Degree Division
Epidemiology Division
Program Contact
Matilda Kong

For complete information about the MPH program in the Epidemiology field, please download current program handbook:

click here for mph Epidemiology program handbook 2017-18

Program Overview

Program Description

The MPH in Epidemiology provides a solid base in epidemiological methods, an understanding of the breadth of public health and opportunities for applied experiential learning in epidemiologic practice, research and policy.

Full time students will complete the program over 4 to 5 consecutive terms of study (including summer). The program requires mandatory and elective courses, and a required practicum placement (completed after at least two terms of course-work).

The curriculum emphasizes quantitative methods, critical appraisal of evidence, data analysis and interpretation. In contrast to strictly skills-based training, the degree is aimed at developing leaders who will make independent contributions when faced with public health challenges, and direct initiatives in the field.  Licensed Physicians completing their Residency in Public Health and Preventative Medicine (PHPM) are often encouraged to also complete the MPH in Epidemiology in order to acquire to full standard of training.

Program Goals

The objective of the program is to provide students with a base of knowledge and skills in epidemiological methods and public health.

Graduates will:

  • be able to work as part of a research group or in public health practice;
  • be able to describe trends and patterns of disease incidence and prevalence, disease burden, factors affecting health status, and major etiologic and prognostic factors;
  • understand the strengths and weaknesses of major methodological and analytical techniques;
  • exhibit practical skills, including the ability to develop an epidemiological question, refine the question in light of the literature and community situation, design an appropriate study to answer the question, collect relevant data, analyze these data using commonly available statistical software, and interpret the findings relative to the literature and the community/ organizational context;
  • be able to prepare a paper for peer-reviewed publication, and present epidemiological information;
  • have knowledge of public health principles to practice; and
  • be able to read, critically appraise, and interpret the scientific literature, and discuss the effectiveness of core public health interventions.

Career Opportunities

The program prepares all students to pursue their choice of career in research and/or in applied public health. Many of our graduates have been accepted into PhD programs in Epidemiology and related fields in Canada and internationally. Many of our alumni hold positions as epidemiologists, data analysts and managers in public health units and government departments.

We have alumni who are senior managers of research in medical and public health research institutes, and also alumni who work in the private and not-for-profit sectors. Some of our graduates each year enter health professional training such as medicine and nursing and many of those have combined their clinical and public health training to become senior leaders in population health or clinician scientists.

Admission Criteria

Minimum Admission Requirements for all MPH fields

  1. MPH students are admitted under the General Regulations of the School of Graduate Studies (SGS). Applicants should refer to SGS website for details.
  2. MPH applicants must also satisfy DLSPH’s additional admission requirements.

Minimum Admission Requirements for MPH Epidemiology field

The specific admission requirements for the MPH (all fields) are:

  • an appropriate bachelor’s degree or its equivalent from a recognized university
  • at least a mid-B average in final year of the degree or in the last 5.0 full course equivalents completed at a senior level
  • at least one undergraduate statistics course is required for Epidemiology. There is a requirement for a minimum grade (B+ or higher) and content of the qualifying course(s). See below.
  • The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is mandatory for all applicants seeking admission to enter the MPH Epidemiology in fall 2018 or later. Official GRE General Test Scores must be received by the University by the deadline for applications in January, 2017.
  • Proof of English Language Proficiency is required. 

    Students who studied outside Canada must consult the SGS website to be sure that separate evidence of EPT can be waived. The SGS website lists the only countries and institutions where university instruction in English will be recognized without further documentation.  The MPH Epidemiology program does not make other exemptions.

    If an applicant is required to submit proof of EPT and does not include this with the application, by the application deadline, then the application will be rejected as incomplete and inadmissible.

Statistics Content Requirement for Epidemiology

At least one undergraduate statistics course is required for admission to the MPH program in the Epidemiology field. The qualifying statistics course must be completed prior to the application deadline. Applicants must obtain a minimum grade of B+ in this course(s).

The content of the statistics course must include the topics listed below (Box 1). A single term course is enough if the required topics are covered. Two terms of statistics may be needed to cover the required topics. DLSPH does not provide a list of qualifying courses because courses change. When looking for courses, ask if the course will cover all the subjects in our list.

