A Guide for Students

Financial Aid For Public Health Degrees

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Last Updated: 8/18/2021
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The U.S. economy will add nearly 2 million new healthcare jobs by 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This could mean abundant opportunities for qualified people who want to pursue careers in public health. Nursing, teaching and physician-based jobs are just the start. The public health sector offers a spectrum of careers spanning research, communications, community health coordination and emergency response, to name a few.

If you are studying or plan to study public health, you will find a unique set of scholarship and grant programs available to help defray some of the cost of higher education. Beyond traditional scholarships and grants, public health students can tap government programs designed just for them. This comprehensive list of scholarships and grants will get you started.

Strategies for Assembling Resources for Your Public Health Education

How much will it cost to launch your career in public health? It depends on the career you want to pursue. Becoming a doctor or lead researcher requires a graduate degree, which can cost over $100,000 on its own. But there are plenty of ways to launch a public health career with a bachelor's degree.

As always, start with the standard applications for financial aid. After that, pursue resources for scholarships based on your field of study and your unique qualifications. For instance, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers public health students full-tuition scholarships in return for working for two years at a National Health Service Corps. -approved site in a medically underserved community upon graduation. Colleges and universities also have their own work-study programs for students.

An unorthodox way to get financing, but one that is gaining in popularity, is turning to peer-to-peer lenders. These Internet-based platforms enable a person or multiple people to lend money to a student at an agreed-upon interest rate. Just like with a private loan, students have a period in which they have to pay back the loan.

Loan Forgiveness Programs

Public health jobs are necessary for community and individual well-being, which is why such jobs are distributed across all types of communities and in many types of organizations, from universities to hospitals to clinics to public schools. This ongoing demand is why the government offers incentives to get people to go into public health fields. One of those incentives is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, created to encourage individuals to work in public service jobs. Under the program graduates who are employed full time by certain public service employers and make 120 loan payments may have their federal direct loan forgiven. The graduate has to work for a government-approved public service employer and doesn't have to make the payments consecutively. A wide spectrum of careers is eligible under this program, from nurses to emergency management professionals, including nurse practitioners, public service for individuals with disabilities and the elderly and emergency management professionals. While you have to commit to working in an underserved community, many public health graduates want to do exactly that, creating a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Getting a Degree in Public Health: Questions and Answers

Dr. Harrison Spencer, MD, MPH, DTM&H, CPH, is president and CEO of the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health. He offers some tips for students pursuing a degree in the public health field.

What attracts people to a career in public health?

Harrison C. Spencer
Harrison C. Spencer:

Public Health is an exciting field with many career opportunities, which focus on preventing and reducing the impact of the world's most pressing health problems. A public health career allows individuals to make a real difference on a global scale and far into the future. Public health works to improve the health of both individuals and populations. I recommend those interested in the field look at the This Is Public Health campaign, which allows public health professionals to promote the work they do.

How affordable is pursuing a degree in public health? Is it cost-prohibitive to many or is it more affordable?

Harrison C. Spencer
Harrison C. Spencer:

There are over 160 CEPH-accredited schools and programs. Tuition varies significantly from less than $10,000 a year to over $50,000 a year. Students should not only consider the cost of tuition, but the overall cost of the degree, which includes living expenses, time required to complete the program, and additional non-tuition costs.

Is there a lot of financial aid, grants and or scholarships available for people pursuing a degree in public health?

Harrison C. Spencer
Harrison C. Spencer:

Some schools and programs offer financial aid and scholarship opportunities. Some have an earlier decision for scholarship consideration so it is important to be prepared to apply early in the admissions cycle, typically by early December. Many schools and programs also offer research or teaching assistantships for doctoral students and occasionally master's students. There are also many opportunities to apply for school-based assistance and private scholarships as well as federal financial aid.

What are some of the best strategies to achieve a degree in public health but from a financial and academic perspective?

Harrison C. Spencer
Harrison C. Spencer:

Many schools and programs offer flexible schedules that allow students to work while they are attending a degree program, such as evening programs, distance learning programs, and executive programs. Applicants should consider these options in addition to applying for scholarships and financial aid.

What other advice/thoughts do you have for students pursuing a degree in public health?

Harrison C. Spencer
Harrison C. Spencer:

Be persistent and thoroughly explore your options. There are many degree options, many of which can be accessed through the centralized application service, SOPHAS. Apply to as many scholarship opportunities as you can. It will take some work upfront, but the payoff could be worth the effort. There are many options that students may be aware of. For example, some state institutions grant in-state tuition to residents of nearby states. For those who follow a career in the public sector, they may qualify for forgiveness of the remaining balance.

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