Epidemiology Degrees in Public Health

Epidemiologists provide the public with essential education regarding diseases, infections, life-expectancies, and more. Expertly engaging with scientific research, case studies, and other forms of data to pinpoint illness and disease causes, solutions, preventions, and controls, epidemiologists contribute significantly to the field of medicine—and the wellbeing of the population at large. Read on to understand the definition of epidemiology—and discover if it’s the right path for you. 

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What is Epidemiology? 

Epidemiology comes from the greek word pi, meaning ‘on’ or ‘upon’; ‘demos’, meaning ‘people’; and ‘logos,’ meaning ‘the study of.’ It’s the study of what comes upon—or befalls—a population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But what does epidemiology mean in a modern context? According to the CDC, “epidemiology is the study of the distribution and determinants of health-related states or events in specified populations, and the application of this study to the control of health problems.” Put simply, epidemiology can be defined as the study of patterns, causes, and effects of health. 

What is Epidemiology in Public Health?  

The principles of epidemiology can be applied across a variety of industries, but epidemiology in public health has its own unique role. By studying and controlling health determinants, distribution disparities, and public health disruptions, epidemiology in public health applies the principles of the field to populations around the world. These professionals pinpoint discrepancies, discover information, and take necessary steps and interventions to close public health gaps and improve overall health outcomes. 

Bachelor’s in Epidemiology Programs

There are no specific bachelor’s programs for the field of epidemiology. However, a bachelor’s program in a related field can teach the foundational theories, principles, and research methods required for a career as a public health epidemiologist. Earning a bachelor’s degree in a major like nursing, biostatistics, or health sciences can provide a firm foundation in the science of diseases. With a strong introductory knowledge of the field and its function in the wider realm of public health, students will be well positioned to pursue a master’s in public health—and be on their way to the field of epidemiology. 

Curriculum for a Bachelor’s Degree in Epidemiology 

Again, you can’t actually earn a Bachelor’s of Epidemiology. However, some common courses you can take in undergrad to prepare you for a master’s degree include: 

Health Policy in a Global World

This course introduces students to key concepts in health policy formation, implementation, and evaluation on a global scale. Students will learn about the organization, financing, and delivery of global health care services and systems, and examine the role of governmental, private, and non-profit agencies in these processes.

Epidemiology for Global Health 

An overview of epidemiology in a global context, this course will examine the distribution and determinants of health and illness in human populations around the world, while introducing students to the core principles and methods of the field. 

Biostatistics for Public Health

An introduction to the basic concepts, methods, and techniques of analyzing public health data, this course will emphasize—and apply—the uses, interpretations, and limits of statistical analysis. 

Master’s in Epidemiology Programs

A master’s degree in epidemiology can take the form of a Master of Science (MS) in Epidemiology or a Master’s of Public Health (MPH) with a concentration in epidemiology. While the typical curriculum varies by the actual program, both an MS or MPH in epidemiology offer coursework in foundational concepts of epidemiology and public health, as well as a slew of skills-based, policy-based, and research-specific courses. All of these courses can empower students with confidence in their abilities to take a quantitative approach to address public health issues through an epidemiological lens. For many students of public health, a master’s degree in epidemiology is the first step to pursuing a hands-on, high-impact career in the field. 

Curriculum for a Master’s Degree in Epidemiology

Master’s in Epidemiology courses may include the following:

Analytic Methods for Epidemiology

This course will familiarize you with many of the most commonly used analytic methods for epidemiologists, equipping you with the tools you need to measure and assess risk factors of certain health outcomes.

Introduction to Epidemiology & Biostatistics  

Incorporating another key area of public health, this course will introduce the basic principles and methods of both epidemiology and biostatistics. You’ll learn how to apply this knowledge to relevant public health issues and questions—developing the skills to evaluate and analyze them through both lenses. 

Study Designs for Epidemiologist

This course reviews the main study designs and frameworks used to describe, predict and understand the causes of adverse health outcomes in humans across a wide range of geographies and demographics. 

Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

As an introduction to research synthesis, this course will teach the core principle and methods for conducting a systematic and quantitative review. Much of this will be illustrated through relevant case studies of public health issues.

Medical Degrees with Epidemiology Focus

Some individuals who work as epidemiologists hold a dual degree in medicine. This allows for further specialization in clinical research. Dual degrees are options for those seeking to minimize their time in school while maximizing their career potential. Dual degrees include PhD/MD and MPH/MD programs. Individuals with dual degrees may choose to specialize in clinical studies, population education, and/or pursue careers in academia.

