Jul 14, 2024  
Graduate Catalog | 2023-2024 
Graduate Catalog | 2023-2024 Previous Edition

Epidemiology, Ph.D.

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Epidemiology, a core discipline of public health, is the study of the distribution and risk factors of diseases and health conditions in populations. Our post-master’s Ph.D. program in Epidemiology prepares future researchers and public health practitioners to develop and conduct studies and apply quantitative methods to understand and solve complex public health problems. The program, through its rigorous coursework in epidemiologic and public health methods, electives, and teaching experience, prepares graduates for a career in academia, government, or industry. The cornerstone of the program is the student’s dissertation, which is expected to be a significant contribution based on original and independent research leading to publications in peer-reviewed, indexed journals. Full-time students can complete the degree requirements within 4 years; however, most full-time students complete the program within 5 years, depending upon the design of their dissertation research.

See the Epidemiology department website for more information.

Admission Requirements

All applicants must complete an online application to the Graduate School. The minimum admission requirements for the program are as follows:

  • A master’s degree in public health or a related field with a minimum GPA of 3.5 (on a 4.0 scale) in all graduate work. Students who have not completed a master’s degree in public health may be required to take additional courses as determined by the Ph.D. Review Committee upon review of current CEPH requirements. Such courses will be specified at the time of admission into the program.
  • GRE scores are optional. GRE scores, if submitted, are one of many factors considered when evaluating applications. GRE scores are highly recommended for applicants who do not have a strong record of relevant quantitative coursework.
  • Non-native speakers of English that do not hold a degree from a US university must demonstrate English language proficiency. Please visit the Graduate School website for accepted standardized tests and minimum scores.
  • All applicants are required to submit a personal statement explaining why they want to pursue a Ph.D. in their specific area of research at UNC Charlotte. Please visit the Ph.D. program’s website or contact the Program Director for further information on what to include in the personal statement.
  • In addition to the personal statement, a writing sample is required for all applications to the Ph.D. program. The writing sample should demonstrate aptitude for scholarly writing, e.g., a literature review, a report of a needs assessment or evaluation project, a master’s thesis, or a published original research article on a public health topic. Detailed information is provided on the program’s website.
  • Three letters of recommendation, including at least two letters from former professors familiar with the applicant’s graduate work. Exceptions should be discussed with the program director.
  • A copy of transcripts from all prior universities or colleges. Note: Official transcripts will be needed at the time of matriculation.
  • Resume/CV

We look at an application in its entirety to determine a person’s strengths and ability to succeed in our program; availability of advisors, areas of research interest, and academic history are important considerations, as is research and public health practice work experience​​​​​​.

Admission Assessment

For the fullest consideration of admission and financial awards, applications need to be completed by January 10.  This deadline is especially important for applicants who want to be considered for assistantships or fellowship opportunities.  Applications completed after January 10 but by March 15 will be reviewed, and decisions regarding admission will be made on a space-available basis.

Prerequisite Coursework

Students who graduated with an MPH from a CEPH accredited program or school are assumed to have met the required prerequisite foundation courses. Students lacking coursework in foundational public health knowledge and graduate level epidemiology may have to complete the required prerequisite foundation courses in Public Health in the first year of starting the program in consultation with the Ph.D. Program Director. Accepted applicants should discuss their prior training with the Ph.D. Program Director to ensure that prerequisites will be met in the first semester. These prerequisite foundation course credits do not count toward the 69 credit hours required for the Ph.D.

Degree Requirements

The Ph.D. in Epidemiology program requires 69 post-master’s credit hours. This program emphasizes courses in research methods and analysis, as well as experiences working with faculty on research to support the development of research skills to carry out the dissertation on a significant research problem in the area of epidemiology.

