PhD in Epidemiology

Degree Description

The Ph.D. in Epidemiology is constructed to meet the department’s philosophy of training. There is a substantial contribution from the Biostatistics Department and other departments in the College of Public Health so that the candidate is well-grounded in quantitative and analytical techniques, design and conduct of epidemiologic studies, demographic methods, and the management of large data sets. A course each in medical physiology and pathology is required to provide a basic understanding of disease processes. In addition, each student works with an adviser and/or an emphasis area coordinator to develop an emphasis area that insures substantive knowledge in a specific area which will generate important original research. An independent but finite research experience is required aside from the dissertation. Finally, relevant courses elsewhere in the university are encouraged.

PhD Emphasis Areas

The student must declare an emphasis area. With the emphasis area coordinator, the student will develop a plan of study that insures substantive knowledge in a specific area in order to generate important original research.

Learner Objectives

The primary goal of the doctoral program in the Department of Epidemiology is to prepare graduates for professional careers as scientists, teachers, and practitioners of epidemiological methods. Career opportunities in epidemiology exist in academic institutions, local, state and federal health agencies, and in commercial enterprises.

Graduates with the Ph.D. in Epidemiology will be able to:

  • Master the M.S. degree objectives.
  • Understand and be capable of using advanced statistical analysis methods appropriate for the study design and to control for confounding.
  • Manage data collection and quality control in research data, including development of a questionnaire.
  • Understand and demonstrate specific risk factor and disease processes in a specialized area.
  • Review literature and conceptualize theoretical models of disease and causation and develop hypotheses building upon prior research.
  • Conduct independent research including design, data collection, analysis, and translation into applied and theoretical constructs.
  • Demonstrate the ability to write a proposal for grant funding.
  • Demonstrate in writing and oral presentation knowledge of epidemiological concepts and methods.
  • Demonstrate in writing and oral presentation the ability to explain research study design and results of student-initiated research and to defend the results and implications.

Course Listing


A baccalaureate degree is required and a master’s degree in epidemiology or a related public health discipline is generally required. Courses in the biological, physical, and mathematical sciences provide important background course work and are highly recommended. This includes one semester of calculus and two semesters of biological sciences. Computing skills are desirable.

Required Courses

(NOTE: For more detailed information on PhD requirements, consult the Student Handbook)

In addition to the requirements listed below, all students are required to attend 80 percent departmental seminars and Journal Club meetings. Schedules for seminars and Journal Club are distributed to students and are available from the Epidemiology receptionist and on the calendar of events on the department website.

Number Title Hours
CPH:6100 Essentials of Public Health 1
BIOS:4120 Introduction to Biostatistics 3
EPID:4400 Epidemiology I: Principles 3
EPID:5241 Statistical Methods in Epidemiology 4
EPID:5600 Introduction to Epi Data Mgmt and Analysis 3
EPID:5610 Intermediate Epi Data Analysis with SAS and R 3
EPID:6050 Research in Epidemiology 3
EPID:6100 Writing a Grant Proposal 3
EPID:6400 Epidemiology II: Advanced Methods 4
CPH 7270 Principles of Scholarly Integrity: Public Health 1
EPID:7400 Epidemiology III: Theories 3
Choose one of the following two courses:
BIOS:6310 Introductory Longitudinal Data Analysis 3
BIOS:6210 Applied Survival Analysis 3
Choose one of the following two courses:
PATH:8133 Introduction to Human Pathology 4
PATH:5270 Pathogenesis of Major Human Diseases 3
Choose one of the following two courses:
HHP:3500 Human Physiology 3
MPB:5153 Graduate Physiology 4

In addition, the student must select at least 3 s.h. from among Epidemiology Department (EPID) courses and outside the student’s emphasis area.

Electives (24-28 s.h.)

The student must declare an emphasis area. With the emphasis area coordinator, the student will develop a plan of study that insures substantive knowledge in a specific area in order to generate important original research. At the discretion of the emphasis area coordinator and Plan of Study Committee, the emphasis area “electives” may be partitioned into required emphasis area courses and a menu of discretionary courses.

Dissertation Requirement
EPID:7000 Dissertation 10-18 s.h.

Total Semester Hours Required (Minimum) 78 s.h.

PhD Qualifying Examination

A qualifying examination will be held within one semester of admission to the PhD program or at the completion of the epidemiology core courses. This examination is the same as the MS Final Examination offered during that semester.

PhD Comprehensive Examination

The comprehensive examination is taken after the majority of coursework for the PhD degree has been completed. It tests the student’s ability to apply major epidemiological and biostatistical concepts through critical reading of the literature and through study design.

PhD Dissertation

The goal of the dissertation is to produce a document that is publishable in a peer-reviewed journal. Original thought is required in the formulation and conduct of the research, although neither original data collection nor data analysis are strictly required. During the dissertation defense, a specially formed committee will thoroughly examine the student’s area of knowledge associated with the context of the work.