Public Health emergency sign

Graduate Certificate in
Public Health Preparedness

Program summary

Learn how to prevent or respond to disasters or emergencies that affect public health. This online graduate certificate program is designed for professionals working in emergency management roles.

Application deadline

Apply by November 15 to start January 8

Credits and costs

12 Credits $1,017 per credit

Online Public Health Preparedness Certificate

By completing Penn State’s online public health preparedness certificate, you are demonstrating your initiative to obtain the knowledge and skills needed to prevent, mitigate, and respond to natural and man-made disasters. This high-quality graduate-level program can provide you with an excellent education if you want to enter or advance in the field of homeland security.

Designed for working emergency management professionals, this certificate is open to candidates who hold a bachelor's degree. The program is ideal for federal, state, or local emergency management officials, public health practitioners, health care providers, hospital administrators or managers, or first responders.

What Makes Penn State's Online Public Health Program Different?

Penn State's College of Medicine offers this unique certificate as part of the online Homeland Security program. Based on a partnership of six colleges, the Penn State Homeland Security portfolio is one of the nation's most respected and comprehensive HLS programs, designed to educate professionals and prepare leaders to make societies more secure in a global era of evolving threats in an all-hazards spectrum.

Penn State's Online PHP Certificate Curriculum

All courses are 100% online, allowing you to continue working while you acquire new, immediately applicable skills and information. The curriculum focuses on building your knowledge in these key areas:

  • the principles of hazard analysis and incident management
  • disaster readiness planning and coordination
  • critical infrastructure protection against disaster and terrorist emergencies
  • the political, legal, psychological, and social aspects of terrorism and natural disasters

Information for Military and Veterans

Are you a member of the military, a veteran, or a military spouse? Please visit our military website for additional information regarding financial aid, transfer credits, or application instructions. 


The 12-credit Graduate Certificate in Public Health Preparedness prepares students for disaster response in the public health arena.

Required Courses (12 credits)

  • 3

    Analyzes the history of terrorism and explores the preparation and response to specific terrorist threats, natural disasters, and conventional catastrophes.

    • Prerequisite

      Enrollment in the homeland security degree or homeland security certificate, or permission from the instructor

  • 3

    A public health perspective on the preparation necessary to develop a coordinated response to a disaster or terrorist emergency.

    • Prerequisite

      Permission from the instructor

  • 3

    Introduces students to the design of exposure assessment and health effect studies applicable to disasters and terrorism.

    • Prerequisite

      PHP 510 or permission from the instructor

  • 3

    Examines the complexities involved in the protection of health care delivery systems affected during a natural disaster or terrorist attack, including the impact of disrupted transport systems, computer and Internet security, communications, energy supply, industry, and governmental institutions.

    • Prerequisite

      PHP 510 or permission from the instructor

Course Availability

If you're ready to see when your courses will be offered, visit our public LionPATH course search (opens in new window) to start planning ahead.

Costs and Financial Aid

Graduate Tuition

Graduate tuition is calculated based on the number of credits for which you register. Tuition is due shortly after each semester begins and rates are assessed every semester of enrollment.

2023–24 Academic Year Rates

Tuition rates for the fall 2023, spring 2024, and summer 2024 semesters.

How many credits do you plan to take per semester? Cost
11 or fewer $1,017 per credit
12 or more $12,203 per semester

2024–25 Academic Year Rates

Tuition rates for the fall 2024, spring 2025, and summer 2025 semesters.

How many credits do you plan to take per semester? Cost
11 or fewer $1,027 per credit
12 or more $12,325 per semester

Financial Aid and Military Benefits

Some students may qualify for financial aid. Take the time to research financial aid, scholarships, and payment options as you prepare to apply. Military service members, veterans, and their spouses or dependents should explore these potential military education benefits and financial aid opportunities, as well.

Paying for Your Certificate

Students pursuing a certificate are considered "nondegree," a status that is not eligible for federal student aid, including the Federal Direct Stafford Loan program. A private alternative loan may be an option to consider.

Additionally, Penn State offers many ways to pay for your education, including an installment plan and third-party payments. Penn State World Campus also offers an Employer Reimbursement and Tuition Deferment Plan. Learn more about the options for paying for your education.

Students pursuing a degree and meeting all other eligibility requirements may qualify for financial aid.

