Epidemiology — the study of the distribution and determinants of disease or other influencing risk factors in a population — is the cornerstone of public health inquiry and problem-solving. Unlike clinical medicine which predominantly focuses on an individual’s health and well-being, epidemiology uses a broader lens to examine the health of populations. Through this approach, epidemiologists identify public health threats and inform targets for interventions that reduce risk and improve health.

Our program, offered on-campus and online, you’ll learn to apply epidemiologic tools and frameworks to describe patterns of disease and other public health issues affecting diverse populations. By clarifying problems, you’ll drive effective solutions.

What You’ll Learn

The Master of Public Health (MPH) concentration in Applied Epidemiology, hosted by the Gillings School’s nationally top-ranked Department of Epidemiology, will prepare you to:

  • Understand surveillance systems and how they can be applied to a disease or condition of public health importance using evolving technologies and data linkages.
  • Recommend and implement the appropriate study design and understand:
    • What to measure to track disease, specific disease indicators and possible causal factors (i.e. to determine if X causes Y);
    • How to measure it, including recommending strategies of data collection; and
    • In what groups of people.
  • Accelerate the development and implementation of evidence-based solutions to pressing health problems in your area(s) of interest.
  • Advance a holistic understanding of current and emerging public health challenges with a unique focus on prevention, quality and effectiveness.
  • Collaborate across disciplines and professions to improve the health of communities and populations as well as individual patients.

Examples of recent public health topics that our students have explored include the COVID-19 pandemic, HIV, cardiovascular disease, environmental exposures, the opioid epidemic, suicide rates, HPV vaccine, cancer treatment efficacy and the role of nutrition.

Students often apply knowledge and skills from other fields of interest to epidemiology, including sociology, psychology, statistics, and cellular or molecular biology.

Career Opportunities

Applied epidemiology has far-reaching implications for the field of public health. It can be used to:

  • Define and prioritize public health practice and policy;
  • Investigate and quickly respond to outbreaks, including identifying harmful pathogens or the factors contributing to disease;
  • Build capacity for effectively implementing risk assessments and surveillance;
  • Guide interventions to improve population health;
  • Inform medicine and pharmacy (e.g., track toxicities; inform precision medicine based on genetics; evaluate drug efficacy);
  • Evaluate programs and policies (e.g, HIV prevention among school girls in South Africa; bed nets to prevent malaria in infants); and
  • Identify and study the determinants of disease (e.g., biological, behavioral, social, cultural, economic and political factors that directly or indirectly influence health).

As a practitioner, you will be able to apply your skills in many settings, such as:

  • Federal, state, territorial and local health agencies;
  • Global public health agencies;
  • Nonprofit and health care organizations;
  • Hospitals or health systems; and
  • The pharmaceutical industry.

Typical job titles for students with an MPH in applied epidemiology include the following:

  • Epidemiologist
  • Project manager
  • Project coordinator
  • Data analyst
  • Researcher
  • Data scientist

Learn more about the career opportunities that await you with an MPH from the Gillings School.

Required Courses

In addition to the interdisciplinary, 14-credit Gillings MPH Core, you will take:

  • EPID 710: Fundamentals of Epidemiology
  • EPID 716: Epidemiologic Data Analysis
  • EPID 750: Fundamentals of Public Health Surveillance
  • EPID 759: Methods in Field Epidemiology
  • EPID 795: Data in Public Health
  • EPID 992: Applied Epidemiology MPH Culminating Experience

Concentration Competencies

This program will empower you with the knowledge and skills to achieve the following core competencies:

  • Evaluate critically the relevant body of the scientific literature, considering the perspectives of relevant community stakeholders.
  • Understand surveillance systems and how they can be applied to a disease or condition of public health importance, using evolving technologies and data linkages.
  • Recommend specific epidemiologic study designs – including appropriate study populations and strategies of data collection – to identify or monitor public health problems, investigate etiologic and preventive relations, and provide epidemiologic input for program evaluation.
  • Create or implement data collection tools and linkages, with adequate consideration of ethical and privacy considerations, data management principles, data security, quality control and oversight.
  • Conduct and interpret data analyses of epidemiologic data —including datasets made available by governmental and other organizations — to address research questions, taking into account data quality, measurement error and potential for bias, and including confounding.
  • Communicate epidemiologic concepts and findings to a wide range of stakeholders, from lay to professional audiences.

Requirements and Sample Plan of Study

Applied Epidemiology Degree Requirements and Study Plan (PDF)

Ready to Apply?

Visit our Apply page for more information.

Looking for more flexibility?
Explore the online version of our Applied Epidemiology concentration by filling out the form below.


Want to learn more?

William Gillison202B Rosenau Hallwgilliso@unc.edu

Concentration Leader

Karin Yeatts, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Epidemiology