Contemporary issues in public health demand a highly educated and well-qualified workforce that can face the challenges of this increasingly complex and swiftly evolving field. This multi-faceted area of study is concerned with protecting the health of entire populations, which can be as small as a single community or as large as an entire region of the world.
This means public health professionals must have a broad knowledge of the organized measures required to prevent disease, promote health, and prolong life; which can only be achieved and demonstrated through education, experience, and professional certification.
Why Public Health Certification?
Beyond the educational requirements of most public health careers, which often includes a graduate degree such as the Master of Public Health (MPH) or even doctoral work, professional certification allows public health specialists and experts to set themselves apart from others in their field by showing a commitment to their profession, a dedication to continuing education, and a keen awareness of emerging public health issues.
The only broad, voluntary, professional certification in public health is the Certified in Public Health (CPH) credential through the National Board of Public Health Examiners (NBPHE).
CPH certification has a number of benefits for public health professionals:
- Allows recipients to stay current on best practices
- Assures the community they serve that they adhere to nationally recognized professional standards
- Provides increased recognition of the public health profession
- Ensures a high level of competency and expertise
What is the Certified in Public Health (CPH) Designation?
The Certified in Public Health (CPH) designation demonstrates that a public health professional has graduated from a Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)-accredited school or public health program and has mastered the foundational competencies of public health.
CEPH-accredited schools and programs can be found here.
To earn the CPH designation, public health professionals must complete a two-part credentialing process:
- Pass the CPH examination
- Maintain certification by completing the biennial recertification process
The CPH Examination
The initial CPH examination serves as a benchmark for measuring a public health professional’s understanding of contemporary public health topics. To earn eligibility to sit for the CPH exam, individuals must meet ONE of the following criteria:
- Must have completed all degree requirements for a master’s or doctoral degree that is accredited by the CEPH
- Must be currently enrolled in a CEPH-accredited graduate-level degree program, and must have completed all graduate-level core content (including biostatistics, epidemiology, health services/policy management, environmental health, and social behavioral sciences); candidates who meet this requirement will be provisionally certified until graduation
Professional eligibility without examination is available to those that have taken all graduate-level core content courses (including biostatistics, epidemiology, health services/policy management, environmental health, and social behavioral sciences) in a CEPH-accredited program. Additionally, these certification candidates must have at least 5 years of public health experience, and possess a relevant graduate degree.
CPH Examination Content
The CPH examination covers the five core areas of public health:
- Health services/policy management
- Environmental health
- Social behavioral sciences
The above areas of study are always integral to a CEPH-accredited master’s degree, as are a number of cross-cutting areas that are relevant to contemporary public health, such as:
- Communications and informatics
- General principles of biostatistics
- Diversity and culture
- Public health biology
- Program planning
- Systems thinking
The examination also includes an assessment of general principles in public health:
- Core functions of public health
- Core values/principles/tenets/frameworks
- Definitions of public health and population health
- Essential services of public health
- Government responsibility for public health in the United States
- Public health agency accreditation
- Sentinel events in the history and development of public health
- The U.S. public health system
The CPH examination is administered by Applied Measurement Professionals (AMP) as either a paper-based or computer-based examination. It is offered throughout the year at locations within and outside of the U.S.
The examination consists of 200 questions and is timed (usually about 4 hours). All questions are formatted as multiple-choice and single-best answer.
CPH Recertification Requirements
The CPH credential is focused on professional development, lifelong learning, and the continuous advancement of the profession. To maintain certification, CPH professionals must earn at least 50 CPH recertification credits every two years. The certification is based on a two-year cycle and must therefore be reinstated biennially by December 31.
Specialist Certifications for Public Health Professionals
Although the CPH designation is the only such credential of its kind for public health professionals, specialty certification is often the choice of specialists working in specific areas of public health:
- Certified Health Education Specialist/Masters Certified Health Education Specialist: National Commission for Health Education Credentialing
- First Aid/CPR/AED: American Red Cross, American Heart Association, National Safety Council
- Certified Emergency Response Team: Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
- Certified Diabetes Educator: National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators
- Workplace Wellness Certification: Wellness Council of America
- Freedom from Smoking Facilitator Training: American Lung Association
- Certified Asthma Educator: National Asthma Educator Board
- Certified Sexuality Educator: American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists
- Certified Lactation Educator/Consultant/Childbirth Educator: International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners
- Certified Safety Professional/Associate Safety Professional: Board of Certified Safety Professionals
- Certified Industrial Hygienist: American Board of Industrial Hygiene
- Occupational Health and Safety Technologist: Board of Certified Safety Professionals
- Registered Environmental Health Specialist/Registered Sanitarian/Certified Environmental Health Technician: National Environmental Health Association
- Registered Hazardous Substances Professional: National Environmental Health Association
- Certified Hazardous Materials Manager: Institute of Hazardous Materials Management
- Advanced Public Health Nursing/Community Health Nursing: American Nurses Credentialing Center
- Registered Dietitian Nutritionist/Registered Dietitian: Commission on Dietetic Registration
- Physical Activity in Public Health: American College of Sports Medicine