Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



BMC public health






Humans; Cross-Sectional Studies; Pandemics; Public Health; COVID-19; Students




BACKGROUND: This study explored the current and desired identity of the DrPH degree, focusing on whether the competencies set by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) adequately prepare DrPH graduates for effective public health practice. Additionally, the study investigated the necessity of standardization in DrPH training, referring to a consensus-driven approach that equips future public health practitioners with practical skillsets applicable in real-world scenarios.

METHODS: A national cross-sectional online survey titled "National DrPH leaders & practitioners needs assessment" was conducted from November 2020 to February 2021. The survey was based on a self-report by DrPH students and DrPH professionals, consisting of the following two main components: (1) how their DrPH training aligns with CEPH competencies and (2) how they perceive the identity of the DrPH degree. Convenience sampling was used to collect the data, which may have limited representation for all DrPH institutions in the United States.

RESULTS: A total of 222 participants (140 current DrPH students and 82 alumni) completed the survey. The mean of the 10-point Likert scale for the degree to which the DrPH training aligns with 26 CEPH competencies (1: not at all - 10: absolutely) ranged from 6.3 (SD: 2.78) to 7.96 (SD: 2.16). The majority of participants (191/222, 86.04%) were satisfied with the knowledge and skills reflected in their training based on the CEPH competencies. However, more than half of the participants (117/222, 52.70%) sought additional professional development/training outside their institutions. DrPH leaders and practitioners faced barriers where the value of their work might not be fully recognized and endorsed. Participants indicated that the DrPH education should be further distinguished from the PhD education.

CONCLUSIONS: The DrPH degree holds significant value within the academic sphere of public health practice in the United States. However, its distinction from PhD programs poses a challenge for employers and organizations in the field, requiring attention from higher education programs. By solidifying the DrPH's identity, graduates can effectively address diverse public health issues and contribute to creating a safe and healthy environment, including addressing the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.


© The Author(s) 2023.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Peer Reviewed


Open Access


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