Master’s in Epidemiology

Advanced Education in Understanding & Impacting Public Health

Epidemiology has moved into the spotlight during the past few years, spurred by major events like the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the measles outbreak linked to Disneyland visitors, both in 2014. The field of epidemiology focuses on health problems in both broad and specific population groups. This diverse and varied practice is concerned with subjects ranging from infection control to disease prevention, health resource allocation to health policy creation.

Pursuing a career in the field requires education beyond the baccalaureate. The following guide provides a comprehensive overview of graduate education in epidemiology, including the various types of master’s degrees, specific concentrations and curriculum, and an interview with a professional epidemiologist.

Best Epidemiology Master’s Programs of 2016

Those focusing on earning an advanced degree in epidemiology have many programs from which to choose, and making an informed decision can seem like a monumental task. By analyzing data such as degree diversity and volume, support services and financial aid availability, we’ve identified some of the top master’s in epidemiology programs available to students today. See which schools and their programs lead the pack in 2016.

For a detailed look at the methodology for this ranking, please visit our methodology page.

Score:

97.16

Academic/Career Counseling:

yes

Placement services for completers:

yes

State:

Oklahoma

Founded in 1968, the school's Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology made the groundbreaking decision to combine the two disciplines in one department, making it the first university to do so. The result has been robust educational opportunities for master's degree students who want to get the theoretical knowledge and real-world training they need to address diseases in a community. In addition, the school has several research centers looking at community diseases, such as the American Indian Diabetes Prevention Center, the Center for Biosecurity Research and the Southwest Preparedness and Emergency Response Learning Center.

Students in the school's master's degree programs must complete at least 40 hours of coursework, demonstrate proficiency in epidemiological computer programs and complete a thesis and comprehensive examination.

Score:

95.66

Academic/Career Counseling:

yes

Placement services for completers:

yes

State:

Colorado

The Department of Epidemiology is actively involved in advancing the profession by building partnerships with several facilities such as Kaiser Permanente, National Jewish Health, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Denver Health. In addition, the school has received millions of dollars of research funding and professors have presented their scholarly work to professionals at the local, state and national level.

And this dedication to scholarship is also evident in the school's master's degrees. Students in these programs get an in-depth look at how epidemiological research is conducted and the ramifications it has for the way health practitioners treat their patients.

Score:

95.07

Academic/Career Counseling:

yes

Placement services for completers:

yes

State:

Iowa

The epidemiology department at the school has several master's degree options, including combined undergraduate/graduate degrees. These programs have an emphasis on training research scientists, and other health professionals, with the skills needed to conduct studies in a clinical and community setting. In addition, the program serves as a training ground for those who want to move on to earn a doctoral level degree.

The master's degree programs cover topics such as how to formulate a research hypothesis, how to use computers when collecting and analyzing data, how to conduct a preventative health study and how to use epidemiological findings to influence public health policy.

Score:

95.00

Academic/Career Counseling:

yes

Placement services for completers:

yes

State:

North Carolina

The department of epidemiology is not only interested in researching diseases that affect humans at UNC Chapel Hill; students interested in studying animal diseases also have the opportunity to learn how to conduct this type of innovative research. Geared toward those who already have training working with animals, the veterinary concentration teaches students how to track outbreaks among animals, understand the trade policies related to livestock, control zoonotic pathogens and ensure that animals' food is secure.

The program's offerings are equally strong for those who want to study patients with two legs, as they get extensive training in epidemiological research methods, logic and probability, data analysis and clinical trials.

Score:

94.75

Academic/Career Counseling:

yes

Placement services for completers:

yes

State:

Virginia

This master's degree program focuses on both biostatistics and epidemiology as applied in research concerning public health issues. The degree requires 36 credits, with elective courses chosen from topics such as medical geography and international research ethics. In addition, a graduate certificate program gives students advanced knowledge about how to track and prevent diseases. Beyond the required core courses, students in this program can take elective classes in areas such as chronic diseases. The certificate requires 18 credits of coursework earned with a minimum GPA of 3.0, and students are only allowed a grade of C in one class.

