Students’ Frequently Asked Questions
- Is the school or program I am considering accredited?
- What is the difference between a school and a program?
- Does it matter whether my degree is from an accredited school or program or not?
- The institution I’m considering says that they are an applicant for accreditation. What does this mean for me?
- What does probationary accreditation mean?
- I am interested in an MPH program that does not appear on your list of accredited schools and programs, but its website states that the curriculum meets CEPH standards. Is this the same thing as accreditation?
- Can you help me figure out which school or program to attend?
- I would like to earn my public health degree online. Are there accredited institutions where I can do that?
- I would like to earn my MPH degree in one year. Are there accredited institutions where I can do that?
- Does CEPH accredit programs and schools located outside of the United Sates?
- Will I be able to work in the US if I attend an international institution that is not accredited?
- Is there a process to “certify” foreign degrees from institutions not accredited by CEPH?
- I have a complaint concerning my school or program. Should I submit it to CEPH?
1. Is the school or program I am considering accredited?
Please review our list of CEPH-accredited schools and programs. Note that CEPH lists accredited schools of public health and accredited public health programs separately, so be sure that you review all listings provided on our webpage.
Next, be sure that the degree you are inquiring about is included in the accreditation. For schools of public health, this is simple: all degrees within the school are accredited as a single unit. For public health programs, the MPH degree is always accredited; contact the school or program to find out if MS, doctoral or other degrees in public health are within the program’s unit of accreditation.
Finally, it is important to understand the difference between CEPH accreditation and regional accreditation. A university may have regional accreditation, which covers the university as a whole, but may not have CEPH accreditation (called “specialized accreditation”) to cover the specific field of public health. Regional accreditation covers the entire university and focuses on macro-level issues that affect the entire university. It does not examine the specific curricula of public health or other specialized programs. Specialized accreditation, such as CEPH accreditation, focuses on the training in a particular field or profession. For example, there are specialized accreditors who cover nursing, education, medicine, physical therapy and many other fields. CEPH is the only organization recognized by the US Department of Education to accredit public health schools and programs.
2. What is the difference between a school and a program?
CEPH accredits two separate categories, schools of public health and public health programs, and there is a separate set of accreditation standards for each.
The major difference visible to prospective students would be that schools of public health generally offer many more concentrations or specializations and degree offerings than public health programs. Schools must offer at least the MPH in the five areas of public health knowledge defined as core areas. Programs are only required to offer a single MPH degree; though many programs choose to offer multiple concentrations, they are not required to. Also, schools must offer doctoral programs, while programs are not required to. As a result, schools are often larger than programs.
Institutions listed in either category have the same, full accreditation status. Their accreditation is simply based on different criteria.
3. Does it matter whether my degree is from an accredited school or program or not?
In general, there are three major practical implications for students of receiving a public health graduate degree from a non-accredited institution:
- Some employment is only open to graduates of accredited public health schools or programs. The US Public Health Service, many US military public health jobs and some state and local governmental agencies require that MPH-level jobs be filled with graduates of accredited schools and programs. We do not maintain, nor do we know of, a comprehensive list of those jobs that do and do not require such a degree. If you have an idea of the area or agency where you would like to work after graduation, you should speak to a human resources officer if you have additional questions. Finally, if you have another accredited degree (such as a medical, physical therapy or nursing degree from an accredited institution), you may be able to gain access to these employment opportunities if your MPH degree is not accredited.
- Some fellowships are only available to students in accredited schools of public health.
- The National Board of Public Health Examiners, the body for the national credentialing exam for individuals who possess a graduate-level degree in public health, offers the exam only to graduates of accredited programs and schools. If you would like to investigate the credentialing exam further, you may wish to review http://www.nbphe.org/. This body is completely separate from CEPH, and we do not have a formal role or affiliation in shaping the eligibility or other rules.
4. The institution I’m considering says that they are an applicant for accreditation. What does this mean for me?
The time from acceptance of an application by our Council to the time of an accreditation decision is typically three years. It may be longer or shorter in some cases. We cannot provide information on how likely a school or program is to be accredited. Accreditation is not retroactive; if you graduate before the date of a favorable accreditation decision, your degree is not considered accredited, even if the school or program later receives accreditation. Some bodies, such as the National Board of Public Health Examiners, may extend eligibility retroactively to students who graduated prior to a school’s formal accreditation date, but such decisions are the prerogative of each such body, not of CEPH.
5. What does probationary accreditation mean?
Probationary accreditation is a category of accreditation. Before the school or program’s accreditation term expires, the Council will review extensive documentation and visit the campus to determine whether it meets CEPH’s Accreditation Criteria either for schools or programs. In particular, the Council will need to see evidence that the school or program has corrected the deficiencies that were identified as part of the probation decision. School or program administrators should be able to give you the best idea of what their plan is and whether they believe that they will be able to correct the deficiencies the Council identified.
If the school or program can document that it has corrected the deficiencies and complies with our criteria, it will return to normal accreditation status with no lapse in accreditation. If the school or program cannot prove that it has corrected the deficiencies and now complies with our criteria, the Council will revoke accreditation.
