Doctor of Philosophy in Epidemiology

The PhD program is intended for the health professional who seeks advanced graduate study to prepare for a career as a professional epidemiologist. Areas of study include infectious diseases, cancer, pharmacoepidemiology, cardiovascular disease, and adverse reproductive, perinatal, and pediatric outcomes. The goal of the doctoral program is to educate candidates to become independent, productive, and creative research scientists in the field of epidemiology. It is anticipated that graduates of this program will obtain leadership positions in research, teaching, and administration. Applicants should hold a graduate degree in a field relevant to public health. Exceptional candidates without a graduate degree may apply, but will be required to complete additional coursework.

Program Competencies

In addition to meeting the MS in Epidemiology competencies, upon completing the requirements for the PhD in Epidemiology, graduates are able to:

  • formulate research hypotheses that can be evaluated through empirical epidemiologic investigation
  • critically evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of epidemiologic study designs applied to particular etiologic associations
  • analyze and interpret epidemiologic studies using appropriate methods
  • explain the theoretical underpinnings of epidemiology, including new and traditional study designs
  • demonstrate understanding of sources of bias and approaches to evaluating and controlling bias
  • demonstrate proficiency in data collection, data analysis, and written summaries of statistical analyses
  • demonstrate expertise in at least one substantive area of epidemiology and apply that expertise to preparation of the dissertation proposal
  • perform all the steps of conducting a hypothesis-driven epidemiologic study, from developing hypotheses, to designing, analyzing, and interpreting results, to writing up findings in the form of a publication-quality manuscript, as demonstrated by the PhD dissertation, which requires three manuscripts judged to be suitable for publication

PhD Requirements

Students complete at least 32 credits (eight courses) beyond the master’s degree. It is expected that at least 24 of these courses be from the epidemiology and biostatistics course offerings at the School of Public Health. Students may also choose from other courses offered at the School and pertinent graduate courses at Boston University. The intent of the coursework is to provide a firm foundation in epidemiologic principles and methods, biostatistical methods, and general public health knowledge.

Upon completion of coursework, students must pass a comprehensive written examination to evaluate their readiness to begin dissertation research and are required to develop a written dissertation proposal outlining the nature of the research. The dissertation is prepared and written under the direction of the candidate’s dissertation committee (comprised of the dissertation chair and at least two other members). The research usually involves collecting, processing, and analyzing original data. When the dissertation is completed, the candidate defends his or her work before the dissertation committee and other faculty. Students must adhere to dissertation submission deadlines and requirements.

The post-bachelor’s program must be completed within nine years of the first registration for doctoral study. The post-master’s program must be completed within seven years of the first registration for the doctoral program.

Minimum residency requirements are the equivalent of two consecutive regular semesters of full-time graduate study at Boston University. Students who have completed their course requirements must register for EP 980 each subsequent fall and spring semester as continuing students and pay the continuing student fee and student health insurance until they have completed all requirements for the degree. Authorized leaves of absence, approved by the Epidemiology Doctoral Committee, are the only means of waiving the residency and registration requirements.  More information can be found in the PhD Guide.

For questions regarding the PhD program in Epidemiology, please contact the Epidemiology Department at For questions regarding the application process, please contact Admissions at