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PhD in Epidemiology Vs. Nutritional Epidemiology

Jun 04, 2019

Students interested in studying epidemiology or nutritional epidemiology can commonly pursue study at the doctoral level. Here we discuss some specific details for each program and how students can apply for admission.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Epidemiology degree programs are fairly common and usually provide additional areas of study, sometimes including the subject of nutritional epidemiology. Learn about the general requirements for a PhD in Epidemiology, as well as some of the specific topics you may discuss in a nutritional epidemiology focus area.

Comparing a PhD in Epidemiology to Nutritional Epidemiology

PhD in Epidemiology

PhD in Epidemiology degree programs are typically on-campus programs that can be completed in 4 to 5 years. Students in the program are generally required to complete around 32 to 60 credits beyond a master's degree, comprehensive exams, and a dissertation. Some programs may require additional responsibilities, like serving as a teaching or laboratory assistant and/or writing scientific journal articles. Students can also focus their research and/or studies in a variety of concentration areas, such as cancer, aging, epidemiological methods, cardiovascular disease, or infectious disease. Although coursework can vary for these programs through different electives, students may take courses that discuss topics in epidemiological methods, survival data analysis, categorical data analysis, biostatistics, study design, clinical trials, and Bayesian modeling. Graduates of PhD in Epidemiology programs can pursue careers as teachers, researchers, and professional epidemiologists in settings such as government agencies, private industry, research institutes, and non-profit organizations.

Nutritional Epidemiology

Nutritional epidemiology is typically not a stand-alone degree program, but may be available as a course topic, concentration, or research focus within a graduate program in epidemiology or another related area, like population health sciences, usually at the doctoral level. Students in this specialization or research area generally use epidemiology and biostatistics to explore the connections between disease and our diets. Research in this field may also include analyzing the nutritional status for different populations, exploring the effects of physical activity and diet in health and disease, and creating effective interventions. A nutritional epidemiology specialization typically includes comprehensive exams, seminars, coursework, and dissertation work specific to topics in the field, and prepares graduates for work as nutritional epidemiologists. Courses in nutritional epidemiology may discuss topics including study design and analysis, nutritional status assessment methods, molecular basis of nutritional diseases, obesity epidemiology, nutrition and global health, biological basis of human nutrition, and nutrition and public health.

Common Entrance Requirements

Since most nutritional epidemiology programs are a subset of epidemiology degree programs, the entrance requirements for the programs are relatively the same. Students pursuing a PhD in Epidemiology need at least a bachelor's degree, but some programs may require or prefer students to hold a master's degree, and usually students need a strong background in areas like biology, health science, or other quantitative sciences. Most of these programs require GRE scores that are from the last 5 years, but usually do not require the GRE Subject test. Applicants will commonly need to include their transcripts, letters of recommendation, resume or CV, and a statement of purpose with their application. Some programs may also require a personal history statement where students discuss some of their background, strengths, and weaknesses.

Students can pursue a PhD in Epidemiology with some programs allowing for additional areas of concentration, including nutritional epidemiology. These programs can be completed in 4 to 5 years, require a dissertation, and prepare graduates for careers as professional epidemiologists.


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