Doctoral Program in Epidemiologic Science

The PhD program in Epidemiologic Science is administered by the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies. Its objective is to produce scientists who are expert in recognition and investigation of those basic aspects of etiology and pathogenesis of disease relevant to prevention and control of infectious and non-infectious diseases. Graduates are qualified for positions in academia, research institutes, government, and industry.

View Current Doctoral Student Profiles

An MPH in Epidemiology, or other relevant master's degree in a related discipline (for example, an MS in microbiology), is required prior to entrance into the PhD program. Successful applicants lacking credit for any courses, laboratories, or fieldwork equivalent to those of the University of Michigan School of Public Health MPH Program in Epidemiology are expected to make up these deficiencies during their initial stage of studies. The field work/laboratory requirement is waived for students with a professional doctoral degree and for others who have documented evidence of employment in a relevant area.

Applicants are evaluated on the basis of undergraduate and graduate academic records, letters of recommendation, and commitment to a career in epidemiology or research in a laboratory science. In addition, potential students should list which faculty they are interested in working with. Potential for matching with a faculty mentor is an important consideration in acceptance to the PhD program. You are strongly encouraged to reach out to potential mentors during the application process.

There are two major stages in the program to be completed prior to getting the PhD degree: the pre-candidate stage and the candidate stage. The major task of the pre-candidate stage is to prepare for and successfully complete the Competency Examination, usually within the first year of enrollment. The major tasks at the candidate stage are to conduct dissertation research and to successfully complete that research with the ongoing guidance of a committee whose membership will be selected by the student and primary mentor. This research program is then presented and defended as a "dissertation defense," the penultimate event in achieving the doctoral degree.

Typically, a PhD program takes a total of four years to complete when a Master of Public Health (or other relevant degree) has previously been obtained. The time frame depends largely on how soon advancement to candidacy is achieved. Once advancement to candidacy has occurred (usually after one year), students typically develop and defend their research prospectus the following year and complete their research effort (including its written presentation) in two years.

For a very detailed description of the Epidemiology Department's PhD guidelines please view the PhD guidelines (PDF).

Application Deadlines for Fall 2021

  • FINAL Deadline for completed application: December 1, 2020.
  • Three letters of recommendation and transcripts are required and need to be submitted by deadline date.
  • Only complete applications will be reviewed.

Admission Procedure

Applicants for the Epidemiologic Science PhD program should complete the Rackham School of Graduate Studies application. The Epidemiology PhD program is listed as "Public Health Epidemiologic Science".

Minimum Requirements for Applying

  • A relevant master's degree (e.g. Master of Public Health, Master of Science in Biostatistics, or other health related degree which includes epidemiologic and biostatistical methods) prior to being considered for admission.

Application Information

Through the online application (Rackham School of Graduate Studies), applicants must submit the following:

  • Statement of Purpose - a concise, well-written essay about your career goals and how the graduate program will help you meet your career and education objectives. Please indicate the area(s) of research and departmental faculty that are of interest to you.
  • Personal Statement - a brief description about your background (500 word limit).
  • Official Transcripts documenting all undergraduate and graduate work (official transcripts must be sent to Rackham). Students with non-U.S. undergraduate institutions are strongly encouraged to have a World Education Services (WES) analysis submitted to the epidemiology department along with their official transcripts sent to Rackham. For more information on required academic credentials from non-U.S. institutions please see the Rackham website.
  • Three Letters of Recommendation - academic and professional recommendations are desired; personal recommendations are not accepted.

Standardized test scores are not required for applicants applying to any master’s- or doctoral-level program for the academic year starting fall 2021. If you have taken a standardized test such as the GRE or MCAT and want to submit your scores, please note that they will not be used as an official metric during application review. Scores may be used by some programs after the admissions decision is made to inform future use of standardized test scores in the admissions process. Reach out to admissions staff at sph-inquiries@umich.edu if you have questions.

To submit standardized test scores, follow the instructions below.

Graduate Record Examination (GRE): All programs accept general official GRE scores taken within the last five years. Test scores should be submitted electronically to institution code 1954 and/or 1839; there is no need to enter a department code. 

Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT): MCAT scores may be submitted electronically from AAMC to SOPHAS. No code is used.

