Epidemiology degree programs that can be completed fully online are not especially common. Available distance learning options are typically found through Master of Public Health (MPH) degree programs that offer a track in epidemiology. These programs are often designed for working professionals. Some MPH programs can be completed fully online, and others require on-campus residency components or an on-site practicum to meet graduation requirements. Students should find out if practical training is required for programs they're interested in and if the programs aid students in finding internships.
Doctoral degree programs that offer a specialization in epidemiology can also be found online, but they are very rare and not covered in depth in this article.
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Master of Public Health in Epidemiology
Students in the online MPH program examine a range of topics around the three core themes of public health: biostatistics, health services and epidemiology. Epidemiology focuses on the scientific aspects of public health, including the effects of various factors on the health of populations and the methods for preventing or minimizing the spread of disease. A core curriculum in public health law, policies and ethics, social behavior and healthcare management provides a context for the practice of epidemiology.
Information and Requirements
Online Master of Public Health degree programs are completed within 2-3 years. The majority of classes are taught online via group discussions and individual studies. Some programs require on-campus time, either briefly during a single term or in longer sessions spaced throughout the program. On-campus learning is scheduled well in advance to allow students to arrange for attendance. Practical hours are also required and may be fulfilled locally.
Each student needs a computer with Internet access and word processing capabilities along with the ability to run specialized course delivery software, such as Blackboard or ANGEL. Textbooks may be required. Online learning programs include technical support and provide online access to university resources, such as libraries and consultations with faculty.
This fundamental online course teaches the vocabulary needed to discuss groups and populations and the means used to assess the factors involved in health and disease. Students have the opportunity to examine real case studies.
Infectious Disease Epidemiology
Students learn the historical and contemporary effects of disease on societies. Also explored are the methods for epidemiological surveillance, disease-preventing intervention and the control of infectious agents.
Field Epidemiology Methods
How epidemiologists respond to public health emergencies is the focus of this online class. Students explore the methods and tools for investigating outbreaks, as well as developing effective skills for communicating with the public.
AIDS and HIV Epidemiology
Online students learn up-to-date information on the U.S. and international AIDS epidemic and the efforts to control it. The ways in which epidemiology is used in research and surveillance are presented in depth.
Epidemiologists most often do applied work for state, local or national public health organizations. They investigate outbreaks of disease, working to understand and contain them. Job options are also available at pharmaceutical companies and healthcare institutions. Some epidemiologists do lab and field research on how to prevent disease outbreaks.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean annual wage for epidemiologists was $76,900 in May 2015 (www.bls.gov). The job outlook for epidemiologists is about as fast as average, with a 6% employment growth projected between 2014 and 2024.
Continuing Education Information
Voluntary certification for applied epidemiology professionals is available from The Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology (CBIC). The organization offers its CIC certification - though it doesn't explain what CIC stands for - to individuals with advanced education and experience in the field. Graduate certificates in related areas are also available online for healthcare professionals. In addition, some online epidemiology classes are open to non-program students.
The most relevant online learning option for prospective graduate students interested in epidemiology is an MPH with an epidemiology track. Graduates can apply their skills in the field of community health, and they may also earn voluntary professional certification to demonstrate their qualifications.