The Department of Population Health Sciences, part of the School of Medicine and Public Health, strives to provide leadership in the emerging, integrative field of population health. Its mission is to create, integrate, disseminate, and apply knowledge promoting the most efficient, equitable, and effective possible use of resources to maintain and improve the health of populations.

The department offers two graduate degree programs: an M.S. and a Ph.D. in population health and an M.S. and Ph.D. in epidemiology. The M.S and Ph.D in Population Health can also be taken with an available named option in Epidemiology.

The research-oriented degree programs are designed to provide rigorous, interdisciplinary training to develop students' abilities to synthesize knowledge and skills needed to address today's health-related problems. Methodological and analytical training is grounded in biostatistics, epidemiology, and health services research, but also emphasizes methods employed in the social sciences and econometrics that contribute to the study of health in populations. While the program is based on a sequence of core courses, students, in consultation with their major professor, have the flexibility to design advanced study and research that best prepares them for their chosen area of interest.

Individuals choose this program because of its innovative approach, strong research focus, and personal attention to students. It is an ideal option for those considering a broad array of fields including epidemiology, public health, health policy, health economics, health services research, environmental health, industrial engineering, demography, and more. UW–Madison ranks as one of the most prolific research universities in the world, consistently placing in the top five among American public universities for research expenditures. The program's interdisciplinary focus allows students the flexibility to work with a wide array of research/faculty on campus. For instance, program faculty include members from a number of other departments such as business, family medicine, industrial engineering, law, medical history and bioethics, medicine, nursing, ophthalmology, public affairs, sociology, and veterinary medicine. The multidisciplinary faculty coupled with the diverse backgrounds of the students provides a rich and stimulating training environment.

Faculty, staff, and students in the Department of Population Health Sciences engage in a wide variety of epidemiological and health services world-class research projects to understand determinants of health and health problems in populations, to analyze public and clinical health policies, and to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of healthcare. Research topics may include (but are not limited to) chronic, infectious, and environmental disease epidemiology; public health; studies of medical outcomes; health economics; maternal and childhood health; the determinants and measurement of population health status; and health administration and policy. These multidisciplinary research programs may include (but are not limited to) the study the effects and interactions of genetic traits; biologic and metabolic processes; pathogens; pollutants; lifestyles; behaviors; economic social and physical environments; and public health and health care systems on the health of populations. Methods employed involve developing and maintaining long term cohort studies, disease registries, population surveys, and retrospective analyses of large observational databases. Researchers in the department also work to advance methodology in health economics, population health evaluation, and statistical analyses.

For more information, see the graduate program Academic Guide.

Applications are welcome from students with diverse academic backgrounds. Students with strong academic preparation in the biological/medical sciences, quantitative analysis, and/or population health related social sciences are strongly encouraged to apply. Historically, many applicants who have succeeded in our program have come to the program with backgrounds in fields as diverse as microbiology, genetics, nutritional sciences, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, environmental sciences, political sciences, business, sociology, education, engineering, psychology, and economics.

New students are admitted to start in the fall semester of each school year. Applications are due by January 15 of each year. Late applications are not accepted.

Minimum requirements are:

  1. Applicants must fulfill all Graduate School requirements.
  2. Applicants must have an undergraduate degree with a grade point average of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale). Successful applicants generally have GPAs well above 3.0.
  3. GRE scores no more than five years old are required for admission. Applicants with professional degrees may substitute their scores for the entrance exam that was required for the degree (e.g., MCAT, LSAT), if taken within the last 5 years. For more information on the GRE, see this link.
  4. Applicants whose native language and language of study is not English must submit official TOEFL scores. Scores must be no more than five years old at the start of the semester for which an applicant is applying. Further details are available on the Graduate School website. Note that the minimum test scores for the program are higher than those required by the Graduate School. Students can submit scores for the TOEFL or the IELTS exam. For the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), a minimum score of 580 (written), 237 (computer-based), or 92 (Internet-based) or above is absolutely required. For the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), a minimum score of 7 is required. Use ETS institution code 1846.
  5. At least one semester of advanced quantitative preparation (calculus is strongly preferred) with a grade of "B" or better.
  6. A personal statement is required.
  7. Three letters of recommendation are to be submitted electronically.

Upon entry to the graduate programs, students are matched with a faculty advisor. Faculty advisors helps students hone their interests, assists with identifying research projects, provide support for career development, and link students to the greater campus community. Students have the benefit of regular dialogues with faculty members. Seminars and integrated discussion groups allow for increased interaction with core faculty and community lecturers. Finally, the work of students is valued as evidenced by their entries in the annual department poster session, participation in public health symposia, authorship of publications, and involvement in community/research projects.

Graduate School Admissions

Graduate admissions is a two-step process between academic degree programs and the Graduate School. Applicants must meet requirements of both the program(s) and the Graduate School. Once you have researched the graduate program(s) you are interested in, apply online.  

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and processes related to funding.