Epidemiology and Health Promotion: Content guidelines for statistics prerequisite

• Frequency distributions, skewness
• Measures of central tendency: Mean, median, mode
• Levels of measurement: nominal, ordinal, interval
• Measures of variation: Standard deviation, standard score, standard error
• Probability, normal curve
• Sampling, confidence intervals
• Test of significance: Null hypothesis: t-test, one-tail/two-tail tests
• Analyses for proportions and categories (e.g., Chi square))
• Analyses for group means (e.g., t-tests, analysis of variance)
• Correlation
• Regression (linear and/or logistic)

International applicants – qualifying degrees and academic standing

The MPH Epidemiology program follows the admissions regulations of the School of Graduate Studies. Applicants who have not completed a qualifying degree in Canada (regardless of citizenship) must study the SGS website to be sure your prior degree and academic standing meet these criteria.

Requirements for Proof of English Language Proficiency

Admitted students must have evidence of English Language Proficiency (EPT). The MPH Epidemiology program follows the admissions regulations of the School of Graduate Studies (SGS).

Automatic Exemptions: The following applicants do not have to provide direct supporting evidence of EPT in the application.

  • A Canadian citizen who studied at a Canadian university where instruction is in English or French
  • Any applicant who has obtained a qualifying undergraduate or graduate degree from an institution recognized by the University of Toronto and where the language of instruction and examination is uniformly English.

If either criterion above is satisfied, the application can be submitted without test scores or other proof of EPT. The EPT requirement will be waived, in the online system, when the application is reviewed.

Students who studied outside Canada must consult the School of Graduate Studies website to be sure that separate evidence of EPT can be waived. The SGS website lists those countries and institutions where university instruction in English will be recognized without further documentation. Click here for more information.

The MPH Epidemiology program does not make other exemptions.

If an applicant is required to submit proof of EPT and does not include this with the application, by the application deadline, then the application will be rejected as incomplete and inadmissible.

Program Requirements, Length and Structure

Full time MPH Epidemiology students complete the program in 4 to 5 consecutive terms of study (see Box 2).  The first two terms are dedicated to intensive, skills-based courses.  Students will achieve broad knowledge about public health and all the core disciplines which contribute to it.  Students should expect a heavy work-load, with extensive reading, plus tutorial exercises and written assignments.  Assignments are designed to develop skills relevant to the workplace in both applied public health and research.  Epidemiology students acquire skills in descriptive and analytic research, biostatistics, and the critical appraisal and use of research evidence in public health.

The required practicum is usually completed in the summer term of the first year of study.  The practicum is an important opportunity to apply skills acquired in the first year, and gain work experience in epidemiologic research and/or applied public health.  Epidemiology practicum students must apply their quantitative skills in the analysis and interpretation of data, and contribute to written work.  First year students will receive practicum-specific information and professional development throughout the fall term. They typically apply for practicum placements starting in the second term of study (January).

The second year is the chance for students to explore new areas, and/or specialize.  Advanced courses may be taken quantitative methods, academic research, or subject areas (e.g., chronic, or infectious disease, mental health or social determinants).  Electives are typically within the DLSPH Public Health Sciences Graduate Unit in epidemiology or other fields. Electives outside the Graduate Division are often taken, conditional on availability and approval.

TERM Course/Practicum FCEs
Year 1, Fall Term (September – December) 2.5 – 3.0
CHL5004H: Introduction to Public Health Sciences1 0.5
CHL5201H: Biostatistics I 0.5
CHL5300H: Public Health Policy 0.5
CHL5401H: Epidemiologic Methods I 0.5
CHL5426H: Population Perspectives for Epidemiology  0.5
Elective 0.5
Year 1, Winter Term (January – April) 2.5 – 3.0
CHL5202H: Biostatistics II 0.5
CHL5402H: Epidemiologic Methods II 0.5
CHL5405H: Health Trends and Surveillance  0.5
CHL5418H: Scientific Overviews in Epidemiology 0.5
1 – 2 Electives 0.5 – 1.0
Year 1, Summer Term (May – August) 2.0
CHL6010Y and CHL6012Y: Required MPH Practicum (16 weeks full time)
Students must successfully complete all required first year courses, listed above, before progressing to the practicum. Evolution of a practicum placement into a Capstone Experience may occur during the first practicum. Please see also MPH Epidemiology Practicum Guidelines for more information on practicum options and procedures.
Year 2, Fall Term (September  – December) and Winter Term (January – April)  2.5 – 3.5
In their second year, students complete diverse combinations of approved graduate credits (regular courses or additional practicum placements) to bring the total number of credits completed to 10.0
TOTAL 10.0