Concentration Areas for a Master’s in Epidemiology

As you explore different master’s in epidemiology programs, you’ll find that some programs feature additional concentrations or specializations. A search of the Council on Education for Public Health’s (CEPH) website reveals a variety of concentrations or minor tracks in epidemiology, including applied epidemiology that emphasizes the application of epidemiologic tools and frameworks, environmental epidemiology that explores the ways environmental factors (physical, chemical and biological) affect the health of populations, social epidemiology that focuses on exploring the effects of social-structural factors on health, and more. Some schools also offer programs that combine epidemiology with biostatistics and teach students statistical methods to identify and evaluate risk factors associated with disease outcomes. 

If you have specific career goals, then choosing a program with a corresponding concentration or specialization can give you additional training in this specific area. 

Timeline and Coursework Example of MPH Epidemiology

Each MPH program is structured to help you first learn the basic skills and background information you’ll need to understand upper-level courses and concepts later on. For example, during your first year, you’ll take some broader, introductory-level courses in topics like an introduction to public health, principles of epidemiology and an introduction to research methods. The second year will build on what you’ve learned with more advanced courses, like level-two courses in epidemiology and biostatistics. Depending on the program, you may be able to incorporate elective courses during your first and second years. Elective courses could cover various topics, such as cancer, cardiovascular or nutrition epidemiology.

Many programs require an internship or a capstone project during the second year. You’ll rely on the information you learned during your first year to complete these milestones, and your capstone project may focus on an area of interest you discovered during your earlier coursework. 

Below is a sample 42-credit curriculum of an MPH in Epidemiology program. If your programs require more than 42 credits, you may need to either take extra courses or enroll in more semesters. 

Sample 42-credit curriculum of an MPH in Epidemiology program
Semester 1 Semester 2 Semester 3 Semester 4
Foundations of Public Health  Epidemiology Methods II  Design and Analysis of Surveys Capstone
Epidemiology Methods I Intermediate Epidemiology Categorical Data Analysis Elective or Field Placement 
Health Systems, Policy and Management Computer Applications for Public Health Researchers Epidemiology Methods III  N/A
Design Strategies for Public Health Programs Social Epidemiology Methods & Theory Epidemiologic Data Analysis & Interpretation N/A

MPH Epidemiology Program List

MPH epidemiology degree programs prepare you to help improve public health, but each program takes a slightly different approach. From specialized courses to electives and more, the following programs deliver a comprehensive education. We’ve compiled a list of online MPH epidemiology programs that are accredited by the CEPH.

MPH Epidemiology Program List
School Program and Concentration Credits Required Location
Drexel University MPH in Epidemiology 56 Philadelphia, PA
East Tennessee State University MPH in Epidemiology 43 Johnson City, TN
Eastern Virginia Medical School and Old Dominion University MPH in Epidemiology 43 Norfolk, VA
Emory University MPH in Applied Epidemiology 42 Atlanta, GA
Harvard University MPH in Epidemiology 45 Boston, MA
Indiana University MPH in Epidemiology 45 Indianapolis, IN
Johns Hopkins University MPH in Epidemiological and Biostatistical Methods for Public Health and Clinical Research; MPH in Infectious Diseases 64 Baltimore, MD
North Dakota State University Epidemiology MPH – Food Safety, Epidemiology MPH – Management of Infectious Diseases 42 Fargo, ND
Temple University MPH in Epidemiology 42 Philadelphia, PA
Texas A&M University MPH in Epidemiology 45 College Station, TX
The George Washington University
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Epidemiology and Public Health Research Methods 45 Washington, D.C.
Tufts University School of Medicine
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MPH in Epidemiology-Biostatistics 42 Boston, MA
University of Alabama at Birmingham MPH in Epidemiology 42 Birmingham, AL
University of Arizona MPH in Applied Epidemiology, MPH in Epidemiology 42 Tucson, AZ
University of Nebraska Medical Center MPH in Epidemiology 42 Omaha, NE
University of South Florida MPH in Epidemiology, MPH in Infection Control 42 Tampa, FL
University of Southern California MPH in Biostatistics-Epidemiology 42 Los Angeles, CA
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston MPH in Epidemiology 45 Houston, TX

Program Information Last Updated November 2020

Drexel University 

Program Name: MPH in Epidemiology

The MPH in Epidemiology offered through Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health includes coursework on statistical computing, epidemiology and biostatistics. Students will become expert researchers and public health workers ready to investigate and help prevent urban and community health challenges.

