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PhD vs. MPH in Epi

Discussion in 'Public Health Degrees (Masters and Doctoral)' started by wearepsu, Apr 8, 2007.

  1. wearepsu

    wearepsu 2+ Year Member

    Apr 8, 2007
    Hi everyone,

    I am a new member here to SDN and I'd like to ask for some advice.

    I have decided recently that I want to get into the field of Epidemiology and my goal is to conduct my own research (in cancer or global health/infectious disease).

    I am trying to decide between a MPH or PhD in Epi (starting Fall 2008). I have been told that I should get a PhD, since I want to conduct my own research. Looking more at different university websites, it seems rather difficult to make the jump straight to the PhD without a MPH or other masters.

    Johns Hopkins would probably be my top choice at the moment because its high ranking/resources and proximity to my girlfriend (though we would be willing to move).

    So should I be optimistic about possibly getting into a PhD program at Hopkins, UNC, Pittsburgh, or Wisconsin? Would going the MPH/PhD route be more realistic? Will I need to make a more definite decision on my research (cancer vs. ID) before applying for a PhD?

    Would you recommend a more Epi-related job for the next year before applying?

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  3. sucara

    sucara 2+ Year Member

    Apr 4, 2007
    Hi there

    Im actually planning on going for a PhD in epi as well, with prime interest in teaching and research in global health. From my research about this issue I can tell you most of the schools that offer a PhD prefer or require you to have a Masters to enter. I called a few of the top schools that waive the Masters requirement as well and they all said that even if you dont have a Masters and you apply it is very competitive as the people you are competing against WILL have a Masters degree.

    Plus if its that competitive, chances of being accepted into a school like Hopkins would be very slim I think. I, for one, chose to apply for MPH first and then do PhD.

    And just for reference I guess, my stats are similar to yours and I have a bit more research experience. Internship in demography at University of Texas at Austin and internship with WHO- Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office, plus a publication for WHO.

    In any case though, it couldn't hurt to apply to a few MPH programs and a few PhD programs and compare once you get a few offers. Good luck to you! :)
  4. wearepsu

    wearepsu 2+ Year Member

    Apr 8, 2007
    Thanks for the great advice sucara. The more I read, the more I tend to agree with you.

    The only frustrating part about getting the MPH first is the financial situation. I am pretty sure that I want a PhD...and a MPH almost seems like a waste (at least finacially). I compare this to science/engineering grad schools...where they encourage going straight for the PhD. I'm worried i'll end up 75K in the hole after the two years, only having to go through a PhD program where I won't be exactly making money.

    I'm sure financial aid for the MPH (and TA and RA avaliablity) varies for each university. I am assuming for a PhD or DrPH most schools offer full tuition plus a small stipend. Could anyone share some insight on this.

  5. bbas

    bbas Senior Member 10+ Year Member

    Dec 23, 2003
    DC Metro

    Yeah, I have the same financial concern as you. I'm wondering if it's possible to complete the PhD part time while working. Granted, it would probably take a few more years to complete, but the question I'm asking myself is would I rather just keep going to school full time and basically not earn any income during my 20's or do the PhD part time but earn a steady income in the process. At this point, I'm not sure what the better option would be.
  6. namazu

    namazu Member 5+ Year Member

    Apr 17, 2005
    At Hopkins, which you said is one of your top choices, first-year PhD students rarely receive any funding (beyond hourly pay for work as an RA). After that, students typically receive ~85% (not full!) tuition remission, and pay is usually $15-$20 hourly (no set stipend), max. 20 hrs/week. Students who are able to get traineeships or NIH individual research fellowships do fare better, as these provide full tuition coverage and a stipend, but these are highly competitive (and NRSAs are currently unavailable for infectious disease except to minority/disadvantaged/disabled students). Several other schools (often state schools with grad student unions) are more generous with scholarship money and/or will provide full tuition remission and a guaranteed stipend to students who work as TAs/RAs.

    Also, public health is unlike other sciences or engineering in that it really is extremely rare for students to enter a PhD program without a master's degree or significant work experience. (But PhDs tend to take 4-5 years, instead of 6-8, so you make that time back, and if you have an MPH you may be more employable in the interim.)
  7. wearepsu

    wearepsu 2+ Year Member

    Apr 8, 2007
    thanks for the response namazu! I'm going to see Johns Hopkins for the first time tomorrow. I was initially very high the school for the reasons I previously mentioned, but I am definetely more skepticial about it now because of the surrounding area and high cost.
  8. pippylongstock


    May 19, 2007
    I have a MPH from Emory. I graduated 5+ years ago. I have been working in research. You can apply to schools that let you transition to a PhD program. I know that some programs let you apply to their MSPH programs and if you are successful in the program can transition to the PhD. UNC is one such school.

    You really do need some work experience prior to applying.

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