Program Competencies and Approach

Our Curriculum, and Program-Specific Competencies

Competencies are action-oriented statements that delineate the essential knowledge, skills, and abilities in the performance of work responsibilities. The Discipline-Specific Core Competencies for DLSPH MPH Program Stream in Epidemiology are presented in Box 3 (following page). These competencies for the MPH in Epidemiology at DLSPH are consistent with Canadian and international competency statements for applied epidemiologists but also include intermediate to advanced research skills. The strong emphasis on research skills reflects the program’s history of a merger of a previous professional master’s program and the former MSc in Epidemiology focusing on research.

Our curriculum addresses the competencies for applied epidemiologists working in public health and government agencies, as defined by the Association of Public Health Epidemiologists of Ontario as well as the Applied Epidemiology Competencies for the European Union Although DLSPH is not currently seeking accreditation with American Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), the MPH in epidemiology curriculum covers the MPH competencies for both Epidemiology and Biostatistics as defined for accredited MPH programs.

An important competency statement for epidemiology in public health is the United States Competencies for Applied Epidemiologists in Governmental Public Health Agencies (US Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, CSTE, and US Centers for Disease Control; 2008 ). Following the CSTE classification, our program addresses the applied epidemiology competencies for professional roles described as Tier 2: Mid-Level Epidemiologist. In addition, our MPH Epidemiology curriculum addresses more advanced and research-focused competencies for epidemiologists in professional roles defined by CSTE as: Tier 3b: Senior Epidemiologist, Senior Scientist/Subject Area Expert.

Competencies Shared with Other Public Health Disciplines

The MPH in Epidemiology is one of five discipline-specific programs offered under the designation of MPH at DLSPH. These fields are: Community Nutrition, Epidemiology, Family and Community Medicine, Health Promotion – Social and Behavioural Health Sciences / Health Promotion, and Occupational and Environmental Health). Each field is as highly specialized as the Epidemiology field, and this makes this DLSPH MPH Program unique in Canada. Each field also takes a multidisciplinary perspective, and each is committed to a shared set of 30 core-competencies organized under the seven headings of the Core Competencies for Public Health in Canada developed by Public Health Agency of Canada . See: . As stated previously, while DLSPH is not currently seeking accreditation, CEPH MPH competencies across public health disciplines have also been considered in the design of cross-cutting program requirements, taken by all MPH students, regardless of their specialization.

Discipline-Specific Core Competencies for DLSPH MPH Program Stream in Epidemiology

A. Understanding the system
a. Describe public health and understand public health systems in relation to other health care systems (e.g., international).
b. Describe legislation regarding public health privacy and personal health information.
c. Demonstrate a broad understanding of content areas such as the social determinants of health, occupational and environmental health, and healthy environments, in general.
B. Understanding data sources; critical appraisal.
a. Identify existing data sources and gaps
b. Demonstrate knowledge of available data sources and their applicability.
c. Evaluate strengths and weaknesses of available data
d. Recognize sources of bias and validity when critically appraising research literature
C. Databases, technology, surveillance
a. Explain the design and implementation of surveillance systems
b. Develop and manage databases
c. Recognize the uses of technological systems (e.g., GIS) and literature databases (e.g, Medline)
d. Operate/employ basic commands within a statistical package (e.g., SAS, SPSS, R, etc.)
e. Identify key findings from surveillance data, draw conclusions, identify health threats
f. Recognize and utilize evidence-based guidelines for surveillance
D. Epidemiologic methods
a. Describe population health status, determinants, risk factors, health care utilization
b. Evaluate health outcomes and understand implications for population health
c. Write a draft proposal for a study (which includes a study protocol, data collection instruments, proposed analysis, etc.)
d. Conduct risk assessment (with guidance)
e. Design basic analysis plan, sampling design, sample size estimation
f. Describe the design and implementation of qualitative and quantitative research
g. Design and interpret outbreak investigations, including disease clusters
h. Prepare reports/publications suitable for peer review
i. Apply ethical principles to data collection, management, dissemination
j. Differentiate between and evaluate applicability of various study designs
E. Biostatistics, data analysis
a. Use statistical methods to estimate measures of disease occurrence, risk, trends, associations
b. Use statistical methods to conduct multivariable hypothesis testing
F. Public health guidance
a. Provide epidemiological input to develop measurable outcomes for public health programs

