Although they both typically result in careers within public health and have some overlapping coursework, master's degree programs in biostatistics and epidemiology are two unique tracks of study. Each program also offers unique learning experiences and has different graduation requirements to prepare graduates for their future careers. Compare and contrast these two degree programs and learn about some of the admissions requirements for each.
Comparing a Master's in Biostatistics to a Master's in Epidemiology
Master's in Biostatistics
Those who are interested in using statistical and mathematical analysis to resolve issues in public health and/or medicine may pursue a Master of Arts or a Master of Science in Biostatistics. These programs can be found on-campus or online and usually range in duration from 3 semesters (18 months) to 4 semesters (2 years). Most Master of Science degree programs in the field require a thesis and some may also require comprehensive exams and/or a statistical consulting practicum. Common course topics for the degree include statistical methods, probability, bioinformatics, biostatistics theory, public health and principles of epidemiology. Students may also be required to attend seminars. Graduates of the degree program may pursue a range of careers, including positions as biostatisticians, data analysts or statisticians, and work in various fields, such as public health, biotechnology or biomedicine.
Master's in Epidemiology
Students interested in pursuing a degree in epidemiology, which is the study of the causes and distribution of disease and other medical conditions, can enroll in a Master of Science in Epidemiology program or a Master of Public Health (MPH) program with a concentration in epidemiology. These programs can range from 1 year to 2.5 years in length, and some MPH programs may be available in an online format. Some of these programs may require a thesis and/or offer the opportunity for research assistantships. There is some overlap when it comes to coursework required for epidemiology and biostatistics graduate degrees. Common course topics for a master's degree program in epidemiology include applications of epidemiology, research methods in epidemiology, statistical analysis and biostatistics. Some graduates of the program may pursue a doctorate degree and many others will pursue a career as an epidemiologist, but other job opportunities include positions as researchers, consultants and educators in public health.
Common Entrance Requirements
Like many master's degree programs, most master's in biostatistics and master's in epidemiology programs require applicants to submit the appropriate applications and fees, official transcripts from undergraduate studies, GRE scores and several letters of recommendation. Those applying to a master's degree program in biostatistics may also need to submit a personal statement or letter of intent and/or have a GPA of 3.0 or greater. Many master's degree programs in biostatistics also require prior coursework in biology, calculus, probability and/or linear algebra. Students applying to master's degree programs in epidemiology may need to submit a resume and/or a statement of purpose in addition to the typical application materials.
Students who enjoy math and the life sciences and are interested in pursuing a career in public health may consider earning a master's degree in biostatistics or epidemiology. Both of these degree programs require similar coursework in advanced mathematics and topics in public health, but differ in the possible career outcomes and admissions requirements.