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 Ph.D. in population health and an M.S. and Ph.D. in epidemiology. The M.S and Ph.D in Population Health can be taken with either a named option in Epidemiology or a named option in Population Health.

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 world-class epidemiological and health services 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 of 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.

Students apply to the Ph.D. in Population Health through one of the named options:

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


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 See Named Options for policy information.
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 minor.

Required Courses

Select a Named Option for courses required.

Named Options

A named option is a formally documented sub-major within an academic major program. Named options appear on the transcript with degree conferral. Students pursuing the Ph.D in Population Health must select one of the following named options:

Students should refer to one of the named options for policy information:

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 (chair), Cruickshanks, Gangnon, Kanarek, Mullahy, Oliver, Patz, Remington, M. Smith, Trentham-Dietz; Associate Professors Astor, Bautista, Burns, Ehrenthal, Engelman, Johnson, Malecki, Peppard, Sethi; Assistant Professors Cochran, Green, Lindberg, Myerson, Ouayogode, Pillai, Warren-Andersen