How to Apply

Deadlines and Important Dates

Applications are accepted and reviewed on an ongoing basis. Your progress within the online application system will be saved as you go, allowing you to return at any point as you gather additional information and required materials. You may check the status of your application by using the same login information established for the online application form. Admission decisions are typically made and returned to the student within 30 days of our receipt of your completed application, which includes all transcripts and letters of reference. For more information on your application or the application process, please contact the program office.

Recommended deadlines:

  • Spring DeadlineApply by November 15 to start January 8
  • Summer DeadlineApply by April 15 to start May 13
  • Fall DeadlineApply by August 15, 2024, to start August 26, 2024

Admission Requirements

For admission to the Graduate School, an applicant must hold either (1) a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or (2) a tertiary (postsecondary) degree that is deemed comparable to a four-year bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution. This degree must be from an officially recognized degree-granting institution in the country in which it operates.

What You Need

Applications are submitted electronically and include a nonrefundable application fee. You will need to upload the following items as part of your application:

Official transcripts from each institution attended, regardless of the number of credits or semesters completed — Transcripts not in English must be accompanied by a certified translation. Penn State alumni do not need to request transcripts for credits earned at Penn State but must list Penn State as part of your academic history. If you are admitted, you will be asked to send an additional official transcript. You will receive instructions at that time.

GPA and Test Scores — Postsecondary (undergraduate), junior/senior (last two years) GPA is required. 

GRE or GMAT scores are NOT required for admission. 

English Proficiency — The language of instruction at Penn State is English. With some exceptions, international applicants must take and submit scores for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Minimum test scores and exceptions are found in the English Proficiency section on the Graduate School's "Requirements for Graduate Admission" page. Visit the TOEFL website for testing information. Penn State's institutional code is 2660.

References (3) — You will need to initiate the process through the online application by entering names, email addresses, and mailing addresses of three references. Upon submission of your application, an email will be sent to each reference requesting they complete a brief online recommendation regarding your commitment for success in an online program. Please inform all recommenders they must submit the form in order for your application to be complete.  

Program-Specific Questions/Materials

Résumé  — Upload your résumé (one-to two-pages) to the online application.

Statement of Purpose — A statement of no more than 500 words explaining to the admissions committee how your professional experience and goals relate to the program to which you are applying. Your statement could include aspects such as the following: your reasons for pursuing the degree; why you feel you are a good candidate for the program; and any information you would like the admissions committee to know about you personally and/or professionally.

Start Your Application

You can begin your online application at any time. Your progress within the online application system will be saved as you go, allowing you to return at any point as you gather additional information and required materials.

Begin the graduate school application

  • Choose Enrollment Type: "Certificate Admission"
  • Choose "WORLD CAMPUS" as the campus
  • Choose "Public Health Preparedness" as the certificate

Checking Your Status

You can check the status of your application by using the same login information established for the online application form.

Technical Requirements 

Review the technical requirements for this degree program.

Ready to Learn More?

Get the resources you need to make informed decisions about your education. Request information on this program and other programs of interest by completing this form.

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Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State graduate certificate?

Apply by November 15 to start January 8. How to Apply

Start or Advance Your Career

A family (two parents and two children) smiling as they meet with a health care professional

You can use the knowledge gained from this program and the support of Penn State career resources to pursue careers in a variety of fields, depending on your goals.

Career Services to Set You Up for Success

Student having a virtual meeting on a laptop with a career counselor

From the day you're accepted as a student, you can access resources and tools provided by Penn State World Campus Career Services to further your career. These resources are beneficial whether you're searching for a job or advancing in an established career.

  • Opportunities to connect with employers
  • Career counselor/coach support
  • Occupation and salary information
  • Internships
  • Graduate school resources 

A Head Start toward a Master’s Degree

A figure standing halfway up a set of stairs leading towards a graduation cap

Not only can this program help create opportunities in your career, it can also give you a solid head start toward a full master’s degree.

Degree Program Related to This Certificate

Some or all credits earned for this certificate can be applied to the following Penn State World Campus degree program:

Learn to respond to natural and man-made disasters with appropriate emergency management strategies for public health preparedness. This online master's degree program is the only homeland security program in the country using curriculum from a medical school, the Penn State College of Medicine.

