After the MPH, is a PhD next?

After the MPH, is a PhD next?

Category : PROspective

From Dr. Shakira Suglia, Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) for the PhD program in epidemiology: 

As the semester starts to wind down, many of us are figuring out what’s next and while a simple answer may be ‘Spring semester is next’ some of you may be considering what’s next beyond the Spring semester. If you have been considering continuing into the PhD as your next career step after the MPH there are a few things worth considering as you embark on this journey.


Should I apply?

When considering applying, think of what you want to do after the PhD, that should drive the reason for applying. Think of your career goals, do you enjoy leading research teams? Developing research projects? Teaching and mentoring? A PhD changes the types of jobs you are competitive for, you move into a lead role conceptualizing and leading research rather than carrying out the research. Think of organizations and positions you may enjoy working in after your PhD, do the people holding those positions have PhDs?

What is getting a PhD like?

Depending on the program and academic institution, the time from start to finish of a PhD can be between 4 and 6 years. Being a PhD student is a full time ‘job’ – in addition to coursework, there are often teaching and research expectations. Compared to a MPH program there is a lot of unstructured time in the PhD program as you work on your dissertation. Some institutions, but not all, provide stipends and may cover tuition and health insurance. It’s important to have a good understanding of what obtaining a PhD is like, so it is a good idea to talk to current doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows or recent grads to learn what their day to day is like.

How do I know where to apply?

Again, do some homework. Research programs websites, read up on the work being done in each institution – are there faculty that do work in the areas that you want to work on? While a perfect match is not necessary, you want to ensure there will be faculty that can mentor you in the work that you want to engage in. If you are interested in something that no one on faculty focuses on, that is not a good match. If you can, try to distinguish between primary faculty and adjuncts who are actively mentoring students. Understand what are the training priorities of each program and how do they align with your priorities. Again throughout the application process you should reach out to faculty, students and alumni of the programs you are considering.

A bit more on the Epi PhD program

The PhD in epidemiology in our institution is offered through Emory’s Laney Graduate School. This program trains students to become independent investigators and to obtain skills to be successful in PhD-level positions in academia, government, and the private sector. Typical time to degree is 5 years, and students typically spend the first 2 years doing coursework and 3 years for dissertation work. Tuition, health insurance and a stipend are provided for students.

You can find more information on our website and you can reach out to sphepidept [at] emory [dot] edu directly with your questions. The application deadline for Fall 2021 matriculation is December 1st, 2020. 



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