Schools and programs on probation can successfully transition back to full accreditation. However, each case is different, and it is the school or program’s responsibility to take the necessary actions to correct the identified problems.
6. I am interested in an MPH program that does not appear on your list of accredited schools and programs, but its website states that the curriculum meets CEPH standards. Is this the same thing as accreditation?
No. CEPH accreditation standards have four broad categories of requirements related to all aspects of the program. Only one of the four relates to curriculum, and it has many components. CEPH curricular requirements are much more than a series of requried courses. In addition, accreditation requires peer evaluators to ensure the accreditation criteria are being met, and a school or program that does not appear on our list has not undergone such a review.
7. Can you help me figure out which school or program to attend?
Unfortunately, we can only provide information on schools’ and programs’ accreditation status. Aside from talking to faculty, staff and students at the institutions you are considering, you may also wish to talk to people who are working in the field of public health or the geographic area where you are hoping to work after graduation.
8. I would like to earn my public health degree online. Are there accredited institutions where I can do that?
A number of CEPH-accredited schools and programs offer online degrees. These are quite varied. Many, though not all, require you to spend some time on campus for orientation, one weekend a semester or some other interval. The time to completion also varies: some allow you to proceed at your own pace, while others require students to enter as a cohort and progress on a single, set schedule. Some institutions only offer online degrees in a specific topical area, and others require specific backgrounds or preparations for admissions eligibility.
Many schools and programs offer coursework online, though they may not offer an entire degree online. To see which accredited schools and programs offer online degree programs, use CEPH’s degree database and choose “Online Programs” as the search criterion.
If there is an accredited school or program that you are interested in that does not appear on the search results, you should contact them and find out what their online options are. Your goal should be to find the institution that best matches your educational and career goals.
9. I would like to earn my MPH degree in one year. Are there accredited institutions where I can do that?
CEPH’s criteria for accreditation were revised in 2005 to require that all MPH degrees be awarded for no fewer than 42 semester credits of coursework. This makes obtaining the degree in one year challenging. A number of institutions, however, may continue to offer the option to complete the degree in a single year. We do not maintain a centralized listing of such options, largely because, while there have been formal “one-year programs” at some institutions, other institutions have been able to help students accelerate their progress and earn a degree in one year, even when there is no formal program in place.
You should review the list of accredited schools and programs on our website and find those institutions that address your educational and career goals and contact them directly to find out if a one-year option is feasible for you.
10. Is there a ranking or list that will show me which public health schools and programs are the best?
Several private companies publish lists that rank educational programs, including graduate programs in public health. We cannot endorse these rankings, as the standards for accreditation are not the same as the factors used in ranking universities. The field of public health is quite varied, and it is likely that the right school or program for one student might not be the best for another. Consider what field you wish to work in after obtaining your degree, consider the geographic area in which you would like to work, and talk to those working in the field. Staff or faculty from schools and programs you are considering may be able to help you, also, by discussing their pool of available internships and field placements for students, and by discussing the destination and career paths of recent graduates.
11. I am interested in taking the National Board of Public Health Examiners credentialing examination. What are the requirements and how do I register?
CEPH is not involved with the development or administration of this exam. The National Board of Public Health Examiners is an independent entity with responsibility for determining exam eligibility and exam administration. For information regarding registration and requirements, you should consult the National Board’s website:http://www.nbphe.org/.
12. Does CEPH accredit programs and schools located outside of the United States?
Yes, currently CEPH accredits four public health programs and one school of public health:
American University of Beirut – Beirut, Lebanon
Simon Fraser University – Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
St. George’s University – Grenada, West Indies
Universite de Montreal – Montreal, Canada
Instituto Nacional de Salud Publica – Cuernavaca, Mexico
University of Alberta – Alberta, Canada
13. Will I be able to work in the United States if I attend an international institution that is not accredited?
It is up to each individual employer to establish qualifications for employment at an organization. Some may require that positions be filled by graduates of CEPH-accredited institutions, while others may not. If you have an idea about where you would like to work after graduation, it is recommended to contact the organization’s human resources department to learn about the qualifications required for employment.
14. Is there a process to “certify” foreign degrees from institutions not accredited by CEPH?
No. CEPH is the only organization that evaluates degrees offered in public health schools and programs in the United States and internationally. There is no certification of public health degrees; rather the schools and programs that offer these degrees are either accredited or they are not.
15. I have a complaint concerning my school or program. Should I submit it to CEPH?
CEPH will receive a written, signed complaint against an accredited school or program if the complaint relates to CEPH accreditation standards that might affect the accreditation status of the school or program. Before submitting a complaint to CEPH, you must have exhausted all administrative processes within your institution. To submit a complaint, it must
- Be in writing
- Be signed
- Be specific as to the accreditation standard being violated
- Identify the outcome sought
- Include documentation that appropriate administrative processes have been exhausted
CEPH will not accept anonymous complaints. Also note that CEPH is not a mediator of disputes within an institution and it is unlikely to get involved in disputes related to grades or other issues that can be resolved on an individual basis. CEPH’s Accreditation Procedures (p. 32) provide more information about the formal complaint process.