* If you submit your letters electronically through Rackham, you do not need to send the hardcopy letters to the Epidemiology Department. If you send hardcopy letters you only need to send them to the Department of Epidemiology:

Epidemiology PhD Admissions
University of Michigan, SPH 4643
1415 Washington Heights
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2029

International Applicants

Applicants whose native language is not English must demonstrate English proficiency (TOEFL scores). The TOEFL University of Michigan Institution Code is 1839. Applicants who have earned a degree from an institution where the language of instruction is exclusively English are exempt from submitting an official English proficiency score.

The minimum scores required for admission:

  • TOEFL Paper-based 560+
  • TOEFL Computer-based (CBT) 220+
  • TOEFL Internet-based (iBT) 100+
  • IELTS 6.5+

In addition, international applicants must certify that they have financial resources adequate to provide for their expenses while attending school. Funds may come from a variety of resources including personal, government, organization, institution and/or school. Also see Rackham Providing Evidence of Financial Support.

At the end of your doctoral training we expect the students to have mastered the competencies listed below.
  • Critically evaluate and synthesize the scientific literature and develop new hypotheses to address gaps in our knowledge
  • Demonstrate mastery of epidemiology study designs and select a design that is appropriate to address a specific study question
  • Demonstrate a thorough understanding of causal inference, sources of bias, and methods to improve the validity of epidemiologic studies
  • Design a research project that addresses an important population health or clinical question, using appropriate epidemiologic methods under constraints confronted in practice
  • Understand the principles and methods of data-collection and data–processing procedures in the design and conduct of epidemiologic research, with sound knowledge of measurement validity and reliability, data quality control, data management, documentation, and security
  • Employ state-of-the-art statistical and other quantitative methods in the analysis of epidemiologic data
  • Demonstrate mastery in a substantive area of population health, and in this area integrate relevant biological, behavioral, and social mechanisms that operate at multiple levels of causation
  • Demonstrate excellent skills in the writing of scientific papers and grant applications
  • Provide clear and effective oral communications of epidemiologic concepts, methods, results, and implications to scientists, students, policy makers, and the public
  • Understand and demonstrate in practice the ethical responsibilities of an epidemiologist to behave with scientific integrity.

After admission to the Doctoral Program, there are two major stages in the program to be completed prior to getting your PhD degree. These stages are the Pre-Candidacy stage and the Candidacy stage.

Pre-Candidacy

The major tasks of a Pre-Candidate are to: acquire 18 In-Residence course credits (with four cognate credits of non-epidemiology coursework); complete the Epidemiology course requirements; and successfully pass the written Competency Examination.

Candidacy

The major tasks of a Candidate are to: develop a dissertation research plan; write a prospectus of the proposed dissertation research plan (for prospectus details see below section on Preliminary Oral Examination); present the research plan to the entire dissertation committee during the oral Preliminary Examination, and receive approval of the proposed dissertation research; complete the proposed dissertation research with the ongoing guidance of the dissertation committee; and present the dissertation research in a final oral examination, the "Dissertation Defense." Each Candidate must complete 18 additional course credits, including eight credits of Epid 995 (Dissertation Research) each Fall and Winter term. A candidate has the option to take one additional course each term, included in the candidate level tuition. Additional tuition rates will apply for additional courses beyond the first extra course.

In general, the entire (matriculation to degree earned) Epidemiology Doctoral Program takes a total of 2.5 to 5 years to complete. The actual duration is a function of the time it takes to: a) prepare for and pass the Competency Exam (1 or 2 years); b) to develop a dissertation research plan and pass the Preliminary Examination (about 0.5-1 year); and c) to complete the dissertation research and successfully defend it during the final oral examination (1-2.5 years).

Funding for Doctoral Students

All students admitted to one of our doctoral programs are considered for financial support. There are four types of financial support that we offer our students: Graduate Student Instructor (GSI), Graduate Student Research Assistant (GSRA), Training Grants and Fellowships.

Graduate Student Instructor (GSI)

Graduate Student Instructors are appointed at 50% effort, which involves working approximately 20 hours per week. This appointment includes full payment of tuition, health insurance coverage, registration fees, and a monthly stipend. The duties of a GSI can include preparing materials for labs, teaching labs, holding office hours, grading homework and exams, and tutoring.

