Epidemiology is the scientific discipline primarily concerned with identifying the distribution and causes of disease in populations. It encompasses a rich methodology including observational and experimental study designs, statistical methods, an understanding of pathogens, environmental and behavioral risk factors, and human biology. Epidemiological methods have evolved to meet threats of global infectious diseases and the complex health challenges presented by an aging population, as well as to capitalize on the expanding understanding of human genetics. As the fundamental discipline of public health, epidemiology provides essential knowledge to design, implement, and assess approaches to effectively prevent disease and improve quality of life in the population.

The research-oriented degree programs are designed to provide rigorous training to develop students' abilities to synthesize knowledge and skills needed to address today's health-related problems. Faculty, staff, and students in the Department of Population Health Sciences engage in a wide variety of world-class epidemiological and health services research projects. The interdisciplinary focus allows students the flexibility to work with a wide array of research/faculty on campus.

The department offers two graduate degree programs: an M.S. and a Ph.D. in epidemiology and an M.S. and Ph.D. in population health. While the program is based on a sequence of core courses, students, in consultation with their major professor, have some flexibility to design advanced study and research that best prepares them for their chosen area of interest.

Fall Deadline December 1
Spring Deadline This program does not admit in the spring.
Summer Deadline This program does not admit in the summer.
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Required.*
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

Applications are welcome from students with diverse academic backgrounds. Students with strong quantitative skills and academic preparation in the biological sciences are strongly encouraged to apply. New students are admitted to start in the fall semester of each school year. Applications are due by December 1 of each year. Late applications are not accepted.

Minimum requirements are:

  • Applicants must have an undergraduate degree with a grade point average of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale), although successful applicants generally have GPAs above 3.0.
  • GRE scores are required for admission. The scores must be no more than five years old at the time of application. For applicants who have completed a doctoral degree, GRE scores are preferred but the program will accept scores for the entrance exam required for the doctoral degree (e.g., MCAT, LSAT). Students should contact the graduate program coordinator to find out if their scores are competitive.
  • Applicants whose native language or 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. For the Test of English as a Foreign Language, TOEFL, minimum scores of 580 (written), 237 (computer-based), or 92 (Internet-based) or above are required.
  • Transcripts must show evidence of advanced quantitative preparation, including at least one semester of calculus with a grade of "B" or better (AP Calculus is acceptable if it meets the UW standards for a "B"), as well as a two-semester course in college-level biology. Applicant should have completed UW-Madison BIOLOGY/​BOTANY/​ZOOLOGY  151 Introductory Biology and BIOLOGY/​BOTANY/​ZOOLOGY  152 Introductory Biology or the equivalent.
  • A personal statement and three letters of recommendation are required.
  • Applicants must meet both the above departmental admission requirements and the Graduate School admission requirements.
  • Upon entry to the graduate program, 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 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 restrictions 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


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

Mode of Instruction Definitions


Minimum Credit Requirement 60 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 53 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement 100% of degree coursework must be completed 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 graduate program. No grade of BC or lower in required courses will be accepted for the degree.
Other Grade Requirements Students may 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 9-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/​SOC  797 Introduction to Epidemiology3
POP HLTH 798 Epidemiologic Methods3
POP HLTH 805 Advanced Epidemiology: Causal Inference in Epidemiological Studies3
POP HLTH 806 Advanced Epidemiology: Practice of Epidemiology3
POP HLTH 990 Research 10-11
Responsible Conduct of Research
Select a minimum of 1 credit of course work in "the responsible conduct of research"1
Special Topics in Biostatistics and Biomedical Infomatics (Ethical Conduct of Research for Data Scientists)
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.)
Ethics and the Responsible Conduct of Research (Offered in Spring)
Research Ethics and Career Development
Responsible Conduct of Research for Biomedical Graduate Students (Offered in Fall)
Advanced Responsible Conduct of Research for Biomedical Students (Offered in Spring)
Other courses may be substituted as approved by the advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies.
Epidemiology Specialization Courses
Ph.D. students must complete at least 12 additional credits of specialization work from the list below.12
Introduction to Clinical Trials I
Clinical and Public Health Microbiology
Introduction to Nutritional Epidemiology
Public Health Genomics
Special Topics (Topics: Environ. Health Epidemiology; Connections: Epidemiology Past, Present, and Future)
Epidemiology of HIV/AIDS
Cancer Epidemiology
Survey Methods for Social Research
Measurement and Questionnaires for Survey Research
Principles of Environmental Health: A Systems Thinking Approach
Physical Activity Epidemiology
Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases
Advanced Epidemiology: Causal Inference in Epidemiological Studies
Advanced Epidemiology: Practice of Epidemiology
Reproductive and Perinatal Epidemiology
Global Health Epidemiology
Cardiovascular Epidemiology
Genetic Epidemiology
Seminar - Physical Activity Epidemiology
Fourth Semester Biostatistics
See below for list of acceptable courses to satisfy the fourth-semester biostatistics requirement1-3
Topics in Biostatistics for Epidemiology
Introduction to Time Series
Introductory Nonparametric Statistics
An Introduction to Sample Survey Theory and Methods
Applied Multivariate Analysis
Introduction to Computational Statistics
Statistical Methods for Spatial Data
Statistical Methods for Clinical Trials
Statistical Methods for Epidemiology
Decision Trees for Multivariate Analysis
Seminar-Mathematical and Statistical Applications in Sociology (can be taken with approval for appropriate topics)
Current Topics in Educational Psychology
Factor Analysis, Multidimensional Scaling and Cluster Analysis
Statistical Analysis and Design in Educational Research
Test Theory II
Structural Equation Modeling
Hierarchical Linear Modeling
PhD students must take POP HLTH 820 twice.2
Doctoral Minor9
Total Credits60

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

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.


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.


Students must meet with their advisor at least once each semester for academic advising.


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.

Grievances and Appeals

These resources may be helpful in addressing your concerns:

Students should contact the program director with questions about grievances.



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 Epidemiology based on understanding of its methodological, biostatistical, and biologic 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 about causes, distribution, and prognosis of diseases and other factors related to health.
  3. Demonstrate breadth and depth of knowledge of Epidemiology in a specific substantive area, such as, but not limited to, infectious diseases, genetics, sleep, chronic diseases, environmental, and social epidemiology.
  4. Create research that makes a substantive contribution to the knowledge base of Epidemiology.
  5. Develop mastery of scholarship in Epidemiology relevant to generate knowledge useful to inform research needs and public health and patient care policies
  6. Communicate complex ideas both in writing and orally in a clear and understandable manner.
  7. Recognize and apply principles of ethical and professional conduct in their scholarship.

Faculty: Professors Durkin (chair), Cruickshanks, Gangnon, Kanarek, Patz, Remington, Trentham-Dietz; Associate Professors Astor, Bautista, Ehrenthal, Engleman, Gangnon, Malecki, Peppard, Sethi; Assistant Professor Warren-Andersen