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Major for epidemiology/biostats

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Lily8818

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Hi,

What major would give me the best chances for admission into a good MPH program in epidemiology or biostatistics, as well as help me get a good job later, assuming I'm equally capable of doing well in any major?

The majors I'm looking at are statistics, applied math, biochemistry, and public health.



Advantages of statistics major: allows me to take graduate-level biostatistics courses as an undergrad, good back-up career plan (I've seen a lot of job postings for statistics majors in my area), could fit in a minor in something public-health-related like global health or microbiology

Applied math: has an honors/thesis option (statistics doesn't), could possibly also work as a back-up career plan (not sure if it would look as good to employers as statistics though), could fit in a minor in something public-health-related like global health or microbiology

Biochemistry: has departmental honors option, could also minor in statistics or math, probably has the most research opportunities for undergraduates

Public health: has departmental honors option, includes public health capstone. Not enough room for a statistics/math minor probably.




Any advice or thoughts would be welcome!
 

Pudu2009

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The best major for getting into a good MPH program: Anything that you know you will do well in. You also don't need an honors thesis. In fact, the best way to get into a good program (JHU, Harvard, etc) is to volunteer during college and take a couple years off to get some experience. So, if you like art history, go ahead and major in that, so long as you take Calc and an intro biostats course along with it. Then, when you graduate, do Teach for America or Peace Corps or something like that. But, don't pick your major based on what you think programs want; I did this when I was pre-med and got burned in the end (3.0 GPA).
 
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themmases

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There is no one major that will look best applying to public health programs. Public health is a very diverse field and until recently, there weren't even undergrad programs available in it. So successful applicants to public health degrees come from all over.

I agree with you that statistics is a good competency to have on the job market. If you like it, it will probably leave you with the most options when you graduate (major in either biostats or epi, or work). Having done well in previous stats coursework and calculus will be a requirement to take upper division biostats regardless of your concentration later.

Other than basic academic competence (acceptable GPA and GRE, having taken prereq courses for your desired program), what will help you most will be work experience and a demonstrated interest in a health field. Even if it's not a perfect fit, seek out research assistant positions and volunteer work. Consider working for a year or two after you graduate and before applying to public health school, especially if the jobs you would get can be spun as relevant in any way. Those experiences may help you in your job search after you earn an MPH too. The less technical concentration you pursue, the more you will want to have some work experience already and not be applying for jobs with the MPH as your only selling point.

IME it's more common to pursue an MS in biostats, not an MPH. Some of my biostats classmates even told me they applied to the MPH program, but were counselled to do MS instead. You may want to make sure you understand the difference (this forum has some good posts about it) and are well positioned for the one you want.
 

MPHorMHA

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Hi,
I got accepted at the University of Columbia for MPH in Epidemiology for Fall'16. While I did a comprehensive research on the same over the Internet, I'd be glad to hear from people with first hand information on the same.
It's one of the best programs, or so I've read over the Internet. But threads carried out by the people read otherwise. They didn't seem quite content. But again, those threads were old, like 2-3 yrs old and hey its 2016!
Also, I read about the tuition fee and boarding expenses over the school's website which approximated to 90k. For a moderate lifestyle ( not lavish) are my approximates faulse?
Furthermore, will the degree be worthwhile enough to get a loan sanctioned for the entire amount of tuition? I have no other means of financing my studies there. And I will have to repeay the loan by working in the field once I graduate. So is it advisable to join the program still?
PS- I'm a non-US resident and all information that I've derived is purely through the internet.
HELP please
 

hopfeful

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Math or Computer science with a minor in biology. Get the strongest quantitative background you can get in undergrad.
 

hopfeful

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Hi,
I got accepted at the University of Columbia for MPH in Epidemiology for Fall'16. While I did a comprehensive research on the same over the Internet, I'd be glad to hear from people with first hand information on the same.
It's one of the best programs, or so I've read over the Internet. But threads carried out by the people read otherwise. They didn't seem quite content. But again, those threads were old, like 2-3 yrs old and hey its 2016!
Also, I read about the tuition fee and boarding expenses over the school's website which approximated to 90k. For a moderate lifestyle ( not lavish) are my approximates faulse?
Furthermore, will the degree be worthwhile enough to get a loan sanctioned for the entire amount of tuition? I have no other means of financing my studies there. And I will have to repeay the loan by working in the field once I graduate. So is it advisable to join the program still?
PS- I'm a non-US resident and all information that I've derived is purely through the internet.
HELP please

Columbia's program is quite good and expensive. I am not sure what you plan to do with the degree. What are you plans after graduating?
 

vlklngboy11

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Honestly something that you can do well in so you can get a high GPA and some potential merit money for grad school.
 

MPHorMHA

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Columbia's program is quite good and expensive. I am not sure what you plan to do with the degree. What are you plans after graduating?

I plan to get into phama or research. Will paying 90k be worth-it?
I got through NYU with 20k scholarship. Confused af! Been getting mixed reviews for both unis. It's making the task of coming to a conclusion even more difficult. And i got only ONE more day to decide s the deadline to enroll is 20 April
 

hopfeful

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I plan to get into phama or research. Will paying 90k be worth-it?
I got through NYU with 20k scholarship. Confused af! Been getting mixed reviews for both unis. It's making the task of coming to a conclusion even more difficult. And i got only ONE more day to decide s the deadline to enroll is 20 April

If you plan on doing a PhD, then yes. Getting Your masters from Columbia will most likely help you get into a competitive PhD program. You really cannot do research, as a career, without a PhD or MD. However, if you want to work in the field, I would advise against it. You can get a field job without taking on that much debt.
 

