Doctor of Philosophy in the Field of Epidemiology

Program Director S. Cleary                                                                                              

The purpose of the doctor of philosophy program is to prepare students for a career in epidemiologic research in an academic, government, or industry setting. The PhD graduate is expected to have knowledge across a wide range of epidemiologic theories and methods and specific knowledge of the epidemiology of one of the following areas: chronic disease, infectious disease, environmental and occupational health.

Doctoral students are required to pass a written comprehensive examination and to complete a dissertation. 

At the completion of the doctoral program in epidemiology students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate understanding of general and specialized epidemiologic concepts;
  • Develop a research protocol;
  • Conduct and analyze data from a research study; and
  • Disseminate research findings.

Admissions Requirements

Applicants must hold an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution of higher learning. Although not required, most admitted students have completed a master's degree prior to admission. Before applying, applicants must provide evidence of the completion of these required prerequisites: 

  • Calculus I and II- 6 credits
  • Human Biology- 8 credits

And, the following courses are highly recommended admission prerequisites:

  • Linear Algebra- 3 credits
  • SAS- 3 credits

If desired, a student may complete the MS or MPH program prior to admission to the PhD degree program, in which case no more than 24 credits from these degrees may be applied to the PhD coursework requirements. In this instance the student is required to take a minimum of 27 additional credits of coursework plus dissertation research credits. The distribution of these courses between epidemiology and statistics depends on the nature of the master's degree and whether the transferred credits are used to defray epidemiology or statistics coursework. All applications are submitted through

Visit the program website for additional program information.

The following requirements must be fulfilled: 

72 credits, including 16 credits in public health core courses, and all requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Program; 12 to 15 credits in statistics core courses (depending on which option the student follows); 3 credits in program-specific epidemiology selective courses; a minimum of 14 to 17 credits in elective courses, depending on which option the student follows; 3 credits in consulting courses; and 12 to 21 credits in dissertation research; successful completion of a comprehensive exam.

Two program options are available: Option A is more quantitative and includes advanced statistical coursework in the Department of Statistics. Option B, while also quantitative, allows for courses and electives with a primary focus on public health.

Preparatory Requirements

Minimum prerequisite courses for admission consideration
BISC 1115
BISC 1126
Introductory Biology: Cells and Molecules
and Introduction to Organisms Laboratory
BISC 1116
BISC 1126
Introductory Biology: The Biology of Organisms
and Introduction to Organisms Laboratory
MATH 1231Single-Variable Calculus I
MATH 1232Single-Variable Calculus II
MATH 2233Multivariable Calculus (option A only)
Additional course requirements for admissions consideration
The courses listed below are additional course preparatory requirements. Applicants lacking these courses (or equivalents to these GW courses) will be considered for admission, but will be admitted conditionally with the expectation that these courses will be completed within two semesters following matriculation in the program. Credit for these courses does not count toward the 72 credits required for the degree and grades earned are not reflected in the overall grade-point average.
MATH 2184Linear Algebra I
STAT 2183Intermediate Statistics Lab/Packages
or PUBH 6249 Use of Statistical Packages: Data Management and Data Analysis

Degree Requirements

Public health core
PUBH 6003Principles and Practices of Epidemiology
PUBH 6247Design of Health Studies
PUBH 6252Advanced Epidemiology Methods
PUBH 8419Measurement in Public Health and Health Services
PUBH 6080Pathways to Public Health
Plus 4 credits Public Health elective selected with advisors approval
Statistics core
STAT 6210Data Analysis (OR)
PUBH 8365Design of Medical Studies
PUBH 8366Biostatistical Methods (basis for PhD general comprehensive)
Required for Option A
STAT 6201Mathematical Statistics I
STAT 6202Mathematical Statistics II
Required for Option B
PUBH 8364Quantitative Methods
Required program-specific courses
One of the following two-course sets for a total of 3 credits.
PUBH 6242
PUBH 8242
Clinical Epidemiology and Public Health: Reading the Research
and Advanced Topics in Clinical Epidemiology and Public Health: Reading the Research
PUBH 6244
PUBH 8244
Cancer Epidemiology
and Doctoral Topics: Cancer Epidemiology
PUBH 6245
PUBH 8245
Infectious Disease Epidemiology
and Doctoral Topics: Infectious Disease Epidemiology
PUBH 6250
PUBH 8250
Epidemiology of HIV/AIDS
and Doctoral Topics: Epidemiology of HIV/AIDS
PUBH 6259
PUBH 8259
Epidemiology Surveillance in Public Health
and Doctoral Topics: Epidemiologic Surveillance in Public Health
14 to 17 credits (depending on whether Option A or Option B was selected. See above.) in graduate-level elective courses in PUBH, HSML, EXNS, or STAT.* Examples of such courses include:
PUBH 6123Toxicology: Applications for Public Health Policy
PUBH 6124Risk Management and Communication
PUBH 6260Advanced Data Analysis for Public Health
PUBH 6262Introduction to Geographic Information Systems
PUBH 6263Advanced GIS
PUBH 6267Time Series Applications in Public Health
PUBH 6268Advanced SAS
PUBH 6299Topics in Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Other electives as approved in advance by the program director.
Statistics electives (for students pursuing Option A)
STAT 6213Intermediate Probability and Stochastic Processes
STAT 6215Applied Multivariate Analysis I
STAT 6216Applied Multivariate Analysis II
STAT 6217Design of Experiments
STAT 6223Bayesian Statistics: Theory and Applications
STAT 6227Survival Analysis
STAT 8226Advanced Biostatistical Methods
3 credits
PUBH 6258Advanced Topics in Biostatistical Consulting
PUBH 8283Doctoral Biostatistics Consulting Practicum
The epidemiology program director may waive the consulting requirement based on written documentation of prior equivalent coursework or relevant work experience. Waiver of the consulting requirement increases the total required number of elective credits proportionally.
Dissertation research
12 to 21 credits of the following:
PUBH 8999Dissertation Research (taken in units of 3 credits)

*Total required elective credits varies depending on whether the student is following Option A or Option B. This also will be affected if the consulting requirement is waived.

Graduation Requirements

  1. Program options: Students may choose either curriculum Option A or curriculum Option B for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in the field of epidemiology.
  2. Graduate credit requirement: 72 graduate credits are required.
  3. Prerequisites: Review official program guide for minimum prerequisite requirements for admission.
  4. Comprehensive (General) exam: successful completion within 24 months of matriculation.
  5. Dissertation: 12 to 21 credits of dissertation research are required.
  6. Grade-point requirements: An overall GPA of 3.0 (B average) is required.
  7. Time limit requirement: The degree must be completed in 8 years.
  8. Transfer credit policy: Up to 24 credits from an applicable master's program may be approved to be transferred to the doctoral program. Transferred courses must have received a grade of B or above and earned at an accredited institution.