Score:

94.71

Academic/Career Counseling:

yes

Placement services for completers:

yes

State:

Tennessee

This schools master's degree program, which requires that students complete 36 credits, focuses primarily on interdisciplinary translational research and clinical investigation. To that end, students receive training in topics such as health behavior, the economics of healthcare and health promotion.

In order to ensure that students keep abreast of the latest developments in the field, the program recently added some new course offerings, covering topics such as biostatistics, infectious diseases, community-based participatory research and informatics. In addition to coursework, students in this program are required to complete either a master's thesis or project. They may also have the opportunity to participate in an independent study.

Score:

94.63

Academic/Career Counseling:

yes

Placement services for completers:

yes

State:

New York

The Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health is dedicated to creating a community of faculty and students whose research interests are as diverse as their backgrounds - a philosophy that the school believes will foster the innovation of ideas and research methods to help move the field forward. Students can earn two master's degrees in epidemiology at the school. Students in one program must complete 33 credit hours and a thesis, while students in the other are required to finish 47 hours, a project and training in the field. Available course subjects include alcoholism, cardiovascular disease, research methodologies and biostatistics.

Score:

94.45

Academic/Career Counseling:

yes

Placement services for completers:

yes

State:

Kentucky

Master's degree students who want to study cancer may particularly be interested in the school's Department of Epidemiology and Population Health. Thanks to a community partnership with the James Graham Brown Cancer Center, the program is involved in initiatives to prevent the disease and is currently looking at topics such as the human papilloma virus, nicotine and cervical cancer prevention.

The master's degree at the school gives students an understanding of how epidemiological research is conducted, paying special attention to disease surveillance methods, population-based sampling, survival analysis and the criteria for finding causalities. This program requires that students complete coursework and a thesis.

Score:

94.38

Academic/Career Counseling:

yes

Placement services for completers:

yes

State:

California

Students who attend the School of Public Health's Epidemiology Division can take advantage of its state-of-the-art computer equipment, as well as the opportunity to work with scientists at institutions close to the school, such as the California Department of Public Health, the California Birth Defects Monitoring Program and the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research.

The department has three programs at the master's level, two of which are 2-year programs that prepare students to pursue job opportunities in the industry after graduation, or to go on to a doctoral program. The other master's degree is a 1-year program designed for medical professionals who would like to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to pursue research or teaching.

Score:

94.38

Academic/Career Counseling:

yes

Placement services for completers:

yes

State:

California

The Graduate Group in Epidemiology (GGE) provides a rigorous training in the principles of the field, particularly those related to quantitative research methods. In order to foster an environment that encourages innovative research, the school integrates several approaches and lets students study a wide range of research interests, such as wildlife, infectious diseases, social and behavioral studies, health economics and vector-borne diseases.

The master's degree program gives students the choice to complete a thesis based on original research or a comprehensive examination in addition to their coursework. Class topics that students can choose from include how to conduct research surveys, samples and health research, regression analysis, injury epidemiology and cancer.

Score:

94.38

Academic/Career Counseling:

yes

Placement services for completers:

yes

State:

California

The Department of Epidemiology is actively involved in industry research and currently has several research programs in progress that address a number of topics, including neurodegeneration, diabetes, cancer, infectious diseases and occupational epidemiology. In addition, the school has several training programs, such as the NCI-Cancer Training Program, the UCLA/Fogarty International HIV/AIDS Training Program and the Burroughs-Wellcome Fund Inter-school Training Program in Metabolic Diseases.

The school has three master's level programs in epidemiology, including one that is geared toward clinical scholars. This degree, which can be completed in one year, helps healthcare professionals learn more about new systems of patient care, the relationship between epidemiology and policy and healthcare registration.

Score:

94.38

Academic/Career Counseling:

yes

Placement services for completers:

yes

State:

California

Since 1956, the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics has promoted the importance of studying infectious diseases. When the program first began, the university's doctors were looking at diseases in their own backyard, studying how certain conditions were affecting Californians during that time and looking at how they could be contained.

The school has leveraged its long history to prepare students for the realities of working in epidemiology. The department offers a master's degree program at heavily focuses on the research portion of the field, allowing students to make the connection between what goes on in the lab and how it affects patient treatment in the real world.

