PhD in Epidemiology

The doctoral program in Epidemiology provides advanced training to individuals already holding a graduate degree in public health or a related health science. To receive the PhD degree, students must complete and defend a doctoral dissertation based on research specific to a selected topic in epidemiology. The goal of the doctoral program is to educate candidates to become independent, productive, and creative research scientists in the field of epidemiology. Graduates of this program will be prepared to assume prominent positions in research, teaching, or health administration and are trained to address some of the most urgent public health issues facing us today.

Students complete 32 credits (eight courses) beyond the master’s degree. At least 24 of these credits must be from the epidemiology and biostatistics course offerings at the School of Public Health.

Learning Outcomes

The PhD program provides advanced professional training in epidemiology to develop the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary for leadership in epidemiologic research and methodology.

Upon completing the requirements for the PhD in Epidemiology, graduates are able to:

  • Formulate research hypotheses that can be evaluated through empirical epidemiological investigation.
  • Critically evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of epidemiologic study designs applied to particular etiologic associations.
  • Analyze and interpret epidemiologic studies using appropriate methods.
  • Articulate the theoretical underpinnings of epidemiology, including new and traditional study designs.
  • Identify 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.

Program Requirements

Foundations of Public Health

Effective public health requires expertise from many disciplines, and students need to have a broad foundation of knowledge across these diverse disciplines in order to collaborate effectively with other health professionals.

SPH 700 Foundations of Public Health (0 credits) is an online course designed to provide students with foundational knowledge in the profession and science of public health and factors related to public health. PH 700 meets the foundational knowledge criteria (as outlined by CEPH) for all SPH students.

Required Courses

  • PH 700 Foundations of Public Health
  • EP 854 Advanced Epidemiology
  • EP 855 Advanced Epidemiology Seminar: Issues in Study Design
  • EP 860 Novel Analytical Methods for Epidemiology

It is recommended that the remaining credits of required coursework in the Epidemiology and Biostatistics departments originate from the following courses.

  • EP 813 Intermediate Epidemiology
  • EP 816 A Guided Epidemiologic Study (2 cr)
  • EP 820 Perspectives in Epidemiology Studies
  • EP 850 Applications of Intermediate Epidemiology
  • EP 858 Design and Conduct of Cohort Studies (EP 857) and of Case-Control Studies
  • EP 861 Quantitative Bias Analysis Methods for Epidemiologic Research
  • PH 729 Social Network Analysis for Public Health Research
  • BS 820 Logistic Regression and Survival Analysis
  • BS 821 Categorical Data Analysis
  • BS 851 Applied Statistics in Clinical Trials I
  • BS 852 Statistical Methods for Epidemiology
  • BS 855 Bayesian Modeling for Biomedical Research & Public Health
  • BS 857 Analysis of Correlated Data

Students must pass a written qualifying examination to evaluate their readiness to begin dissertation research and are required to develop a 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 processing and analyzing secondary data. When the dissertation is completed, the candidate defends their work before the dissertation committee and other faculty. Students must adhere to dissertation submission deadlines and requirements.

It is expected that applicants have a post-baccalaureate degree in epidemiology or another health-related discipline (an MPH, MS, or equivalent degree). The PhD program must be completed within seven years of first registration.

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 until they have completed all requirements for the degree. Authorized leaves of absence, approved by the Program Director, are the only means of waiving the residency and registration requirements.

All PhD students must adhere to the Doctoral Graduation Calendar in preparing and submitting their dissertation.