Credit Hours: 56 Credits

Program Options: Online, Traditional 

GRE: Not Required

Location: Philadelphia, PA

East Tennessee State University

Program Names: MPH Epidemiology

East Tennessee State University’s MPH Epidemiology program includes coursework in biostatistics, infectious disease, chronic disease, and research applications. Students can choose six elective courses and will also complete a field experience and a capstone project.

Credit Hours: 43 Credits

Program Options: Online, Traditional 

GRE: Not Required

Location: Johnson City, TN

Eastern Virginia Medical School and Old Dominion University

Program Name: MPH in Epidemiology Track

The EVMS-ODU’s Master of Public Health Epidemiology partner program prepares students to analyze, measure, and describe community health problems and population health. Courses include topics like public health administration and management, research methods, statistical software, and biostatistics. Classes are taught online and on campus in the evenings at EVMS or ODU.

Credit Hours: 43 Credits

Program Options: Online, Traditional

GRE: Not required

Location: Norfolk, VA

Emory University

Program Name: Executive MPH in Applied Epidemiology

Emory University’s EMPH in Applied Epidemiology program, offered by Rollins School of Public Health, prepares students to work in a variety of settings, including federal agencies, research industries and health departments. This program includes courses in statistical programming, statistical methods, epidemiologic methods, applied practice and more. It also offers traditional MPH programs in epidemiology and global epidemiology. 

Credit Hours: 42 Credits

Program Options: Online Hybrid, Traditional 

GRE: Optional for fall 2020 and 2021 admission

Location: Atlanta, GA

Harvard University

Program Name: MPH in Epidemiology

Harvard School of Public Health’s MPH in Epidemiology program combines in-person, online and in-the-field education to prepare students for senior positions in public health, hospital, academic, and private sector settings. Courses include Study Designs for Epidemiologists, Confounding Control: A Component of Casual Interference, Ethical and Regulatory Issues in Human Research, and more.

Credit Hours: 45 Credits,

Program Options: Online, Traditional 

GRE: Required for most applicants

Location: Boston, MA

Indiana University

Program Name: MPH in Epidemiology 

The MPH in Epidemiology at Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health prepares students for a public health career by providing academic studies and real-world training. Coursework focuses on data management, communication and leadership. Electives allow students to explore epidemiology of chronic disease, cancer, genetics and more.

Credit Hours: 45 Credits

Program Options: Online, Traditional

GRE: Required if cumulative undergraduate GPA is below 3.0

Location: Indianapolis, IN

Johns Hopkins University

Program Name: MPH in Epidemiological and Biostatistical Methods for Public Health and Clinical Research, MPH in Infectious Diseases

Both programs are offered by Bloomberg School of Public Health. MPH in Epidemiological and Biostatistical Methods for Public Health and Clinical Research is designed for students with quantitative backgrounds who wish to pursue a rigorous curriculum in epidemiologic study design and statistical data analysis, especially those who have already worked in a particular substantive area and have identified specific research questions. MPH in Infectious Diseases is designed for students who wish to enhance or develop competencies in multiple disciplines to be an effective infectious disease public health practitioner in various settings in the public and private sectors.

Credit Hours: 64 Credits

Program Options: Traditional 

GRE: Waived for the 2021-2022 application cycle

Location: Baltimore, MD

North Dakota State University

Program Name: Epidemiology MPH – Food Safety, Epidemiology MPH – Management of Infectious Diseases

Managing Infectious Diseases and Food Safety are offered within MPH Epidemiology specializations at NDSU. Food Safety provides students with skills in epidemiologic fieldwork, knowledge in microbiology, food safety laws and regulation and food safety systems. Management of Infectious Diseases provides skills in epidemiologic fieldwork, knowledge in disease diagnosis and detection, prophylaxis and vaccinology, prevention of disease spread in hospitals, emergency responses to disease outbreaks and biosecurity threats.

Credit Hours: 42 Credits

Program Options: Traditional, Online 

GRE: Waived for current admissions cycle

Location: Fargo, ND

Temple University

Program Name: MPH in Epidemiology

Temple University’s Master of Public Health in Epidemiology at Temple’s College of Public Health prepares students for careers as public health professionals with both a practice-based and research-based focus. Courses cover an array of topics including chronic disease and behavioral epidemiology, data management, strategies for chronic disease prevention, and current methods in cancer epidemiology.