Score:

94.31

Academic/Career Counseling:

yes

Placement services for completers:

yes

State:

South Carolina

Students enrolled in this master's degree get preparation to work with microbiologists, biostatisticians, health administrators, environmental health experts and physicians. The program not only emphasizes the research methodology necessary to track illnesses in a population, but also the ethical concerns that arise during the course of this type of work.

Coursework in the master's program includes subjects such as pathobiology, public health data management, environmental health sciences, clinical effectiveness, infectious diseases, surveillance systems, and sexually transmitted diseases. Students are also required to complete a practicum, as well as progression and comprehensive examinations, in order to graduate.

Score:

94.30

Academic/Career Counseling:

yes

Placement services for completers:

yes

State:

Maryland

With over 100 faculty members in the department, epidemiology students have access to experts with a wide range of experience in the field and research interests. In fact, the department has received $34 million in funding to conduct studies on the causes of diseases, how diseases are spread and how they can be controlled and prevented.

The master's degree program gives students the opportunity to benefit from the knowledge and expertise of the faculty through coursework, as well as research opportunities. Students earning a degree at the school can focus on clinical research, human genetics or preventive medicine.

Score:

94.18

Academic/Career Counseling:

yes

Placement services for completers:

yes

State:

Ohio

The Division of Epidemiology, which is part of the school's Department of Environmental Health has a faculty dedicated to research that advances the knowledge base in the field. Students who enroll in the master's program will have access to professors currently involved in research that addresses the health ramifications of being exposed to factors such as illicit drugs, work-related ergonomic disorders, organic pollutants, lead, mercury and arsenic.

With a staff so heavily involved in research, it's not surprising that the master's degree program focuses on training students to understand different facets of epidemiological study, including the use of human subjects, disease surveillance, human population studies and data analysis.

Score:

94.06

Academic/Career Counseling:

yes

Placement services for completers:

yes

State:

Pennsylvania

The Department of Public Health works in concert with the private sector, community health practitioners, researchers in the field and other educators in order to understand the spread of diseases and work toward solutions for containment and elimination.

Building on the experience and vision of the department, the master's degree program focuses on two vital areas: descriptive and analytic epidemiology. As a result, students get a broad view of the field, with information about both conducting surveillance on health outbreaks and forming hypotheses about the risk factors causing the conditions. Students in this program can study subjects such as tracking diseases in children, HIV and AIDS research, mental health and environmental epidemiology.

Score:

93.96

Academic/Career Counseling:

yes

Placement services for completers:

yes

State:

Washington

The university's department of epidemiology is dedicated to training the future professionals in the field through rigorous graduate degree programs. In addition, the school stresses the importance of research, as well as providing service to the federal, state and local health communities.

The school has two master's degree programs that provide extensive training in the theories and methods of the epidemiology profession. Upon completion of the degree programs, students can expect to be able to conduct evidence-based research and solve health problems through studying diseases, demonstrate high professional and ethical standards when working on public health cases, and understand the quantitative and qualitative research methods necessary to craft and execute public health studies.

Score:

93.88

Academic/Career Counseling:

yes

Placement services for completers:

yes

State:

Michigan

The epidemiology master's program at Michigan State has been teaching students since 1997. However, in order to enhance their educational offerings, the department also added biostatistics to its focus; as a result, the master's degree program provides students with both the biostatistics skills and epidemiologic knowledge to work in the disease control, community health and health planning areas of the field. The school also has a diverse list of research interests, including zoonotic diseases, environmental exposures, breast cancer, survival analysis and computational genomics.

This program, which takes two to six years to complete, requires that students finish 40 hours of coursework including epidemiology, biostatistics, SAS programming and elective courses.

Score:

93.87

Academic/Career Counseling:

yes

Placement services for completers:

yes

State:

Minnesota

The Division of Epidemiology and Community Health is staffed with faculty members who have extensive experience in the epidemiology field. As a result, students enrolled in the master's degree program get the opportunity to work with researchers on numerous projects, such as research related to cancer, maternity, infectious diseases, behavioral interventions and community-based health. Armed with this experience, as well as robust coursework, students leave the program prepared to track diseases on an individual patient and community level.

