Epidemiology Degree Program and Course Information

Master's and doctoral programs in epidemiology provide students with advanced skills in the study of disease. For more info on program requirements, common courses and career possibilities, keep reading.

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Essential Information

Students seeking epidemiology training at the graduate level can earn Master of Public Health degrees or Master of Science degrees. In addition, students can also pursue doctoral degrees in epidemiology, which tend to focus more heavily on independent research.

Admission to a master's degree program in epidemiology could require a bachelor's degree in a health-related field or a graduate degree. For admission to a doctoral program, applicants often need to have completed a master's program and specific coursework, such as courses in statistics, disease modeling and methods of epidemiology.

Master's Degree in Epidemiology

Two degree programs are available for those interested in earning a master's degree in epidemiology. A Master of Public Health (MPH) is available for students with a background in quantitative analysis, preparing them for future participation in the design and analysis of epidemiological research studies. A Master of Science (M.S.) degree is designed for students who want to gain quantitative research skills needed in the industry. Literature review and secondary data analysis may be required in M.S. programs.

Students in these programs may engage in capstone projects that can include internship opportunities. Some programs require data analysis or research activities culminating in a thesis. Common courses may include:

  • Biostatistics and statistics in epidemiology
  • Epidemiology principles
  • Infectious disease
  • Epidemiology of diabetes and cancer
  • American healthcare system
  • Environmental health

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Doctorate Degree in Epidemiology

Students best suited for a doctorate in epidemiology have acquired a master's in epidemiology or work in the healthcare field. Doctoral programs prepare students to develop and test new theories and collaborate with other scientists. Graduates of this program use the skills learned to conduct research in areas including psychiatry, nutrition, cancer, and infectious diseases. This degree program may take 2-4 years to complete. A doctoral student may be required to perform research and complete a dissertation.

Some schools require a student to start a doctoral program in a pre-candidate stage, wherein he or she completes an examination and presents an individual research program prospectus in addition to completing required coursework. Coursework may include:

  • Analytical foundations of epidemiology
  • Data analysis
  • Biostatistical methods
  • Probability
  • Dissertation research

Employment Outlook and Career Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), epidemiologists have average job prospects. Between 2014 and 2024, this career path is projected to experience a growth rate of 6%. The median annual salary for epidemiologists in May 2015 was $69,450, according to the BLS.

Graduates of a doctoral program are qualified to work in government positions, at academic institutions and research institutes. The BLS reported that research epidemiologists may experience strong competition in acquiring a position. According to the BLS, industries that paid top salaries in 2015 for epidemiologists included pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing, computer systems design services, research and development companies, outpatient care facilities and physician offices.

Students who wish to work as epidemiologists in medicine manufacturing, research and care facilities or colleges should consider earning a graduate degree in epidemiology. While both master's and doctoral programs explore research techniques, statistical analysis and infectious diseases, doctoral programs are more tailored to students' specific interests in the field.

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