Masters in Epi with Social Science Major?

Discussion in 'Public Health Degrees (Masters and Doctoral)' started by member42892, May 20, 2013.

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  1. member42892

    member42892 2+ Year Member

    Feb 1, 2013
    Hi all, I'm a current junior who studied International Relations and was accepted into a BA/MPH program at a top-15 public health school. It is non-binding, and I am interested in deferring and applying to additional programs while working/researching for a year. I have a 3.8 GPA and just received a 163Q and 161V score on the GREs, as well as a lot of work experience (I worked through college) on international and maternal health studies. I've taken an epidemiology class at the School of Public Health here and would like to concentrate in it, but I am concerned that many programs will not admit me due to my lack of science courses since high school. I have a number of statistics and public health courses, but that is all.

    I'm particularly interested in UNC, JHU, Emory, Columbia, and Harvard, though I'm open to other options. Are any of you current students there or familiar with students at these or other schools who studied epidemiology with a largely social science background? I have another year as an undergrad and could fit in several science and calculus courses if that would make a big difference, but it's a lot of effort when my current program will let me study epidemiology and double-concentrate in another subject with only one additional year and no prereqs. My public health school also offers "Biology of Public Health," Toxicology, and other classes, which would hopefully be biological enough for some of these schools. Please let me know your thoughts! Thanks so much for your help - it means a lot to me!
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  3. KungFu


    Feb 16, 2012
    Great question, I can provide some additional insight, (though I'm not sure how specific schools would approach your situation.)

    1. You have a very solid GPA, and if you received good grades in those Epi and stats courses, then I would figure that you have the aptitude to learn whatever math you need to know for a future career. The question is whether the schools you mentioned will want to you to take certain classes, or demonstrate a certain level of preparedness before attending. I would contact course instructors at these schools to gauge what they consider to be good preparation for their Epi concentration. You might be surprised, they might say take a semester of calc and then as much statistics as you can fit into your schedule. I noticed in another post that you are interested in getting a PhD in Epi, it would behoove you to communicate with epidemiologists at your school simply to ask them, "if you did it again what math/biology courses would you have taken?", or alternatively, what math courses/skills they believe are the most useful in their current career.

    2. Having worked on research studies is a great experience, and that will help you interpret some of what you'll learn. That being said, some public health students have had a lot of science courses. It is hard to judge how good somebody will be with scientific concepts and terminology from just a post. If you took additional science classes, such as the Biology of Public Health class, then this would prepare you for public health school.

    3. The only way to figure out for certain if your application will be received well by a school is to apply.

    4. It is great that you got into a Top-15 school, but at the same time it seems that you are somehow underwhelmed by said school, and it seems to be your "home" school in that you are an undergraduate there now? I'd really take a step back and analyze why you're not thrilled about this school, and realize that you have a broader educational experience when you do the MPH at a place different from your undergraduate institution.

    If you're not thrilled about going to a school, then I actually would recommend taking a year, or two, to take more courses and get more experience so that you are 100% about what you want out of a school, and what you want out of Epidemiology as a career.
    Last edited: May 22, 2013
  4. member42892

    member42892 2+ Year Member

    Feb 1, 2013
    Thank you for this very helpful response. To clarify, I think I would like to get an MS/MPH in epidemiology, but for my doctorate I'm not sure. I'm quite interested in working on maternal and child health, as well as health of indigenous populations, social epidemiology, and general survey design, all of which are very broad categories, but I feel like epidemiology is fascinating and a good bedrock that I can apply to any of these fields as I work. I'm planning to take at least one year off to research/work and further clarify what I want to do, but I enjoy epidemiology and think it could help prepare me to study more specific health issues on a PhD, even if they aren't purely in the epidemiology department later.

    After reading this and speaking with my professor, I'm going to take a second semester calculus course for life and social science majors and the biology of public health class, but I will call the individual departments and see if they would like me to take classes in chemistry as well. As for my school, you are correct. I enjoy my classes, but they are not at quite the caliber I'd like them to be at, and our administration runs the university more like a business than a school. Thank you for your help!

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