Students have the opportunity to earn joint degrees from the program. For example, those who want to study medicine or law can combine their master's studies with a doctorate in the other discipline.

Score:

93.47

Academic/Career Counseling:

yes

Placement services for completers:

yes

State:

Pennsylvania

Students in this program can get the scientific foundation they need to conduct epidemiological research by studying the relationship between risk factors and public health outcomes. Some skills students can expect to graduate possessing include the ability to use software to conduct statistical analyses, review research and test its validity, apply best practices to data analysis and understand the different methodologies used to conduct epidemiological research.

Students in this program are required to take core courses that cover data management, clinical trials, multivariate biostatistics and applied biostatistics. In addition, students can take five credits of electives to complete their degree.

Overview of the Degree

There are multiple graduate education paths to becoming an epidemiologist, including the Master of Science, Master of Public Health and Master of Science in Public Health. It can be a challenge to distinguish between each option and determine which universities offer quality programs.

As the master’s degree is the primary education requirement for a career in epidemiology, prospective students should examine a myriad of factors, such as tuition, curriculum, flexibility and program length. We have analyzed the various master’s in epidemiology programs in the U.S. and generated a list of the universities offering the best value, quality and career preparation opportunities.

The master’s in epidemiology has become a popular degree option. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that between 2010 and 2013, the number of master’s degrees conferred in epidemiology increased by 50% nationally.

Year Average Total Costof Attendance
2011 772
2012 883
2013 1,067

The following sections delve into the various options, coursework, specialized areas of study and degree requirements of the master’s in epidemiology.

ROI of a Master’s in Epidemiology

Earning a master’s in epidemiology is a major undertaking. Prospective students should understand the costs and return on investment of completing a program of study in the field. Below are two things students should consider before enrolling.

Opportunity Cost

Students who choose to pursue an MS in Epidemiology may have to make additional sacrifices of time and financial resources. Studying for the degree may require taking a break from work or other major time commitments, and could impact time spent with family.

Tuition and Fees

The cost of a graduate degree varies widely by program and institution. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the average in-state tuition and fees for epidemiology graduates was $22,511 in 2013.

Ultimately, the real return of master’s programs lies in earning and employment potential. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, individuals with a master’s degree earn $400,000 more than those with only a bachelor’s degree. In 2013, data reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed that epidemiologists earned a national median salary of $66,330, which is a solid figure compared to similar occupations in health care and public health. Salaries ranged from approximately $51,510 for entry-level to upwards of $111,080 for top earners in the field.

In the job market, overall growth projections were 10 percent nationally between 2012 and 2022, per the BLS. This is a relatively small occupational field, employing just slightly more than 5,300 people across the country. The largest job markets are in California, Texas, Massachusetts, Washington and Maryland, with state and local government departments and agencies among the biggest employers. At the state level, Florida, Kentucky and Texas are projected to see the biggest employment gains in epidemiology between 2012 and 2022. Below is a list of the top 10 states in terms of job growth projections for epidemiologists during that time period:

Rank State Job Growth
1 Florida 32.4%
2 Kentucky 30.0%
3 Texas 17.8%
4 Washington 17.0%
5 North Carolina 16.9%
6 Nevada 16.0%
7 Montana 15.4%
8 Massachusetts 15.0%
9 Indiana 11.2%
10 Oklahoma 10.8%

Coursework & Concentrations

Epidemiologists apply their expertise in the interdisciplinary fields of environmental, social, biological and behavioral sciences. The master’s in epidemiology builds on the foundational curriculum of undergraduate degree programs, whether in biology, mathematics, chemistry or another area of study.

At the graduate level, students learn not only about the relationship of disease to human populations, but also how to study that relationship. Through conceptual and application-based scientific research, students develop an understanding of the disease risk factors and how to create appropriate control and preventative measures.

The master’s program of study emphasizes research training, as well extensive coursework in areas such as biochemistry, biostatistics, immunology, infectious and chronic diseases, physiology, public health, policy, health administration and environmental health. Below, prospective students can find out more about the different types of master’s degrees, the type of curriculum they cover and how they position graduates for various career opportunities.