Graduate Student Research Assistant (GSRA)

Graduate Student Research Assistants are appointed at 50% effort, which involves working approximately 20 hours per week on a research project. This appointment includes full payment of tuition, health insurance coverage, registration fees, and a monthly stipend. GSRAs generally work closely with a faculty member who is a principal or co-investigator on the research project. The duties of the GSRA can involve analysis of biomedical research data or statistical research. Currently, GSRAs are working on projects involving statistical methods development and application to bioinformatics, cancer, clinical trials, dentistry, diabetes, environmental health, epidemiology, genetics, health education, kidney disease, and survival analysis.

Training Grants

Some students are supported through involvement in training grants which provide support similar to the GSRA or GSI appointments. Check with your department for specific training grants available.

Scholarships, Fellowships and Awards

Awards for tuition assistance are available and are granted without a work obligation. These awards are generally made on the basis of academic merit, expected contribution to the field, and to students with underrepresented backgrounds. Some examples of awards our students have received include:

Other award/scholarship opportunities exist for continuing students. They include:

Financial Aid for Doctoral Students

Many of our students are offered funding as GSIs, GSRAs or graduate fellows. If you do not receive such an offer, you may apply for financial aid through the University of Michigan’s Office of Financial Aid. This office requires applicants for any and all types of financial aid to complete the Free Application for Federal Student AID (FAFSA) provided by the American College Testing Center (ACTC).

A FAFSA will be sent to you directly if you indicate your interest in financial assistance on the admission application form. FAFSAs are available from most high school or college libraries and financial aid officers, as well as from the School of Public Health Office for Student Engagement and Practice. FAFSA is also available at www.fafsa.ed.gov.

Graduate Student Instructor (GSI)

Graduate Student Instructors (GSI) are typically appointed at 50% effort, which involves working approximately twenty hours per week (other appointment fractions are possible). This appointment includes full payment of tuition, health insurance coverage and a monthly stipend. GSI's are primarily appointed to help with the instruction of Epidemiology courses although our students sometimes serve as GSIs for courses outside the Department or School. GSI's assist in teaching courses, facilitating discussions in small sections connected to large lecture courses, running laboratory sections, and holding office hours where one-on-one teaching occurs. Additional responsibilities include grading and giving feedback on students' written work.

The Department of Epidemiology has a limited number of GSI positions available in the fall and winter terms. Application information will be emailed via the student listserves. Both PhD and MPH students are eligible to apply for Departmental GSI positions.

Graduate Student Research Assistant (GSRA)

Graduate Student Research Assistants (GSRA) are typically appointed at 50% effort, which involves working approximately twenty hours per week on a research project (other appointment fractions are possible). This appointment includes full payment of tuition, health insurance coverage and a monthly stipend. GSRA's generally work closely with a faculty member who is a principal or co-investigator on the research project. For more information, please visit Academic Human Resources site

Training Grants

Students are also supported through involvement in training grants which provide support similar to the GSRA or GSI appointments. There are a number of training grants within the School of Public Health.

Scholarships, Fellowships and Awards

Awards for tuition assistance are available and are granted without a work obligation. These awards are generally made on the basis of academic merit, expected contribution to the field, and underrepresented backgrounds. Some examples of awards our students have received include:

the Shapiro Awardthe Rackham Merit Fellowship for Historically Underrepresented Groupsthe Rackham Non-Traditional Fellowshipthe Rackham Regents Fellowship

Other award/scholarship opportunities exist for continuing students. They include:

the Rackham One-Term Dissertation Fellowshipthe Barbour Scholarshipthe Rackham Predoctoral Fellowshipthe Susan Lipshutz Awardthe Rackham Conference Travel Grant

The Rackham Additional Resources of Finding Funding page lists various sources of information on financial assistance available to students on campus. Rackham Administered Fellowships, Grants and Scholarships.

Financial Aid

Many of our students are offered funding as GSIs, GSRAs or fellows. If a student does not receive such an offer, he or she may apply for financial aid through the University of Michigan's Office of Financial Aid. This office requires applicants for any and all types of financial aid to complete the Free Application for Federal Student AID (FAFSA) provided by the American College Testing Center (ACTC). A FAFSA will be sent to you directly if you indicate your interest in financial assistance on the admission application form. FAFSAs are available from most high school or college libraries and financial aid officers, as well as from the School of Public Health Office for Student Engagement and Practice. FAFSA is also available at www.fafsa.ed.gov.

[LL1]This would need to be updated with epid specific information I think – maybe add Francis, Wegman, Stiffler etc

Admissions

Visit the Admissions & Aid section of the U-M SPH site for details on the application process and financial aid options. Additional information for international applicants can be found here.