Methodology for Fortune’s ranking of online public health programs

BY Lance LambertApril 20, 2022, 6:40 AM
Illustration by Martin Laksman

The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t just bring us a work from home revolution, it also saw online higher education explode. While some students are eager to return to the classroom, others have realized over the past two years that a digital format fits their lifestyle best.

This digital acceleration of higher education is particularly prevalent on the public health front: During the pandemic, online master’s of public health programs saw a big uptick in interest as demand for everything from biostatisticians to epidemiologists took off. The jobs these graduates are going into aren’t just growing a little bit—they’re seeing big growth. Between 2020 and 2023, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the total number of biostatistic and epidemiology jobs will jump 33% and 30%, respectively.

That’s why Fortune is unveiling our first-ever ranking of online master’s of public health (MPH) programs. In total, we ranked 15 online MPH programs.

Our data collection confirms that these programs are in hot demand. Among the 15 online MPH programs we ranked, they’ve seen their combined enrollments soar 39% over the past year. For comparison, online MBA programs have seen a 9% jump in enrollment over the past two years.

Programs that would like to participate next year, please email Send us your name, title, and appropriate contacts.

Selectivity and Demand Score (100%)

The best public health programs have both world class professors and a top-notch curriculum. But that’s not all: They should also attract some of the brightest students. The post-college success (or lack of success) of those alumni helps to shape how the outside world will view that program. It’s also why Fortune put so much weight on the strength of a school’s incoming class.

To measure selectivity, we looked at both the average undergraduate GPA of incoming students and the program’s acceptance rate. In our estimation, programs that have challenging admissions standards attract a stronger cohort of students.

Next up: We looked at demand. If programs aren’t successful, they won’t be able to continue to attract and graduate top students year in and year out. Not to mention, a larger student body also means a larger alumni network. That’s why we measured total enrollment size of each program

Finally, we factored in retention rates to make sure programs were successfully moving students into year two.