Types of Master’s Programs

The three most common master’s degrees include the Master of Science in Epidemiology, Master of Public Health and the Master of Science in Public Health. Although their titles may sound similar, these primary degree options offer distinct forms of training in the practice. Below is an overview of each degree, the type of training offered, and associated career paths.

Master of Science in Epidemiology

The Master of Science (MS) is a research-based program of study within the broad epidemiology field. This degree program prepares students for research careers in both the public and private sector, such as health maintenance organizations, research facilities, local health departments or state health agencies. Students become well-versed in all areas of the field, including the core methodologies and subject areas of the practice. Curriculum is general in nature, covering areas such as chronic disease epidemiology, biostatistics, methods of epidemiology, infection diseases epidemiology and more.

Students will gain the ability to develop scientific hypothesis and design an appropriate epidemiologic study. They will also build expertise of methodological issues. After using statistical software to collect and analyze epidemiologic data sets using statistical software, students will produce research reports for both the public and scientific journals.

Executive Master of Science in Epidemiology

The Executive degree option mirrors the curriculum of the traditional Master of Science in Epidemiology program, but is offered in a more flexible format for working professionals. Depending on the program, students may meet on weekends or only once per month. However, the Executive degree still includes in-depth study in areas such as chronic diseases, social epidemiology, infectious diseases and more. Completion time frames are generally shorter than traditional MS programs, typically within 20 to 22 months of coursework.

Master of Public Health (Concentration in Epidemiology)

Through these programs, students develop a foundational knowledge of epidemiology that can be applied to public health issues. This includes conducting population health studies and applying that research to improve the health of local communities, urban centers and other environments. The MPH prepares students for future studies in doctoral programs or for careers in epidemiology as researchers, educators and public health practitioners.

Graduates will be capable of identifying, reviewing and analyzing public health trends, as well as reviewing social, behavioral, environmental and biological risk factors. They will also be prepared to create and establish appropriate studies, synthesize results for public health policy creation, and craft intervention and prevention measures for diseases or other public health issues.

Master of Science in Public Health (Concentration in Epidemiology)

The Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH) can be considered a degree that exists at the intersection of the MPH and MS. It is an academic research degree that includes curriculum in the core disciplines of public health, with an additional focus on developing quantitative and research skills. Like the MPH, students receive a broad education in areas such as biostatistics, environmental health, public health administration and health behaviors. Students can concentrate their epidemiology studies through electives coursework. Graduates with MSPH degrees can either continue into doctoral programs or pursue research-based careers in a variety of public and private institutions.

Concentrations & Careers

The master’s in epidemiology is an extremely flexible, highly customizable graduate degree. Students may either 1) select from an available concentration specific to that degree, such as health policy, or 2) create a specialized learning pathway in either physiology/disease (such as cancer or neuroepidemiology) or methodology (such as social, nutritional, clinical or environmental).

For the Master of Public Health, epidemiology itself is a concentration area of study. Degree requirements include a wide selection of core courses in areas such as principles of epidemiology, epidemiologic study design, foundations of statistical methods, biostatistics, health risk analysis and more. Below are some example concentrations and specialized areas of study in epidemiology.

Public Health Policy

This concentration includes specific training into public health issues and trends related to epidemiology. Students in this concentration prepare for careers in public health settings, where they may work in research, disease identification and prevention, policy creation and more. Topics of study may include ethics in public health, issues in occupational health, principles of health services management, principles of social and behavioral science, and more.

Careers in Master of Science in Epidemiology

Career 1: Public Health Analyst

Career 2: Public Health Epidemiologist

Infectious Diseases

In this area of study, students are introduced to infectious disease epidemiology, researching areas such as drug-resistant infections, HIV/AIDS and malaria. Students focus on the issues behind both the transmission and biology of infectious diseases. They develop skill sets in mathematical modeling, pathogen genomics and class epidemiological methods, preparing them to pursue research careers in the field.