Program Resources

Students admitted to our degree programs are automatically considered for any available scholarships, traineeships, or graduate assistant positions in the department. The most common forms of funding support for our students are assistantships, traineeships, and fellowships.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Major Requirements 

MODE OF INSTRUCTION

Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No Yes No

Mode of Instruction Definitions

CURRICULAR REQUIREMENTS

Minimum Credit Requirement 51 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 39 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement 100% of all coursework taken as a graduate student must be in graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide.
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement Students must maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 3.25 in all graduate work (including transfer credits) unless conditions for probationary status require higher grades. Students must also maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.25 or better in all coursework completed while enrolled in the population health graduate program. No grade of BC or lower in epidemiology required courses will be accepted for the degree.
Other Grade Requirements Maintain no more than 6 credits of Incomplete (I) grades during any semester.
Assessments and Examinations Full-time students have up until the end of their third year to pass the qualifying exam and their first sitting must occur no later than the end of their second year. Part-time students are expected to pass the exam before the end of their fourth year (regardless of whether the student is continuously enrolled) and their first sitting must occur no later than the end of their third year.
Language Requirements No language requirements.
Doctoral Minor/Breadth Requirements All doctoral students are required to complete a 10-credit minor.

Required Courses

POP HLTH/​B M I  451 Introduction to SAS Programming for Population Health2
POP HLTH/​B M I  551 Introduction to Biostatistics for Population Health3
POP HLTH/​B M I  552 Regression Methods for Population Health3
POP HLTH/​B M I  651 Advanced Regression Methods for Population Health3
POP HLTH 795 Principles of Population Health Sciences1-3
POP HLTH 796 Introduction to Health Services Research3
POP HLTH/​SOC  797 Introduction to Epidemiology3
POP HLTH 798 Epidemiologic Methods3
POP HLTH 820 Graduate Research Seminar1
Select a minimum of 1 credit of course work in "the responsible conduct of research"
POP HLTH 794 Biological Basis of Population Health 12

Responsible Conduct of Research courses

MED HIST 545 Ethical and Regulatory Issues in Clinical Investigation (Offered in Fall. MED HIST 545 does not fulfill all the NIH requirements for training in the responsible conduct of research for certain T and F awards.)1
NURSING 802 Ethics and the Responsible Conduct of Research (Offered in Spring)1
SURG SCI 812 Research Ethics and Career Development2
OBS&GYN 955 Responsible Conduct of Research for Biomedical Graduate Students (Offered in Fall)2
OBS&GYN 956 Advanced Responsible Conduct of Research for Biomedical Students (Offered in Spring)1
Other courses may be substituted as approved by the advisor and director of grad studies

Named Options (Sub-Majors)

A named option is a formally documented sub-major within an academic major program. Named options appear on the transcript with degree conferral. 

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Major-Specific Policies

Graduate Program Handbook

The Graduate Program Handbook is the repository for all of the program's policies and requirements.

Prior Coursework

Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students are allowed to count a maximum of 12 credits of graduate coursework taken from other institutions as a graduate student. coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

UW–Madison Undergraduate

No credits from a UW–Madison undergraduate degree are allowed to count toward the degree.

UW–Madison University Special

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 12 credits of coursework numbered 300 or above taken as a UW–Madison University Special student. Coursework earned ten or more years prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

ProbatioN

A student not meeting guidelines for satisfactory progress will be placed on probation for one semester and will be reviewed by the steering committee following the probationary semester. Students may be dropped or allowed to continue by the committee based on review of progress during the probationary semester.

ADVISOR / COMMITTEE

All students will have a hold placed on their registration each semester. Students must meet with their advisor once each semester for academic advising to have the hold removed.

CREDITS PER TERM ALLOWED

15 credits

Time Constraints

Dissertation required. Doctoral students have a maximum of five years from the date of passing the preliminary examination to take the final oral examination and deposit the dissertation.

Doctoral degree students who have been absent for five or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence.

Other

n/a

Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

1. Articulate research problems, potentials, and limits with respect to theory, knowledge, and practice of Population Health, based on understanding of its health services, health assessment,  microeconomic,  biostatistical and epidemiologic foundations.

2. Assemble, evaluate and synthesize evidence from literature and data sources to formulate ideas, concepts, designs, and/or techniques beyond the current boundaries of knowledge within Population Health.

3. Demonstrate breadth of knowledge of Population Health in its subject matter, historical and social context.

4. Create research that makes a substantive contribution to the knowledge base of Population Health.

5. Develop mastery of scholarship in Population Health relevant to academia, for-profit and non-profit organization and/or government.

6. Communicate complex ideas both in writing and orally in a clear and understandable manner.

7. Recognize and apply principles of ethical  professional conduct in their scholarship.

Faculty: Professors Durkin (interim chair), Cruickshanks, Gangnon, Kanarek, Mullahy, Oliver, Palta, Patz, Remington, M. Smith, Trentham-Dietz, Wolfe; Associate Professors Astor, Bautista, Ehrenthal, Engelman, Peppard, Sethi, Vanness; Assistant Professors M. Burns, Malecki