Overview of the MPH Epidemiology Practicum

The purpose of the practicum is to enable students to get “hands on” experience and to apply the theory and analytic skills acquired in the academic portion of their degree program.  The practicum activities undertaken will depend on the nature of the practicum setting, the needs of the practicum agency/organization, and the student’s learning objectives.

Practicum procedures and timeline

All MPH Epidemiology students must complete at least one practicum placement in an applied public health or research setting. The mandatory placement must include an element of quantitative work and contributions to written reports or manuscripts.  Full-time students complete their required practicum placement in the first summer, after two terms of required courses.  This is a term of real, full time, work experience similar to a short term contract or internship. A 16 week practicum is recommended (2.0 Full time equivalent course credits or FCE); a 12 week (1.5 FCE) practicum is permitted.  Many students also complete a second/elective practicum in Winter term of their second year.  Students may take a maximum 3.5 FCE across the required and elective practica. Students wanting a thesis-like experience can do this through consecutive practicum placements. Practicum procedures and timeline

Placements are coordinated by the Practicum Placement & Professional Development Officer (Practicum Officer).  Professional development sessions, to prepare students for the practicum and employment, starts right after fall orientation and continues throughout the program. Detailed practicum procedures are presented to registered students by October or November of the first year of study.  In January, eligible students are given access to a database of practicum opportunities.  Students must apply to positions that interest them.  All registered MPH students, in good standing and eligible for the practicum, are guaranteed a placement within the program completion time limit. An opportunities database is available to students for summer and winter terms.

Epidemiology applicants are not required to identify a practicum placement or supervisor, prior to the start of their studies. Most should wait and use the first term in the MPH to explore and consider many possible directions.  Applicants wishing to apply for research funds with a specific DLSPH supervisor may approach the faculty member even before applying to the program, but these arrangements are conditional on acceptance into the MPH and approval of the practicum placement.

Students who identify their own practicum opportunity must meet with the Practicum Officer after admission and registration but well before the practicum start date. The university requires affiliation agreements to be in place and these can take months to years to develop.  Students who wish to do a second or elective practicum are expected to identify their own placement, with the approval and ongoing support of the Practicum Officer.

Paid Practica and Financial Support

Not all practicum placements can pay students (because of their own resources or policies). Many unpaid placements offer invaluable professional experience.  In recent years most MPH Epidemiology practicum students have received some level of stipend or salary.  Also in recent years DLSPH has received the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) James Rossiter MPH Practicum Awards which provides stipends for unpaid practica.  Travel awards have been awarded to many MPH students.

All domestic students should apply for OSAP and bursaries based on financial need wherever applicable.  All students should apply for competitive awards. Refer to DLSPH and SGS websites for more information on financial support.  Many MPH Epidemiology students have held the same competitive research awards as MSc students and use practicum placements to do independent research.

FAQs about Global Health and International Practicum experiences

Questions about Global Health Practica should be directed to the Office of Global Public Health Education and Training at DLSPH but can be answered during orientation sessions on Global Health Education within DLSPH.  Orientation and information sessions will be held during the first months of the fall term for incoming and upper year students.