Careers in Infectious Diseases

Career 1: Infection Preventionist

Career 2: Infection Control Epidemiologist

Neuroepidemiology

Through coursework in this area, students are prepared to pursue careers in epidemiologic research on neurologic disorders. Subject areas may include principles of neuroempidemology, disease etiology, epidemiological methods, clinical trial design, statistical analysis and more.

Careers in Neuroepidemiology

Career 1: Research Epidemiologist

Career 2: State Epidemiologist

Cancer Epidemiology

Students can create a path of courses to concentrate their studies in cancer epidemiology, which focuses on the causes and risk factors of cancer. Instructional topic areas may include cancer biology, epidemiologic studies of cancer etiology, exposure measurement, genetic epidemiology and more.

Careers in Cancer Epidemiology

Career 1: Vaccine Researcher

Career 2: Chronic Disease Epidemiologist

Social Epidemiology

An interdisciplinary area of practice, social epidemiology brings together multiple areas of the social sciences, including sociology, anthropology, and geography with the goal of identifying and analyzing health patterns in different populations. Class topics may include social determinants of health, behavioral risk factors, psychosocial pathways, social ecological interventions and more.

Careers in Social Epidemiology

Career 1: Health Education Specialist

Career 2: Health Services Supervisor

Environmental Epidemiology

This specialized topic researches the diseases and risks associated with environmental, industrial and occupational exposures in general populations. Students explore topics such as air pollution, occupational hazards, emergency preparedness, bioterrorism and more.

Careers in Environmental Epidemiology

Career 1: Occupational Epidemiologist

Career 2: Disease Ecologist

Career 3: Emergency Management Specialist

Specific Coursework

Master’s in epidemiology curricula is interdisciplinary, combining subjects such as public policy, environmental health, behavioral sciences and statistics into a focused educational track. Below is an example list of epidemiology courses from master’s programs in each of the major degree areas (Master of Science, Master of Public Health and Master of Science in Public Health). It provides an overview of subject concentrations and what students may learn in each specific program.

ENVIRONMENTAL AND OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH

  • Environmental Hazard Assessment

    In this course, students learn about various types of biological, physical and chemical hazards in the workplace and general environment. Combining both theory- and application-based instruction, students will become familiar with identifying and evaluating hazards.

  • Environmental Health

    This class serves as a primer for the study of environmental epidemiologic methods. Students will learn about assessing and managing environmental exposures, ranging from bioterrorism to safe drinking water.

EPIDEMIOLOGY

  • Public Health and Epidemiology

    This class emphasizes the epidemiologic concepts within public health, focusing on epidemiologic procedures for identifying and controlling disease, infections and other conditions that impact the human population.

  • Epidemiology of Aging

    In this course, students gain insight into age-related diseases and disorders, focusing on the methodologies of epidemiological studies of elderly populations. Subjects include risk factors, disease prevalence and health consequences in elderly adults.

  • Infectious Disease Epidemiology

    This class serves as an introduction to the various models — biological, mathematical and epidemiological — required to conduct population-based analysis of infectious diseases. Students review real-world infectious disease outbreaks as well as clinical practice in the field.

  • Clinical Epidemiology

    This course covers a variety of concepts and methods related to clinical epidemiology, including diagnostic testing analysis, decision analysis, assessment of outcomes and more.

BIOSTATISTICS

  • Biostatistics Theory

    For students in the Master of Public Health concentration, this course introduces the theory of biostatistics, theoretical foundations of the field, probability and more.

  • Introduction to Statistics for Public Health

    Students get an introduction to statistics as related to the field of public health. Topics include probability, random variables, regression and variance analysis.

POLICY & LAW

  • Health Law and Policy

    This course broadly discusses U.S. health law and policy, covering subjects such as the relationship between the physician and patient, privacy, public health law, medical ethics and more.

  • Public Policy and Advocacy

    This course covers the basics of the relationship between health care at large and public health, delving into issues of who creates and implements public policy. Students will also study the government’s role and review a range of health policy issues.

  • Biotechnological Law and Policy

    An interdisciplinary course of study, this class examines the interconnected policy, legal and ethical issues of the biotechnology industry. Topics of study may include corporate organization, bioinformatics, tort liability and more.