Credit Hours: 42 Credits

Program Options: Online, Traditional

GRE: Not Required

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Texas A&M University

Program Name: MPH in Epidemiology

The MPH in Epidemiology at School of Public Health program covers the trends, patterns and causes of disease in populations. Graduates will be prepared to develop evidence-based research, policy and practice. Courses focus on foundational public health theories, epidemiology theory and methods, and an applied practicum and capstone project.

Credit Hours: 45 Credits

Program Options: Traditional, Online

GRE: Required

Location: College Station, TX

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George Washington University Master of Public Health

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GRE: Scores not required

Minimum GPA to Apply: Not specified

Credit Hours: 45

Specializations Offered: Global Health, Health Policy, Environmental and Occupational Health, Epidemiology and Public Health Research Methods, Health Communication, Program Planning and Evaluation

Program Options: Online

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Tufts University Master of Public Health

Tufts University School of Medicine, top-ranked for graduate study in public health by U.S. News & World Report in 2019, offers an online Master of Public Health (MPH) program with a built-in concentration in Epidemiology and Biostatistics. The program is CEPH-accredited and features collaborative online classes and a real-world Applied Learning Experience.

GRE: Scores not required

Minimum GPA to Apply: Not specified

Credit Hours: 42

Specializations Offered: Biostatistics and Epidemiology

Program Options: Online

University of Alabama at Birmingham

Program Name: MPH with a Concentration in Epidemiology

The MPH with a concentration in Epidemiology at UAB’s School of Public Health prepares students for public health careers as epidemiologists. It’s also ideal for students planning to pursue doctoral-level study. Coursework focuses on public health programs, policies and leadership, and the epidemiology of chronic and infectious diseases.

Credit Hours: 42 Credits

Program Options: Online, Traditional, Accelerated

GRE: Not Required

Location: Birmingham, AL

University of Arizona

Program Names: online MPH in Applied Epidemiology, on-campus MPH in Epidemiology

Offered by Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, the online MPH in Applied Epidemiology is designed so that half the coursework focuses on the epidemiology specialization. That, combined with the ability to complete an internship, helps prepare students for careers in epidemiology. Coursework includes biostatistics for research, applied infectious disease epidemiology, and introduction to maternal and child health epidemiology. The school also has an on-campus MPH in Epidemiology degree. 

Credit Hours: 42 Credits

Program Options: Online, Traditional

GRE: Waived through Fall 2021

Location: Tucson, AZ

University of Nebraska Medical Center 

Program Names: MPH in Epidemiology

The MPH in Epidemiology is offered by UNMC’s College of Public Health and ideal for students who work in public health or who want to move into the field. Students will learn how to conceptualize problems, design studies, collect and analyze data, and interpret the results to improve public health. Courses focus on emergency preparedness, social epidemiology, and environmental epidemiology. 

Credit Hours: 42 Credits

Program Options: Online, Traditional

GRE: Waived for Spring 2021 applicants

Location: Omaha, NE

University of South Florida

Program Name: MPH in Epidemiology, MPH in Infection Control

The USF College of Public Health’s online and on-campus MPH in Epidemiology programs teach students to evaluate research and create strategies to help prevent disease and other health issues. Courses focus on categorical data analysis, tropical diseases, public health immunology and computer applications for public health researchers. This school also offers an online MPH Infection Control program that provides specialized and individualized training in infection control and prevention, and expands students’ knowledge in practices and procedures in healthcare settings. 

Credit Hours: 42 Credits

Program Options: Online, Traditional

GRE: Required

Location: Tampa, FL

University of Southern California

Program Name: MPH Biostatistics-Epidemiology

With a focus on both the study of disease and the research and analysis that goes into its control, the MPH Biostatistics-Epidemiology program at USC’s Keck School of Medicine prepares students to help improve public health. Coursework focuses on statistical programming, cancer research, genetics, bioinformatics and more.

Credit Hours: 42 Credits

Program Options: Online, Traditional

GRE: Required

Location: Los Angeles, CA

University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

Program Name: MPH in Epidemiology

The University of Texas Health Science Center’s MPH in Epidemiology provides MPH students with specific epidemiology skills and knowledge. Students will learn to process scientific data and add value to scientific research studies. The curriculum covers biostatistics in public health, qualitative research and health promotion.

Credit Hours: 45 Credits

Program Options: Online, Traditional

GRE: Required

Location: Houston, TX

Doctorate in Epidemiology Programs

A doctorate, or PhD in Epidemiology program, provides public health professionals specializing in epidemiology with the highest level of education and degree standing possible. Some doctoral students go on into the field as independent, innovative, and leading research scientists in the field of epidemiology. Others with a PhD in epidemiology may choose to go into academia. The curriculum for a PhD in Epidemiology will include various advanced courses that cover study design, research and analytical methods, and data, trial, and testing skills.

