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MPH Vs. PhD in Epidemiology

May 18, 2019

Students deciding between an MPH and PhD in epidemiology should consider career goals and factors like the program's length, format, and graduation requirements. Compare and contrast the programs and admissions processes here.

Master of Public Health (MPH) degree programs typically provide students with a broad overview of public health and prepare them for leadership positions within the field, while Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in epidemiology programs are more research-based and focus on areas and methods of epidemiology. Find out about other deciding factors for choosing between the 2 degree programs.

Comparing an MPH to a PhD in Epidemiology

Master of Public Health

Students interested in working in the field of public health may pursue an MPH in online, on-campus, or hybrid formats. Some programs can be completed in as little as 16 months, full-time or 2 to 3 years when taken part-time. Students might have the opportunity to pursue additional certifications as well, such as a certificate in environmental health, global health, or program management. A variety of concentration areas exist, like epidemiology, public health practice, social and behavioral sciences, biostatistics, or health policy and management. Programs generally include hands-on learning opportunities through required internships, practicums or capstone experiences. Coursework may include topics in leadership/management, health policy and law, statistical methods, health care systems, environmental health, and epidemiology. Graduates of MPH degree with a focus on epidemiology programs usually work within public health in a range of careers, including biostatistician, public health planner, health care policy analyst, environmental health officer, and more.

Doctor of Philosophy in Epidemiology

A PhD in epidemiology focuses on advanced epidemiologic concepts and trains students for careers in research and/or teaching as well as how to apply research to public health. Students may analyze health-related problems with the goal of of using statistics and other methods to find solutions to these challenges. Doctoral programs may take students four years or more to complete, and allow students to further specialize in areas like population neuroscience, cancer, aging, global health, and environmental epidemiology. These are generally full-time programs that may require anywhere from 45 to 72 credits, depending on the program, and a dissertation. Students may also receive training in teaching and grant writing, and may have the opportunity to work on projects with various agencies and organizations for a hands-on learning experience. Programs may include coursework in topics such as research methods, biostatistics, epidemiology, ethics, data management, and issues in public health.

Common Entrance Requirements

Students applying to MPH or PhD in epidemiology degree programs must have at least a bachelor's degree, but many students applying to the PhD program will also have a master's degree. Both graduate programs typically require the GRE and may have a minimum GPA requirement, usually around a 3.0. It is also fairly common for both programs to have specific admission requirements for different concentration areas, such as specific prerequisite coursework or professional work experience. Some doctoral programs may require prior coursework in areas like research methods, statistics, and epidemiology. Applicants for either the MPH or PhD will typically need to include their transcripts, letters of recommendation, resume or CV, and/or personal statement with their application.

MPH degree programs are usually shorter and available in more flexible formats than PhD programs. Both epidemiology programs may offer additional areas of concentration and/or various hands-on learning experiences.


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