Selecting a Master’s Degree: What to Consider

With the diversity of degree types and concentration areas, it may be challenging to identify the right educational path. When selecting a master’s in epidemiology, students should consider the purpose of the degree. Will it be used as a starting point for continued studies in a doctoral or MD program? Or will it be a professional degree that transitions into a career after graduation? The answer can help narrow down the types of programs in a student’s area of interest.

In addition to the purpose of the degree, there are three other factors that should be considered: faculty, field placements and areas of interest.

1.
Faculty

The faculty members of a graduate degree program are critical to a student’s academic success and training. Students should review the instructors’ educational and professional backgrounds, and seek out faculty members who have research experience in their area of interest.

2.
Field Placement

The field placement is a student’s opportunity to translate their academic training into real-world experience in community health or clinical settings. Students should ask about the field placement process and get an understanding of the requirements for completion. It is also important to review potential site placement opportunities. Does the university have partnerships with the state department of health, local health service administrations, hospitals or other facilities?

3.
Areas of Interest

Not all programs offer the same breadth of curriculum or concentration options. Students should review the formal concentrations and elective courses available. If the program doesn’t offer a particular concentration, such as cancer epidemiology, the department may still offer a solid list of courses and researchers to create a specialized training path.

Timeline of the Master’s in Epidemiology

Students have the opportunity to customize their program of study through electives and research activities based on their future professional practice interests. The outline below is for a hypothetical 45-credit Master of Epidemiology program, which requires both a field practicum and thesis.

First Year of Study: Core Curriculum & Field Practicum

  • FALL
  • Principles and Methods of Epidemiology
  • Principles of Public Health
  • Environmental Health & Safety
  • Introduction to Biostatistics
  • SPRING
  • *Work with Faculty Advisor on Field Placement
  • Principles in Infectious Disease Epidemiology
  • Epidemiological Methods
  • Applied Biostatistics
  • Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology
  • SUMMER
  • *Field Placement

Year 2: Complete Coursework & Write Master’s Thesis

  • FALL
  • Social Epidemiology
  • Data Management and Analysis
  • Chronic Disease Epidemiology
  • Epidemiology Research Methods
  • SPRING
  • *Take Comprehensive Examinations
  • *Present and Defend Thesis
  • Mapping Public Health Data

Student Profiles

Recent College Graduate

Allison Y. is a recent graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics degree who spent her junior year in Southeast Asia. In witnessing the range of public health issues facing developing countries, she realized that she wanted to pursue a career in the field. A Master of Science in Epidemiology provides the theoretical and application-based knowledge Allison needs to work in the field of international public health.

Nurse

Paul T. is an Advanced Nurse Practitioner (APN) with 12 years of experience working in low-income urban communities. He wants to make a difference in various health areas in his local community, working in primary prevention and education. By customizing a course of study in an MPH program, Paul develop a specialized skill set that could position him to lead a community health agency or non-profit.

Interview with an Epidemiologist

We talked with Samantha Sanders, an epidemiologist with the Minnesota Department of Health, to get her insights on how education shaped her career prospects.

What’s your current role and position?

I am currently an Applied Epidemiology Fellow with the CDC and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE). It is a 2-year fellowship program that is closely modeled after the Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer program (EISO program). I am stationed at the Minnesota Department of Health within the Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention and Control Division. As a Fellow, I have assigned projects, such as surveillance system evaluations and design and data management and analyses. These are in addition to my daily responsibilities of tracking and interviewing case-patients with zoonotic pathogens, leading outbreak investigations, answering rabies exposure questions and planning outreach opportunities with various occupational risk groups.

Could you briefly tell me about your career path? How did you end up in the field and why did you choose epidemiology?

As an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan, I had pretty much on medical school, until I decided to take a public health course my junior year. It really changed the way that I looked at health, especially disease surveillance and prevention. Once I had decided to pursue public health instead of clinical medicine, epidemiology was a no-brainer for me. I have always loved math, and epidemiology can be very statistics-heavy.

As far as my career, I wasn’t sure exactly what field I wanted to pursue within epidemiology. I decided to take some time off between undergraduate and graduate school to explore different areas so that I could make a much more informed decision. During my two years off, I had jobs in both pharmaceuticals and maternal and child research. Both of these positions really taught me a lot about epidemiology (before I even started my program!), and it made me really excited to go back to school. I wanted to learn how to analyze and interpret the data that I had been collecting!