Students must assume that the required epidemiology practicum (first summer of studies) will be completed in Canada. Work experience in Canada, and references from Canadian employers are both essential post-graduation; whereas travel and international work experience are not necessary core competencies for graduates in epidemiology of public health. DLSPH must ensure that any student placed in any practicum has: the relevant skills and qualifications to fulfil the needs of the hosting agency; and, will uphold the ethical and professional standards of the DLSPH.

Each year, the number of Global Health and international practicum opportunities available to students is growing.  Depending on the student’s own work experience and academic performance, prior to and during the MPH Epidemiology studies, students may pursue approved practicum placements outside of Canada for the mandatory practicum or by the second, elective practicum.  In either case, the placement and placement for the particular student must be approved by the Practicum Placement Office and Program Director, and also by the Office of Global Public Health where that office has a responsibility or relationship with the placement agency or supervisor. Information will be provided to all incoming students, in the fall term, about how to achieve eligibility for an international placement. Students undertaking Global Health placements, internationally or within Canada may be required to complete pre-requisite course work, and will be required to complete professional development and briefings required by the University, prior to departure.

All MPH Epidemiology students complete at least one practicum placement in an applied public health or research setting and must include an element of quantitative work. Students wanting a thesis-like experience should explore the capstone option (please see MPH Epidemiology Practicum Guidelines for more information on practicum options and procedures).

About Practica Placements 

Read the 2017 MPH Practicum Report

To gain a better understanding of the work that MPH Epidemiology students have undertaken during their first practicum placement:

Click here for brief descriptions of summer 2014 placements.

Click here for a listing of 2015 summer placements.

This presentation is offered during orientation to incoming MPH Epidemiology students. It contains, in ppt format, some basic information regarding the practicum.

For more detailed information, please see the MPH Epidemiology practicum guidelines.

How do I find a placement?

For more information on finding a practicum placement, please contact the Practicum Placement and Professional Development Officer.

Practicum activities will depend on the nature of the practicum setting, the on-going projects and needs of the practicum agency/organization, and the student’s learning objectives.

Click here if you’re interested in becoming a Practicum Supervisor

Advice to Applicants

What the admissions committee looks for and how this is assessed
Successful applicants to the MPH program in Epidemiology will have evidence of strength in all of the following areas. Students admitted are often exceptional in several of these areas:

  • Maturity, and relevant professional experience as demonstrated by past training, volunteer and paid work experiences,
  • Quantitative skills
  • Writing and/or scholarly research experience
  • Knowledge of human health and its physical, social and environmental determinants
  • Strong communications and interpersonal skills
  • A genuine interest in graduate training in the discipline of epidemiology which is well-articulated in the letter of intent, and supported by past choices in training and experiences.

Competitive: We typically have more qualified applicants than we can admit to the program. Applicants who meet the minimum admission criteria may not receive an offer of admission. We cannot pre-review any part of an application or tell applicants in advance if they are qualified or competitive.

Prior education: Applicants are welcomed from the biological and health sciences, quantitative social sciences (e.g., psychology, sociology, economics, anthropology), and from clinical backgrounds.

Health professionals: Health professionals are encouraged to apply. Roughly 10 % of our MPH students have clinical backgrounds already. Many of our alumni have been successful in subsequent applications for clinical training. The MPH does not lead directly to a license to practice medicine. The MPH Epidemiology is often taken in conjunction with post graduate medical training, particularly residency in Preventive Medicine and Public Health. This combination is strongly recommended to achieve the full breadth of required public health skills including research and surveillance methods, critical appraisal and applied public health practice skills. Health Professionals apply to the MPH separately from other post-graduate training. The letter of intent for the MPH should include the rationale for combined studies and planned timeline including continuing employment, as applicable. The MPH program focuses on non-experimental and population-based research. People seeking careers exclusively in laboratory or clinical research might consider other graduate programs within the University or DLSPH Faculty. Health professionals admitted to the MPH complete the same degree requirements as other students.