Learn more about the Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security - Public Health Preparedness Option  

Contact Us

For questions related to the Graduate Certificate in Public Health Preparedness, offered in partnership with the Penn State Hershey College of Medicine, please contact:

Rachel Reager
Academic Support Coordinator
Penn State College of Medicine
Office of Graduate Education
500 University Dr., MC H170
Hershey PA 17033
Phone: 717-531-0003 (ext. 285655)
Email: [email protected]

For general questions about Penn State World Campus, please contact:

World Campus Admissions Counselors
Phone: 814-863-5386
Email: [email protected]


  • William Dunne

    • Degree
      M.A., Security Studies, Center for Homeland Defense and Security, Naval Postgraduate School
    • Degree
      M.S., Emergency Health Services, University of Maryland Baltimore County
    • Degree
      B.S., Emergency Health Services, University of Maryland Baltimore County

    William Dunne is a senior instructor in public health sciences and the director of emergency management and business continuity at the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and College of Medicine, which includes Highly Infectious Disease (HID) preparedness. He mentors students on independent projects and research. He has more than 25 years of experience in leadership, clinical care, education, and research in emergency preparedness and public safety. He spent 14 years at UCLA Health in emergency management, safety, and security, and 8 years as the program director of the paramedic program at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He has experience as a chief officer in EMS and a paramedic/firefighter and critical care paramedic, and he has taught undergraduate clinical and management classes. He also worked on health system disaster preparedness research at the Charles McC. Mathias, Jr. National Study Center for Trauma and Emergency Medical Services and contributed to the revision of the U.S. DOT Paramedic and Intermediate National Standard Curriculum. His professional interests include improving collaboration and situational awareness across the local, state, federal, and international levels; creation of surge capacity in disasters; and community outreach, including personal preparedness to improve resilience.

  • Avram Flamm

    • Degree
      D.O., Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, New York Institute of Technology
    • Degree
      Emergency Medical Services Fellowship, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
    • Degree
      Emergency Medicine Residency, WellSpan York Hospital

    Dr. Avram Flamm is an assistant professor of emergency medicine and public health sciences. He teaches courses on health system critical infrastructure and mentors students in independent research. Dr. Flamm is an emergency medicine and emergency medical services (EMS) physician and the medical director of Life Lion Critical Care Transport at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. He serves as core faculty for both the residency program and EMS fellowship. He is also a medical team manager with FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Pennsylvania Task Force 1 and a member of the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center Mass Casualty Incident Core Planning Team. His research interests include emergency medical services and community preparedness.

  • Eugene Lengerich

    • Degree
      V.M.D., Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania
    • Degree
      M.S., Agricultural Economics and Operations Research, Penn State

    Dr. Eugene Lengerich is a professor of public health sciences and faculty director of the public health preparedness option. He teaches courses on epidemiology, community preparedness and resilience, and the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. He also mentors students in independent research. He has led health assessments for medical and public health students in domestic and international settings. Prior to joining Penn State, he conducted outbreak investigations as an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer and preventive medicine resident at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Following his experience at the federal level, he led health investigations for the state of North Carolina. His research interests are in outbreak detection and investigation, community and public preparedness, and preparedness education.

  • Gavin Macgregor-Skinner

    • Degree
      M.Sc., Wild Animal Health, Emerging Infectious Diseases, Zoonotic Diseases, Royal Veterinary College, University of London
    • Degree
      M.P.H., Epidemiology, International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
    • Degree
      M.R.C.V.S., Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
    • Degree
      B.V.Sc., Veterinary Medicine and Surgery, University of Queensland

    Dr. Gavin Macgregor-Skinner is an associate professor in public health sciences and teaches courses on public health emergencies, biologic risk management, and training exercises. He is a co-investigator on the Penn State COVID-19 for Nursing Homes funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. He has appeared on CNN, BBC, and C-SPAN to discuss his research in disaster medicine, preparedness, and health security. Prior to joining Penn State, he served 12 years as an officer in the Australian and British militaries, an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a global health Fellow for USAID. He is the senior director of the Global Biorisk Advisory Council, a Division of ISSA, a not-for-profit that helps organizations and businesses prepare for, respond to, and recover from biological threats, biohazard situations, and real-time crises.

