When you decide on a career, it used to be pretty straightforward which degree you’d need. However, as academic opportunities have expanded to be more specialized, there are several different degree options that can apply to just one career. There is also the prospect of earning an interdisciplinary degree now as well. For working in epidemiology, you could get a Master of Public Health, a Master of Science, or a Master of Science in Public Health. You could choose a traditional epidemiology program, or opt for a specialized epidemiology program. Other degree options you could consider are interdisciplinary epidemiology and biostatistics, community health, public health management, and so much more.
When it comes to answering the question, ‘what master’s degree should I get?’ you should consider how you’d like to apply it. If you are interested in a research-intensive job, then you may be most interested in a traditional epidemiology degree track or a combined epidemiology and biostatistics degree track. The epidemiology courses will teach you about the various methods of research, disease outcomes, contributing factors to health problems, and how epidemiology relates to medicine, health policy, and more. Biostatistics courses will teach you the more specific details of quantitative research, statistical procedure and analysis, designing research studies, and more. An interdisciplinary program will open up diverse career opportunities in research, and a more clear-cut program will give you highly-specialized skills to excel in your area of focus. If you want to work more directly with the public through influencing health policy, educational outreach programs, and preventative strategies, an epidemiology program will prepare you for that. However, both a concentration in community health or public health management could also prove to be useful. Despite the broad range of options, most epidemiologists today opt for a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology.
A Master of Public Health in Epidemiology is the go-to because it brings together the key aspects of the other concentration options. Curriculum in an Epidemiology MPH will cover research methodology, clinical trial design, biostatistics, public health ethics, social determinants of health, health behavior, and more. The core curriculum of the program is incredibly thorough and draws from several different public health competencies to give you a solid base to build on with your electives. Several MPH degrees in Epidemiology will have areas of specialization you can focus your electives in like Cancer, Women’s Health, Infectious Disease, Molecular Epidemiology, Chronic Health Problems, Nutrition, and countless others. The Master of Public Health in Epidemiology is the most-often-selected degree program for those who wish to work in epidemiology because it gives students a diverse but tailored education. Graduates have an expansive background in epidemiology as well as career-specific skills thanks to the careful selection of electives.
The Master of Science in Epidemiology will have quite a bit of overlap with the MPH curriculum because students will need to obtain the same depth of understanding of epidemiology. They differ in their professional application and focus, though. The Master of Science has a curriculum that is designed to teach students scientific and mathematical theories as opposed to public health concepts. If you don’t have a quantitative background from your undergraduate studies or if you find yourself leaning towards an academic-oriented career in epidemiology, the Master of Science may be a more effective option.