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Advice: MPH Epi then PHD Epi?


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I am a recent college graduate who left my job after graduation due to the fact that I did not find an interest in the IT field. I studied economics as an undergraduate because I loved social sciences and how it gave me a broad understanding of the world. However, there has always been a bone inside me to help others (it is human nature to nurture and protect). 

Anyways, after college, I was given an opportunity to work in the IT field. As a foolish graduate who was ecstatic about getting a job, I hopped in without much thinking. Even though I excelled in my work, I did not have a passion for what I was doing. Before this job, I worked as a tutor and did many volunteer work, which gave me more fulfillment even though I was not earning much. 

After careful consideration and research, I deem that epidemiology is a field that I want to enter. I love the fact that I can apply my understanding of social sciences and quantitative analysis into the health field. I am fascinated with research and would love to teach if given the opportunity.

My plan right now is to pursue a MPH: Epi at San Diego State University (I live in San Diego) then apply to a phD program after. I am unsure if this is the most effective route, however. Due to the fact that I did not really obtain a degree that would qualify for epi (I might be wrong about this), I'm not sure if I would get into a phD program right away.

Can anyone with experience or advice assist me with my problem?

Here are my experiences-
1. Graduate from California State school with a degree in economics- GPA: 3.64
2. President of my fraternity
3. Volunteered 20 hours per semester as an undergraduate
4. Studied abroad at the University of Oxford
5. Worked as an academic tutor for my college
6. Worked multiple jobs (including that IT job)

-I will be taking the GRE test next month and applying to multiple Epi programs. However, I believe that San Diego State would be the most cost effective if I am pursuing this route (MPH then phD).

I am not fixated on this plan though. If there is sound advice to pursue a phD right away, please let me know. Again, the only problem with this is that I feel like I do not have experience to be qualified for a phD in epi right now.

Thank you in advance and deepest regards.

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  • 1 month later...

I am not an admissions committee, so take this with a grain of salt. 

In the vast, vast majority of cases, you need a master's degree in epidemiology to get into a good PhD program.

There are exceptions to this, mainly people who have EXTENSIVE statistics background as well as coding experience in a few specific languages (R, Python, SAS, or STATA; preferably all of the above.) Unfortunately, none of the experiences you have described are going to matter much to a PhD admissions committee. What they care about is your demonstrated ability to do research and perform epidemiological studies. 

There are programs that allow you to get a PhD right away. Most of these are very low ranked or are working on getting institutional accreditation and use this as a way to lure in students.

If you're set on a PhD - and I will say, probably 60% of my incoming class said they were "set on" a PhD, and now, a few months away from graduation, only about 15% of us want PhDs - apply to a program that will let you continue straight on to a PhD program and count the work you did as a master's student. The University of Michigan does this - you spend 2 years getting your master's, but if you are accepted into their PhD program, you can earn it with only 3 additional years of working, rather than starting over entirely at a new school. (Bias: I attend UM.)

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