values in prospective students.

Clinical Experience

All MSN and DNP in public health programs require a certain number of clinical hours. But, the number of clinical hours required and where and when the rotations occur varies. Many programs require remote students to set up their clinical placements in their local communities. In this case, it’s essential to find out if the school assists students in finding clinical placements.


Ensure the public health nursing program you are considering is accredited. Accreditation is required to transfer schools, continue your nursing education, or become certified in a nursing specialty. In addition, many employers require that prospective employees graduate from an accredited program.

Program Length

When looking at potential online public health nursing programs, find out the number of credits required and how long the program takes to complete. Considering the program’s length will help ensure it fits your financial, personal, and career goals.

Retention and Job Placement

You can often find information about a school’s retention and job placement statistics on its website. The percentage of graduates who find gainful employment and stay in their jobs can indicate how well the program prepared them for the workforce.

School Graduation Rate

A program’s graduation and exam pass rates indicate the program’s overall success in preparing students for success. It can also serve as a predictor of a new student’s chance of graduating.

Online Learning Format and Requirements

Learning about a program’s format is essential, particularly if you plan to work while continuing your education. Often, working students must enroll in flexible online courses that accommodate their work and family obligations.

Find out if the coursework is synchronous or asynchronous. Students must attend synchronous lectures on a specific schedule. Asynchronous classes allow students to view lectures when convenient.

Why Is Online Public Health Nursing Program Accreditation Important?

Nursing accreditation demonstrates the program meets quality standards. The accreditation process for graduate nursing programs involves a review of the program’s curriculum, courses, and instructors to ensure the program meets the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) standards of safe nursing practice. There are several reasons accreditation is essential, including:

  • Nurses must attend accredited programs to become licensed and for specialization certifications.
  • Graduates from non-accredited BSN programs may not be eligible for graduate school.
  • Transferring credits from a school that isn’t accredited is usually not allowed.
  • Federal aid and other lenders will only approve financial assistance for accredited programs.
  • Many employers require that nurses complete accredited programs to ensure they have learned safe nursing practice.

How Online Public Health Programs Work

Many online public health nursing programs offer 100% online asynchronous courses, but some work differently. Hybrid programs require students to take courses in-person and online. If an online program is accredited, it must meet the same standards as an in-person MSN program, including the number of clinical hours.

Online public health nursing programs require that students get hands-on clinical experience by participating in clinical practices in their community.

Applying to an Online Public Health Nursing Program

Finding the right online public health nursing program is a big decision. Several steps are involved in researching the best online public health nursing programs. These measures include narrowing your search to just a few options, ensuring you meet the admission requirements, and submitting your application and all other required admission materials.

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    Admission Requirements

    Applicants typically need a BSN from an accredited program to apply for MSN in public health programs.

    If you are applying for an RN-to-MSN program or accelerated/direct entry online program, you will not be required to have a BSN upon admission. Most programs require a year or more experience working as an RN. Direct entry programs do not require clinical experience.

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    Admission Materials

    Required admission materials often include at least two professional references, transcripts from an undergraduate program, an active, unencumbered RN license, a personal essay or statement, and an application. Some programs also require background checks and immunizations.

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    GPA Requirement

    A 3.0 or higher GPA is usually required, but students with a lower GPA can speak to an advisor to find out if there are other qualifications to offset a lower-than-required GPA.

Paying for Online Public Health Nursing Programs

Many factors can impact paying for your nursing degree, such as living expenses, tuition, and fees, including:

  • If the tuition is considered out-of-state
  • If the college or university is private or public (i.e., private schools are usually more expensive)
  • The length of the program
  • Whether a student can work while attending graduate school
  • Whether a student is paying out of pocket or gets help with tuition

Types of financial aid include student loans, grants, and scholarships, or employer tuition reimbursement. Every college or university has a list of financial aid sources, including special grants specifically for graduate programs.

After graduation, you may qualify for a loan forgiveness program if you join the military or work in an underserved public health field.

What Can You Do With a Degree from a Public Health Nursing Program?

Online public health nursing programs prepare graduate nurses to work for government agencies, nonprofit organizations, hospitals, healthcare systems, and nonprofit community programs (e.g., disaster relief programs).

  • Public Health Nurse: Public health nurses combine their nursing education with public health knowledge to educate the public on injury and disease prevention and health promotion. A key aspect of a public health nurse’s job is to promote population-based programs and services. A public health nurse uses community assessment skills, implements changes, and evaluates outcomes while promoting and preserving the health of populations. These nurses make a difference in communities, global health, and the lives of their clients. The average hourly rate for public health nurses is $23-$43 as of September 2022, according to Payscale.
  • Medical and Health Services Manager: Medical and health services managers, also known as health care administrators, plan, direct, and coordinate services in the medical field. A medical practice manager may oversee a physicians’ group, a clinic, or a hospital facility. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics ( BLS), the median hourly wage for a health services manager is $48.72 per hour.
  • Public Health Educator: Public health educators teach individuals or groups about health, safety, and disease prevention via lectures, presentations, and written material. The goal of a public health educator is to motivate communities and health leaders and promote health wellness and disease prevention.

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Public Health Nursing Programs

What is the best degree for public health nurses?

This can vary based on your goals. You can be a public health nurse with an ADN or a BSN, but an MSN, especially paired with CPH certification or the PHNA-BC, can lead to a variety of career options. Many employers require or strongly prefer an MSN and an advanced practice certificate for higher-level nursing positions.

How long does it take to complete an online public health nursing program?

An online master’s in public health nursing program typically takes two years of full-time study to complete. If you don’t have a BSN, a bridge program option can take three years. Part-time programs also require more time to complete.

What career advancement opportunities are available for public health nurses?

MSN public health nurses looking to advance their careers may opt for a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree. As a public health nurse with a DNP, you’ll be prepared to lead in policy development, advocacy, teaching, management, and public health practice.

What is the difference between public health nursing and community nursing?

These two roles overlap, but the primary difference between public health nursing and community nursing is that community nursing regularly involves direct contact with the public, providing nursing care or teaching, while public health nursing focuses on planning and administration.

Page Last Reviewed: November 8, 2022. Note: The ranking list and school descriptions on this page were created and reviewed independently by our Rankings Team.

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