Professional (volunteer or paid) experience: Some experience relevant to public health and/or research is a formal requirement. There is no formal definition of minimum amount or nature of experience. All paid and unpaid work experience (even unrelated to public health) should be described in the application. Include percent time and duration of positions, training, and progression of responsibility. Professionalism is also demonstrated in the application process. Applications that are late, incomplete or have many errors will be rejected. Reference letters which describe the applicant’s academic performance, professional skills and character, are very important.

Statistics and numeracy: Epidemiology graduates from DLSPH are experts in quantitative research, statistics and analysis. Applicants without the statistics pre-requisite will not be considered. Applicants are reviewed for basic, intermediate or advanced experience in statistics and data analysis.

Writing and communications skills: The program is very demanding in terms of written research essays and scientific reports. Admissions committees look for proof of ability to write throughout the application (including the CV and all letters). Textbooks and reports in epidemiology can be long and complex and require superior reading comprehension skills. Undergraduates, particularly students in sciences and health studies, should take senior course which require library research and written assignments. Senior social sciences and humanities courses are recommended. These develop library and writing skills; they also help students understand important social determinants of health.

Tips regarding the statistics requirement

It is very common for applicants to have questions about the statistics requirements. Here are tips:

  • Committees look at all evidence of numeracy in the application, including all grades in quantitative courses, in all years, as well as GRE numeracy test scores. In practice, admissions committees expect to see an A- or better on first attempts and most recent courses.
  • Students who have done poorly in statistics and math may not be competitive for Epidemiology.
  • Repeating entry-level courses to get the minimum grade is not recommended. Consider taking more advanced course(s) and work hard for an A- or better on the first try.
  • The qualifying statistics course(s) must be for credit and from a university recognized by University of Toronto. Grade(s) must appear on transcripts.
  • Applicants are responsible for finding course(s) which cover the required content. DLSPH does not provide a list of qualifying courses.
  • A one-term statistics course is enough if the required topics are covered. Two terms may be needed to cover the topics, and may be seen by the committee as more competitive.
  • Individuals interested in epidemiology should explore statistics before the final year of undergraduate study. You need to know if this kind of work is interesting and satisfying.
  • Applicants must create and upload a Statistics Attachment document (PDF) listing all relevant statistics courses and grades. Emphasize the most advanced courses. Put the course description right in the attachment. Links to course descriptions are often broken.
  • Additional work or experience (including non-credit courses) in statistics and data analysis can be described in the CV, cover letter and reference letters, as applicable.

Use of the Graduate Record Examination
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is now required for applicants to the MPH Epidemiology. The GRE is the most common standardized test for public health, internationally. It is required for masters programs accredited by the American Council on Education in Public Health (CEPH), and a growing number in Canada. It is also required by many PhD programs. DLSPH attracts applicants who also apply to the top schools internationally and have taken the GRE. Canadian students are strongly advised to take the GRE to remain competitive and be able to study at your school of first choice. Applications from health professionals (e.g., Physicians and Nurses) licensed to practice in Canada may be reviewed without GRE, but the GRE is still recommended. Applications from international applicants, or those still in undergraduate studies may be rejected as incomplete without the GRE. Minimum score cut-offs have not been set; but very high scores are not essential. Any score below the population median (“%below” value = 50 or lower) may result in rejection.

Applicants are responsible for test registration and payment. See: Scores must be sent electronically to University of Toronto (Institution Code = 0982) by the application deadline. Applicants must also upload a PDF copy of their test score report. Scores are valid for five years.

The three test scores (numeracy, verbal reasoning and analytic writing) will all be considered as part of the evidence of qualities we look for, above.

Other standardized tests, including MCAT, will not be accepted as a substitute for the GRE. Applicants sometimes wish to include other standardized test scores in their applications. If so, these have to be in the same attachment but after the GRE report.

Grade Point Average
The MPH Epidemiology Admissions committee does not pre-calculate GPA and set a cut-off above which applicants are reviewed. Before an offer is made, GPA will be calculated using the method of the U of T School of Graduate Studies and a Mid-B average is required as a minimum admission criterion but does not guarantee and offer of admission. While evidence of academic struggle may keep one from being competitive for graduate school, very high grades are not necessarily required and may not be meaningful. We look for good grades in a relevant and challenging mix of courses.