  • Scott Mickalonis

    • Degree
      M.S., Emergency Management, Millersville University of Pennsylvania
    • Degree
      B.S., Exercise and Sport Science, Penn State

    Scott Mickalonis is a senior instructor in public health sciences and the system director of emergency management and business continuity for Penn State Health, including the medical centers and medical group. Scott holds certification in emergency management (CEM) and business continuity (CBCP) and is a certified hospital emergency coordinator (CHEC) and EMT-Paramedic. Scott has been a leader, educator, and practitioner in emergency management for more than 20 years, serving in both the public and private sectors. He spent 15 years with the Montgomery County (PA) Department of Public Safety in emergency medical services and emergency management, serving as the deputy director for emergency management and hazardous materials response. In 2014, he joined the Hershey Medical Center as the manager for emergency preparedness, establishing the emergency management program amidst the Ebola outbreak and helping establish the Ebola Treatment Center. His experience allowed him to take on a leadership role with the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, managing the regional health care coalition in central Pennsylvania. Scott joined Penn State Health in January 2021, initiating a comprehensive approach to emergency management and business continuity. His interests include planning, training, and exercises and growing the profession of emergency management through experiential student learning opportunities.

  • Jennifer Osetek

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Biodefense, George Mason University
    • Degree
      M.H.S., Public Health Preparedness, Penn State

    Dr. Jennifer Osetek is an assistant professor of public health sciences. She teaches courses on natural and terrorist threat assessments and non-medical obstacles in public health preparedness. She also mentors students in independent research. She is a 2008 alum of the program and led the development of a framework to examine non-medical obstacles in public health responses, utilizing case studies of smallpox eradication in India and Central/Western Africa and the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She is an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve and a CBRNE research analyst focusing on biological and chemical defense. Her research interests include terrorist threats, public health, and preparedness education.

  • Zhengmin Qian

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Exposure/Epidemiology, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and Rutgers University
    • Degree
      M.D., Tongji Medical University, China

    Dr. Zhengmin Qian is a professor of public health sciences at Penn State and professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at St. Louis University. He teaches courses in epidemiology, exposure assessment, and public health evaluation. For more than 15 years, he has been a key investigator in Health Effects of Long-Term Air Pollution on Lung Function and Respiratory Health in Children and Adults in Four Chinese Cities, sponsored by the EPA. Dr. Qian has published more than 170 peer-reviewed papers and reviews research proposals for federal agencies. His research interests are in environmental epidemiology, global health, and the medical and public health impact of air pollution.

  • Charlotte Roy

    M.H.S., Homeland Security, Penn State

    Ms. Charlotte Roy is a teaching assistant in public health sciences and has been an evaluator for Harvard School of Public Health Center for Public Health Preparedness. For Penn State, Ms. Roy is an assistant instructor for critical hospital and health system infrastructure protection. She has recently retired as hospital safety officer and emergency management coordinator for Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Massachusetts. Ms. Roy is a certified IAEM emergency manager and FEMA Certified Trainer in Hospital Emergency Response to WMD. During COVID-19, she has served as coordinator of hospital preparedness and response for the state of Massachusetts.

  • Anna Ssentongo

    • Degree
      Dr.P.H., Public Health Sciences, Penn State
    • Degree
      M.P.H., Public Health Sciences, Penn State

    Dr. Anna Ssentongo is an assistant professor of trauma surgery and public health sciences. She teaches courses in epidemiology and public health research, and she mentors students in independent research. Dr. Ssentongo’s research guides public health preparedness and planning efforts for future pandemics. Her work has been nationally recognized and cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. Dr. Ssentongo serves on the Trauma-Informed and Anti-Oppressive Care Committee and the Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault/Human Trafficking Task Force. She is the founder of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Human Trafficking. Dr. Ssentongo conducts research in the areas of infectious disease and critical care epidemiology while emphasizing the importance of public health preparedness. She has particular interest in understanding the susceptibility to, risk factors for, and natural history of recovery from coronaviruses such as SARS-CoV-2.


Shelley Haffner stands in front of a sign that says Student Health Center, which is in front of the University Health Services building on Penn State's campus
This grad helped Penn State mitigate infectious disease hazards,
A sign that says College of Medicine is show in front of a hospital
Students working during the COVID pandemic got to study the vaccine in real time,
Old Main building at Penn State's University Park campus
New online course engages middle, high school students in 'The Science of COVID', Penn State News
An aerial view of Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
Public health preparedness master's students take on COVID-related projects,
The building that houses the Penn State's College of Medicine is shown at dusk.
This student’s job: Get PPE to agencies during the COVID-19 pandemic,

Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State graduate certificate?

Apply by November 15 to start January 8. How to Apply