JDGBruin1317

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How science and quantitative based does my coursework have to be? I'm interested in pursuing an MPH in Epidemiology, and I plan on taking a year or so off to get more experience in public health. Since next year is my last year, I want to take classes that are more relevant to what I want to do. Initially, I planned on taking biochemistry, microbiology, and genomics classes but I'm worried that I won't do well in them since I haven't got the best grades in my lower div science classes such as organic chem and genetics. The classes I want to take instead include community health sciences, other public health courses, and disability studies because I believe I will enjoy them more thus succeeding in the classes.

Bottom line, is it better to take science intensive courses in preparation for MPH programs in epidemiology or general courses that relate to public health in some way?
 

Pudu2009

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I think as long as you have basic biology and math (I don't know if Calc 1 is required or not) you should be okay. Check the requirements for schools you're interested in just in case. The core courses in my program are designed for people who are complete beginners (Bio Concepts teaches you all the biology you need for the degree). Just make sure you take classes that you love and know you can do well in.
 

Ellie44945

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Hi,
I'm also considering a career in epi. I was wondering whether MPH programs look down on English majors. I'm thinking about minoring in global health and doing a couple of years of health-related volunteer work, maybe Peace Corps, after I graduate. I've already done some chemistry, bio, psych, math, stats, and comp sci coursework. (I did well in the sciences, but iffy in math. Stats was better though.) Could I realistically get into a good program as an English major with this background?
 

Pudu2009

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Just make sure you do well on the GRE and get at least a 3.0 GPA and you shouldn't have any problems getting into decent programs. It's OK that your math is iffy.
 
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lord999

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Hi,

What major would give me the best chances for admission into a good MPH program in epidemiology or biostatistics, as well as help me get a good job later, assuming I'm equally capable of doing well in any major?

The majors I'm looking at are statistics, applied math, biochemistry, and public health.



Advantages of statistics major: allows me to take graduate-level biostatistics courses as an undergrad, good back-up career plan (I've seen a lot of job postings for statistics majors in my area), could fit in a minor in something public-health-related like global health or microbiology

Applied math: has an honors/thesis option (statistics doesn't), could possibly also work as a back-up career plan (not sure if it would look as good to employers as statistics though), could fit in a minor in something public-health-related like global health or microbiology

Biochemistry: has departmental honors option, could also minor in statistics or math, probably has the most research opportunities for undergraduates

Public health: has departmental honors option, includes public health capstone. Not enough room for a statistics/math minor probably.

Any advice or thoughts would be welcome!

Don't know if this is too late, but this the advice I would give for maximum flexibility:

Biostatistics and Statistics are not terribly different in the modern era with statistical computing. They were more divergent before most people had easy access to statistical software mainly due to the problems of learning the calculations for that particular branch. The tradeoff between Biostatistics (Biometry) and Statistics is mainly on the more advanced techniques, Statistics tends to worry about mathematical matters and biostatistics tends to worry about violations more.

For the MPH/PhD level, there are usually three different levels of classes given.
1. The non-math intensive (algebra only) class for MPH only majors (you cannot do the PhD/ScD with this class). This is purely applied and is not acceptable for further study (it's a terminal class).
The representative book is usually Rosner, Sullivan, or Norman/Streiner. Sometimes Rothman, but that covers epidemiology as well.

2. The "intro" math intensive class for MPH majors in Epidemiology (if taken for Biostatistics, it's grudgingly accepted although puts you at a severe disadvantage in the second year classes).
The representative book is usually Devore and Berk. This requires you have linear algebra before entering the class.

3. The math intensive class for MPH/PhD Biostatistics majors (required for the PhD level biostatistics, sometimes not optional for Epidemiology, preferred for MPH biostatistics)
The representative book is almost always Shao. This requires that you have some working knowledge of measure theory before entering the class.

In undergraduate, these are the prerequisites:
1. You need to take a class in linear algebra, period. There's no way you can take even the MPH level without having some idea about how matrices work. If you end up having to teach yourself, use the "Done Right" book as a starter.

2. For the serious MPH, a course in probability is strongly preferred.

3. If you are thinking about PhD Biostatistics work, Real Analysis ("Baby" Blue Rudin or Apostol) is a certain prerequisite nowadays. "Big" Green Rudin is usually a graduate class for Biostatistics and is a requirement if theory is your specialty within the major.

One other constructed path may be to take the actuaries exam pathway along with undergraduate. Many of our faculty had SoA as one of their undergraduate achievements, and it's a real help to earn a little something in applied math/statistics.
 
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Your major prior to entering an MPH program doesn't matter very much. Just choose something that you'll do well in and that you enjoy. If you plan on taking more advanced epi/biostats methodology coursework during your MPH, I would recommend taking some calculus and linear algebra courses during your undergrad. Above all of that, you should be focusing your time into volunteer work and public health experience. Most programs will value those over your educational background (assuming you still have a good GPA and GRE scores).
 
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