Curriculum for a Doctorate Degree in Epidemiology

PhD in Epidemiology courses may include the following:

Advanced Epidemiology 

This course will build upon students’ epidemiological foundations from prior years of study, teaching them to analyze and interpret epidemiologic studies using advanced methods. In addition, students learn to understand, analyze, and explain the theoretical underpinnings of both new and traditional epidemiological study designs.

Novel Analytical Methods for Epidemiology

Broadening well beyond the basics of epidemiological analytics, this course will teach the most advanced and novel analytical techniques and methods in the field. Students will gain expertise in data collection, data analysis, statistical analysis, and summarization.

Epidemiology Careers and Industries

Career options for those with degrees in epidemiology are finite—mainly because of the precise nature of the field. A bachelor’s degree in an epidemiological subject may allow you to work as a biostatistician, social scientist, medical administrative assistant, research assistant, or another similar career. 

Those with a master’s degree in epidemiology will qualify for a wider selection of roles within the field. They may pursue roles in epidemiology, clinical research, or data analysis—working in government, hospital, laboratory, or university settings. The majority of government jobs for epidemiologists are at the state and local levels. In hospitals, laboratories, and university settings, epidemiologists tend to work as medical scientists, conducting infection surveillance and prevention.

Epidemiologist is still one of the higher paying public health careers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for epidemiologists in 2019 was $70,990. Overall, epidemiologists are likely to have good job prospects. The employment of epidemiologists is projected to grow 5% from 2018 to 2028, which is as fast as the average for all occupations.

What Can You do with an Epidemiology Degree?

Careers in epidemiology and adjacent fields with the similar educational requirements include:

Epidemiologist

The most straightforward application of your epidemiology degree is to enter a career as an epidemiologist. As described above, this is a growing and lucrative occupation, and you will have the opportunity to work in a variety of exciting roles.

Statisticians

Statisticians can work in government, hospital, pharmaceutical, or even non-profit settings, developing studies that will be presented in a variety of applications. A fast-growing field, the median annual pay for statisticians in 2019 was $91,160.

Community Health Workers

Community health workers assist communities and individuals in adopting healthy behaviors through outreach, screening, and data collection. Community health workers are in high demand, with a faster-than-average projected job growth of 11% from 2018 to 2028.

Who Should Consider an Epidemiology Degree?

Epidemiology may be a good fit for someone with an interest in interpersonal relations, data analysis, and research. While much of an epidemiologist’s work is done at computers analyzing and manipulating data, a fair amount of work involves surveying and educating people. Epidemiologists are often responsible for taking complex health and medical data and relaying that information to individuals in policy or to the general public.

Skills needed for a career in epidemiology include: critical thinking, data analysis, understanding of statistical, medical, and biological concepts, research analysis, and proficiency with statistical software. Epidemiologists should also have strong communication and teaching skills.

Epidemiology Organizations to Know

Some epidemiology organizations include:

Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA)

The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) is a professional society for individuals around the world with a self-described “expertise and passion in healthcare epidemiology, infection prevention, and antimicrobial stewardship.” SHEA partners with public health professionals and policy makers across a wide range of fields to achieve better healthcare outcomes. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the nation’s leading health protection agency, conducting critical scientific research and providing the necessary information to populations to protect the U.S. against health threats—both at home and abroad. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Epidemiology Degrees

Etiology vs Epidemiology – What are the differences?

While epidemiology can be considered the foundational study of public health, etiology refers to a more specific area of the field. Etiology hones in on the causation of a disease or condition—referring to the study of the source and origins of the pathology or illness itself—rather than its large-scale implications.

MPH in Epidemiology vs MS in Epidemiology

An MPH in Epidemiology will introduce the full spectrum of public health, including related fields like biostatistics, environmental health sciences, and health policy. This degree can prepare someone looking to influence public policy. Alternately, an MS in Epidemiology focuses on epidemiological science—teaching specific analytical skills and research methods students can apply directly to research. This degree may be the right fit if you are interested in the academic side of epidemiology.

Is an Epidemiology Degree Worth it?

An epidemiology degree can prepare students for a wide variety of career paths in the public health, medical sciences, and health research fields. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in epidemiology or public health, an advanced degree in epidemiology can help expand your options. It can qualify you for more roles and higher compensation—and hopefully set you on a path of success and fulfilment.

Information last updated June 2020

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