PhD in Occupational and Environmental Health

The PhD in Occupational and Environmental Health (OEH) is an advanced research degree that emphasizes depth of knowledge and original research skills. The PhD in OEH is designed to develop leaders in environmental and occupational health research and practice.

The PhD program is tailored to meet students’ research and professional interests. Students work with their faculty advisor to design a specialized curriculum of coursework and research projects in the following areas:

  • Agricultural Safety and Health
  • Environmental Health
  • Environmental Toxicology
  • Ergonomics
  • Industrial Hygiene
  • Occupational Injury Prevention

Request information about this degree program and funding opportunities.

You’ll graduate qualified for a career in a range of private, public and academic positions; consulting firms; state and federal occupational and environmental agencies; chemical, consumer products, pharmaceutical industries; and major universities.


Number of credit hours: 72

Average time to degree: 4-5 years


  • Minimum cumulative grade-point average: 3.25
  • A bachelor’s degree is required. Although enrollment directly into the PhD program is possible, completion of the MS program is highly recommended as a first step toward the PhD degree.
  • Our students come from a variety of disciplines. Significant coursework in mathematics, science, environmental health or occupational health is highly recommended.

Funding opportunities: 100% of our PhD students receive financial support.

Comprehensive Examination and Dissertation: You will complete a comprehensive examination demonstrating mastery of your field of study. You’ll also prepare a publishable dissertation describing your original research.

When and how to apply: The application deadline is May 1. You should apply as soon as possible to secure your position and funding. Learn how to apply here.

How and where courses are delivered: All courses are delivered in person at our Iowa City campus, with most taking place in our new public health building.


All of our PhD students receive financial support—100% tuition paid and a monthly stipend.

Students in the Environmental Health and Environmental Toxicology areas receive funding through graduate research and/or teaching assistantships.
Learn more about these funding sources here.

Students in the following areas receive funding from the Heartland Center for Occupational Health & Safety through a grant from NIOSH (only available for U.S. citizens):

  • Agricultural Safety and Health
  • Ergonomics
  • Industrial Hygiene
  • Occupational Injury Prevention

Learn more about these funding sources here.

Your Program of Study

Your faculty advisor will help you plan a highly personalized path through our PhD program that suits your unique needs, research interests, and professional goals.

Depending on the coursework for your master’s degree, you will likely spend your first two to three years completing required and elective coursework in your chosen area of interest.

After this coursework is completed, you’ll spend roughly the next two years pursuing your own original research, regularly consulting and collaborating with your advisor and colleagues in the department. This project will culminate in a high-quality dissertation suitable for publication.

You’ll graduate from the program an expert in the field of Occupational and Environmental Health, fully qualified to lead a program at a corporation, pursue postdoctoral research work, or serve as a tenure-track assistant professor at a university.

PhD completion timeline:

Year 1-2 – Take required and elective courses; plan for research and dissertation
Year 2-3 – Complete required and elective coursework; initiate research projects
Year 3-4 – Finalize research and data analysis; write dissertation

Degree Requirements

Required Courses

OEH:4240Global Environmental Health3 s.h.
OEH:5620Occupational Health3 s.h.
OEH:5010OEH Seminar1 s.h.
BIOS:4120Introduction to Biostatistics3 s.h.
EPID:4400Epidemiology I: Principles3 s.h.
OEH:6460Quantitative Exposure Assessment OR3 s.h.
OEH:6520Injury Epidemiology
OEH:7060Research Design in OEH3 s.h.
OEH:7070Interpreting OEH Research3 s.h.
CPH:6100Essentials of Public Health2 s.h.
CPH:7270Principles of Scholarly Integrity: Public Health1 s.h.
25 s.h.

Take at least 9 semester hours of the following:

OEH:6110Rural Health and Agricultural Medicine3 s.h.
OEH:6420Methods in Exposure Science3 s.h.
OEH:6431Assessing Noise Hazards1 s.h.
OEH:6432Assessing Non-Ionizing Radiation Hazards1 s.h.
OEH:6433Assessing Ionizing Radiation Hazards1 s.h.
OEH:6440Control of Occupational Hazards3 s.h.
OEH:6450Aerosol Technology3 s.h.
OEH:6460Quantitative Exposure Assessment**3 s.h.
OEH:6520Injury Epidemiology**3 s.h.
OEH:6710 Human Toxicology and Risk Assessment3 s.h.
OEH:6720Advanced Toxicology4 s.h.
BIOS:5120Regression and ANOVA in Health Sciences3 s.h.
BIOS:5130Applied Categorical Data Analysis3 s.h.
BIOS:6310Introductory Longitudinal Data Analysis3 s.h.
EPID:6400Epidemiology II: Advanced Methods4 s.h.
STAT:6516Design of Experiments4 s.h.
9 s.h.

**Can be taken to fulfill this requirement if not taken as part of the 25 s.h. of required courses.

Elective Credits

A minimum of 18 additional credit hours must be acquired from attendance in non-research-related courses. These would include any courses offered in a classroom setting or the equivalent web-based course. Students and advisors should select courses most appropriate to the individual student’s professional goals.

Research Credits

The remaining credits needed to achieve the 72 required for this degree may be acquired by enrolling in OEH:7000 Thesis/Dissertation. Remaining credits may also be acquired by enrolling in OEH:7020 Independent Study in Occupational and Environmental Health or by any combination of OEH:7000, OEH:7020, and additional class-based courses.

OEH:7020Independent Study in OEH

Total Semester Hours Required for PhD Degree (Minimum): 72 s.h.

Degree Description and Learner Competencies

This program prepares graduate level students in professional and academic careers in environmental and occupational health. Graduates will be able to assume responsibility for the development and basic administration of environmental and occupational health programs, and will qualify for beginning faculty positions in academic environmental health departments. Although enrollment directly into the PhD program is possible, completion of the MS program is recommended as a first step toward the PhD degree. Undergraduate preparation must have included at least two semesters of chemistry, one semester of physics, mathematics and calculus. Coursework in biological science, microbiology and computer programming are highly desirable. The degree requires a minimum of 72 semester hours.

In addition to mastering the degree competencies for the MS in Occupational and Environmental Health, PhD students will be able to:

  1. Develop a proposal for grant funding
  2. Use appropriate analytic methods to interpret data relevant to the field of occupational and environmental health
  3. Develop a plan to communicate research findings to various audiences
  4. Design a research study in the field of occupational and environmental health
  5. Evaluate the strengths and limitations of peer-reviewed studies in the field of occupational and environmental health