Epidemiology is the basic science of public health. For centuries, scientists have used epidemiological methods to understand the distribution and determinants of disease. Epidemiology studies were the basis for understanding the adverse health effects of smoking, the methods of transmission of AIDS, and the relationship between high levels of cholesterol and heart disease. Recently, epidemiology has faced new challenges, including emerging infections, toxic environmental hazards, and global health disparities. New theories, methods, and software now equip epidemiologists to investigate these developing issues, understand emerging public health risks, and ensure the effectiveness of public health interventions.

The Master of Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology provides training in the principles and methodology of epidemiological research and practice. Students in this program explore the theories and methodologies underlying the science and learn how to design, conduct, analyze, and interpret research studies. Students will gain practical skills that can be applied immediately in a variety of career pathways as well as the breadth and depth of knowledge that will provide a foundation for understanding the goals of epidemiological research. Students may enhance their learning and gain additional experience by participating in departmental research. Graduates are prepared for further study or for careers in research and management in academia, government, or the private sector.


In addition to the program competencies that all MPH graduates master, upon completing the requirements for the MPH in Epidemiology, graduates are able to:

  • design valid epidemiological studies
  • use statistical software to analyze and interpret health-related data
  • critically evaluate published research with regard to internal and external validity as well as public health importance

Students also often combine two emphasis areas such as noninfectious diseases and research methods. Your advisor can help you decide if an emphasis is right for you and suggest which courses to take within that emphasis. For detailed course listings, visit the Epidemiology Concentrator’s Guide or the BU online bulletin.

Prospective students should contact the Epidemiology staff for additional information

Emphasis Areas

Students who wish to delve deeper into a specific area of Epidemiology can use concentration and School-wide electives to focus their studies in one of five emphasis areas:

Diseases of Aging

The Diseases of Aging emphasis provides training in the epidemiology of outcomes primarily affecting adults over the lifespan. Specific courses include the epidemiology of aging, cancer epidemiology, and cardiovascular disease epidemiology. Students might also consider courses in nutritional, genetic, social, and drug epidemiology, which address important exposures that affect the health of aging populations.

Epidemiologic Methods

The Epidemiologic Research Methods emphasis offers more extensive training in the methodological aspects of epidemiologic research, including detailed courses in all of the major epidemiological study designs, survey methods, and analytic methods. Both theoretical aspects and hands-on experience are highlighted. This area of emphasis may be combined with either infectious disease or noncommunicable disease epidemiology.

Epidemiology in Public Health Practice

The Public Health Practice emphasis provides training in the collection and use of public health data by health departments. Following this course of study will provide the student with a broad background in activities performed by health departments, including surveillance, program evaluation, outbreak investigation, and prevention interventions. Both methodological aspects and relevant substantive coursework are highlighted.

Epidemiology of Noncommunicable Diseases

The Noncommunicable Diseases emphasis provides training in the epidemiology of common noninfectious conditions including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and adverse reproductive and pregnancy outcomes. Related courses include genetic, nutritional, environmental, and social epidemiology, which represent important risk factors for noncommunicable conditions. Most of the courses listed provide students practice in literature review and the critical review of published articles.

Reproductive Epidemiology

The Reproductive Epidemiology emphasis provides training in the epidemiology of reproductive outcomes across the lifespan including infertility; pregnancy loss; conditions related to infant health, such as birth defects, low birth weight, and prematurity; and conditions related to maternal health, such as postpartum depression, benign gynecological conditions, and reproductive cancers. Topics courses give students practice in critically reviewing published articles, writing literature reviews, and designing their own studies. Related courses include drug, genetic, nutritional, environmental, and social epidemiology, which represent important risk factors for reproductive conditions.