Where did you get your degree(s) and why did you choose that/those program(s)?

I received my MPH in epidemiology from the University of Minnesota. I had been accepted to several schools of public health, and what really persuaded me to pursue my graduation education at UMN was their close relationship with the Minnesota Department of Health. MDH has a reputation as one of the best state health departments in the country, and they hire MPH students (mainly in the epidemiology and environmental health programs) for many of their disease areas. I wanted to have the option of applying my newly acquired skills from my program in the real world. Additionally, the Twin Cities area has many public health positions available for students and new graduates, including epidemiologists at the city, local and state levels; infection control practitioners; data analysts for health care and insurance companies; research coordinators and much more. The MPH program itself seemed very rigorous, with many required methodological courses, so I knew it would prepare me well for my future career.

Can you describe your areas of research and what projects stand out to you personally?

My professional interests are vaccine preventable diseases, antibiotic resistance, health care acquired infections and occupational health. As of late, my work has focused heavily on zoonotic diseases and occupational health. Recently, I was tasked with improving the toxoplasmosis surveillance system in Minnesota. It involved many hours of meetings, numerous discussions about the case definition, changes in case report forms, and outreach to clinicians and local public health — but I believe that we are finally in a place where good quality data is being reported to us. It really makes all the difference in surveillance and outreach to at-risk groups. One of my other favorite projects has been the “Rabies Training for Law Enforcement” program, which is more about education and outreach. We have training courses that are designed specifically to teach law enforcement about how to handle animal bites and potential rabies exposure situations while on duty. This program has been a great way to collaborate with new community partners to further our public health agenda.

Do you have any advice for prospective students considering a career in epidemiology?

An MPH in epidemiology is a very versatile degree, with many different opportunities and areas. It’s just as important to figure out what you DON’T want to do as well. I’m really glad that I decided to take several years off so I could figure out that I didn’t want to remain in the maternal and child health research area for the rest of the my career. I’d also advocate for prospective students to take some off between degrees. It’s really easy to get burnt out, and most epidemiology programs are rigorous and time-intensive. A mathematics or science undergraduate degree isn’t 100% necessary, but prospective students should definitely consider taking a basic statistics class, as it will make the first semester much easier! My last piece of advice would be to reach out to current students or graduates of the program that you’re considering. They can tell you about the best classes, projects, job opportunities and the social aspects of that school. Make an informed decision!

School Spotlights: Master’s in Epidemiology Programs

University of Minnesota

Offered through the university’s School of Public Health, the Master of Public Health in Epidemiology at the University of Minnesota is a research-based program that prepares graduates to pursue careers at both the community and individual level. The 48-credit-hour curriculum is divided between 38 credit hours of required coursework and 10 hours of electives. Students may select from one of two interdisciplinary concentrations (Health Disparities or Public Health Policy), as well as from a list of 30 graduate-level minors.

The degree can be completed in approximately two years of full-time study and includes coursework in areas such as Cancer Epidemiology, Epidemiology Methods, Epidemiology and Control of Infectious Diseases, Nutritional Epidemiology and more. An accelerated option is available to students with an MD, DDS, DVM or PhD in a related field. Requiring 34 credit hours of major coursework and 8 credit hours of electives, the accelerated program can be completed in approximately 16 months.

University of Arizona

The Master of Science in Epidemiology at the University of Arizona is designed for individuals pursuing careers in epidemiological research. Offered through the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, the degree program offers two educational tracks: general studies in epidemiology or a specialization in clinical epidemiology. The clinical track was created for physicians seeking to conduct clinical research opportunities.

Both tracks can be completed in approximately two years of study, with the first year dedicated to core courses and the second year focusing on master’s thesis research and additional curriculum. Each educational track requires 40 credit hours of study to complete, divided between required major courses, electives, epidemiology courses and a master’s thesis. Major coursework subjects may include Biostatistics in Public Health, Epidemiologic Methods and Biostatistics for Research.