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 to select courses that ensure substantive knowledge in a specific area which will generate important original research. Several recommended Plans of Study are available for students with the following research interests: chronic diseases, infectious diseases, clinical and health services, molecular and genetic epidemiology, and injury epidemiology. An independent but finite research experience is required aside from the dissertation. Finally, relevant courses elsewhere in the university are encouraged.

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 Requirements


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 (EPID:5925, 0 s.h.). 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.

CPH:6100Essentials of Public Health2
BIOS:4120Introduction to Biostatistics3
EPID:4400Epidemiology I: Principles3
EPID:5241Statistical Methods in Epidemiology4
EPID:5600Introduction to Epi Data Mgmt and Analysis3
EPID:5610Intermediate Epi Data Analysis with SAS and R3
EPID:5925Epidemiology Journal Club: Evaluating the Literature0
EPID:6050Research in Epidemiology3
EPID:6100Writing a Grant Proposal3
EPID:6400Epidemiology II: Advanced Methods4
CPH 7270Principles of Scholarly Integrity: Public Health1
EPID:7400Epidemiology III: Theories3
Choose one of the following two courses:
BIOS:6310Introductory Longitudinal Data Analysis3
BIOS:6210Applied Survival Analysis3
Choose one of the following two courses:
PATH:8133Introduction to Human Pathology4
PATH:5270Pathogenesis of Major Human Diseases3
Choose one of the following two courses:
HHP:3500Human Physiology3
MPB:5153Graduate Physiology4

Electives (26-28 s.h.)

With their advisor, the student will develop a plan of study that ensures substantive knowledge in a specific area in order to generate important original research. The department has many areas of research strength and several recommended Research Interest Area Plans of Study.

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

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.