Introduction to Public Health Certifications

Published on: Nov 5, 2023

As you consider pursuing a public health degree, you might wonder if another credential is needed to have a career in public health following graduation. Is it like law school where you get a JD degree and then need to sit for the bar exam? Is it like medical school where you get an MD degree and then need to pass boards to practice? In short, no. Public health professionals need no credential beyond an MPH to have exciting and fulfilling careers. We’re here to be transparent and make it known that there’s no secret hurdle coming your way after graduation. 

In light of this, this summary will explore whether pursuing a public health certification is a worthwhile endeavor for recent graduates and professionals. We’ll briefly cover the following certifications: the Certified in Public Health (CPH) exam, Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES), and corresponding Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES) exams.

Introduction to Public Health Certifications

Certified in Public Health (CPH) exam

To take the CPH exam, you need to be enrolled in a public health program, have recently graduated, or have relevant work experience. The CPH exam is designed to assess whether someone understands various aspects of public health, from public health biology to program management to health equity and social justice. It’s a 200 question multiple choice exam offered in-person or online. Check out our more extended summary of the CPH exam here

Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) and Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES) exams

To take the CHES and MCHES exams, you must be enrolled in a public health degree program and have taken at least 25 semester hours of coursework. The CHES and MCHES exams are focused on health education and health promotion. The CHES is designed for early career public health professionals (less than five years of professional experience), whereas the MCHES is designed for public health professionals with at least five years of relevant experience1. Check out our longer summary of the CHES exam here

Next Steps

As you consider the application requirements for a master’s in public health and your potential career options, take a moment to consider whether completing an additional credential might be worth it. We’re here to help you find the right MPH program to fit your unique needs!

About the Author

Written by:

Katherine Paul, MPH

Katherine Paul, MPH is a senior project manager at a leading medical communications and publications organization. She supports multidisciplinary teams handling large-scale accounts, the deliverables of which improve health outcomes and patient well-being. Ms. Paul holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree in Health Promotion from Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health and passed the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) shortly after graduation. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Dickinson College.

Ms. Paul previously worked at a public health non-profit where she managed all aspects of diverse health-related projects, including the implementation of a randomized controlled clinical trial on sexual health for teens with developmental disabilities, as well as the evaluation of a statewide tobacco cessation program with more than 20,000 annual cases. She has developed and delivered posters and presentations at national conferences including the American Public Health Association (APHA) annual meeting. 

Opinions and information published by the author here on are of my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of my employer or other organizations for my designated roles.

Katherine Paul

Katherine Paul, MPH


Education: Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health

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