If the study of disease and illness gets you excited, you’re in the right place! A Master’s in Epidemiology or a Master’s in Public Health can give you the tools to achieve a rewarding career as an epidemiologist. With this advanced level of education under your belt, you’ll be able to effectively analyze data, design research programs, communicate with diverse populations, and influence public health policy.
Epidemiologists are a special blend of scientist – you have to enjoy working with both data and people, on computers, as well as with public surveys. It’s not a job for everyone, but it could be a job for you.
Now, because epidemiology is a special subset of public health studies, you might be feeling a bit unclear on which specific master’s degree you want to hang your hat on. In the end, it’s safe to ask: does it matter? Here, we’ll compare and contrast the Master’s in Epidemiology vs. the Master’s in Public Health, and determine whether there is a difference at all.
Scope of Coursework
First, you should understand what a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) offers. An MPH is a comprehensive degree that covers very important topics related to public health and policy. Not only would you study epidemiology, but biostatistics, research methodology, occupational and environmental health, social and behavioral sciences, and public health policy would also be part of your degree. A flexible online program like Goodwin College’s MPH includes these required courses in its curriculum, plus electives, seminars, and a capstone research project.
If you decide to pursue a Master’s in Epidemiology, your degree will focus mostly on mathematical theories, scientific hypothesis, and integrated computer science. You’ll master the management and analysis of health-related survey and its interpretation for various audiences. Studies specifically in epidemiology will dictate a research-oriented career.
Either degree program will equip you with the ability to tackle local and global health challenges relating to infection, disease, and chronic health concerns of communities. The MPH option has more breadth of coursework, while the MS in Epidemiology is more specifically targeted.
Areas of Overlap
In either an MPH or Epidemiology program, you’ll use statistical methods and strategies for analyzing data, as well as program implementation and record keeping. Both varieties of program will require a capstone or thesis project, in which you must demonstrate a rounded understanding of the subject, and your ability to communicate complex research findings. Epidemiology is a cornerstone of public health studies.
Epidemiologists make a salary of almost $70k annually, which averages around $33.50 hourly. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Epidemiologists need at least a master’s degree from an accredited college or university – this can be Master’s in Public Health, a Master’s in Epidemiology, or another related master’s degree. The BLS notes that the Master’s in Public Health, with coursework in epidemiology, is the most common route.
Effect on Job Prospects
The role of the epidemiologist is somewhat narrow, requiring specialized and specific education (like you’re seeking). Therefore, either a Master’s in Epidemiology or a Master’s in Public Health could open doors for you to roles such as clinical researcher or data analyst for the government, a hospital, in a laboratory, or at a university.
Many aspiring epidemiologists seek work in agencies like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Some interesting Occupational Employment Statistics, which analyze this job across the country, show that the strongest percentage of employment in this field as well as the highest concentration of employment, is in the state government. Meanwhile, the top paying industry for epidemiologists is in the offices of physicians, followed closely by scientific research and development services. All in all, there are 7,600 epidemiologists currently employed nationwide, and the job outlook for this career is growing at 5% by 2028, adding 400 more jobs.
With an average growth rate, jobs in epidemiology are expanding horizontally. For instance, these roles are dependent upon state and local agency funding to provide public health service, which ultimately caps growth due to budgetary concerns. Many states have already established programs and are maintaining them at a steady rate; however, mental health and substance abuse are expanding areas of service. Roles that specialize in infection control at hospitals are also expected to increase.
What’s the Verdict?
Ultimately, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “…applicants who are willing to work in the various specialties found in this occupation, rather than those tied to one specialty, may have less difficulty finding work. Because epidemiology is a diverse field, opportunities can generally be found if one takes a broad view.”
With a degree like your Master’s in Public Health, you create a wider horizon for your job search, by considering careers such as biostatistician, disaster and emergency specialist, public health director or educator, or sanitarian, just to name a few. Your skills like critical thinking, data analysis and research, statistical software know-how, and a mixture of medical, biological, and interpersonal acumen, will make you a fantastic candidate for jobs like these. You might do yourself a favor in the long run by leaving the door open to a variety of roles with a Master’s in Public Health, even those beyond epidemiology.
Learn more about the epidemiology coursework available within Goodwin College’s MPH program today. Contact us at 800-889-3282, or visit us online.
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.