Degree Total = 69 Credit Hours

Grade Requirements

Students must maintain a cumulative average of 3.0 in all coursework taken in the program. The seminars are graded on a Pass/Unsatisfactory basis and, therefore, are not included in the cumulative average.  An accumulation of two C grades results in termination of a student’s enrollment in the doctoral program.  A second failure in any of the following results in dismissal from the program:  the qualifying examination; the dissertation proposal defense; or final dissertation defense.  If a student receives a grade of U or NC in any course, enrollment is terminated.  A doctoral student whose enrollment has been terminated due to grades is ineligible to register in any semester or summer session.

Transfer Credit

Students can transfer a maximum of six credit hours or 2 Ph.D. level courses from a CEPH accredited program. Transfer credit must be approved by the Program Director. Only courses with grades of A or B will be accepted for transfer credit. Students transferring from another doctoral program can transfer up to 30 credit hours (with not more than 6 at the master’s level) upon approval of the Program Director. Credit for dissertation research cannot be transferred. Courses taken to fulfill the master’s level prerequisite public health courses do not count toward the 69 credit hour total.


Exceptionally qualified full-time students may be offered graduate assistantships. The award of the assistantship follows the guidelines of the Graduate School and is dependent on the availability of funds.

Qualifying Examination and Advancing to Candidacy

The qualifying examination takes place at least once per year.  The examination must be taken and passed prior to enrollment in dissertation research credit hours (HSRD 8901 ).  Specific procedures, contents, and grading of the comprehensive examination are detailed in the Epidemiology Ph.D. Student Handbook.

A doctoral student advances to candidacy after the dissertation proposal has been approved by the student’s Dissertation Committee and the Graduate School. Candidacy must be achieved at least one term prior to the term of graduation.


The dissertation is an original research project conceived, conducted, analyzed, and interpreted by the student to demonstrate expertise in her/his topic as it relates to epidemiology.  The research must make a distinct, original contribution to the field of epidemiologic research.  Students cannot register for dissertation credits until they have passed their comprehensive examination.  Students must complete a minimum of 18 credit hours of dissertation research activity.  Per University policy, students must be continuously enrolled in dissertation credit hours beginning with the semester after the dissertation topic proposal is approved, through and including the semester of graduation. 

The dissertation consists of three phases: the proposal defense, research, and the final dissertation defense. Guidelines for selecting a Dissertation Chair and Committee Members are provided in detail in the Epidemiology Ph.D. Student Handbook In conjunction with the Dissertation Committee, students agree on the dissertation topic and indicate their preferred dissertation format - either the “traditional” 5-chapter model or the 3-manuscript model.

The dissertation proposal consists of three chapters:  1) introduction to the problem, including the importance of the problem, significance of the proposed research, the research question, and hypotheses; 2) conceptual model and literature review; and 3) a detailed methods section including sampling, recruitment, measures, data analysis, and limitations.  With the guidance of the Dissertation Chair, students work with each committee member individually to develop the scope and direction of the dissertation.  Students provide the overall idea for the dissertation, including major concepts to be investigated, measures to be used, and strategy for primary or secondary data analysis.  The dissertation topic proposal must be defended at a meeting of the student’s advisory/dissertation committee. 

The dissertation defense is scheduled when the Dissertation Chair and the student concur that the student has a final product that meets with initial committee member approval.  The outcome of the exam is pass or fail.  Details regarding the development of the dissertation proposal, proposal defense, conducting the dissertation research, and dissertation defense are available in the Epidemiology Ph.D. Student Handbook.

Time Limits for Completion

Students must pass all sections of the comprehensive exam within one year of finishing their required coursework.  Students may not defend their dissertation proposal before passing all components of the comprehensive exam.  Students are expected to pass their dissertation proposal defense within one year of passing the comprehensive exam.  Students must pass their dissertation defense within five years of the proposal defense but not later than the end of their eighth year following matriculation as a doctoral student.  Students must complete their degree, including the dissertation, within nine years of first registering as a doctoral student.

UNC Charlotte Residency Requirement

The student must satisfy the UNC Charlotte residency requirement for the program by completing 21 credit hours. Residence is considered to be continuous if the student is enrolled in one or more courses in successive semesters until 21 hours are earned.

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