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Epidemiology Courses overview
Epidemiology is the study of how diseases occur in particular groups. It is an effort to understand many facets of disease, such as the extent to which any given population might be at risk of contracting one and why the diseases in question occur. The ability to categorise disease, assess the threats they pose to populations and subsequently manage those threats is invaluable not only to the health of specific groups, but potentially whole nations.
Epidemiology has an expansive history dating back to before 400 BC when Hippocrates first theorised the origin of disease. In the grim centuries to follow, little headway was made in the field due to the lack of any scientific method. Time progressed as far as 1621 AD before Francis Bacon published his seminal work, ‘Novum Organum Scientiarum’ that provided the inductive foundation upon which modern methods of scientific conduct, including epidemiology, are based.
Nowadays, the field is of paramount importance to the understanding and measurement of a disease’s influence. It informs public health policy decisions around the world and grants insight into where preventative measures are needed most.
Is epidemiology for me?
Epidemiology is for students who see disease as one of the world’s toughest problems and want to have a hand in stemming its elusive presence. Students with an excellent memory and sound deductive and inductive reasoning skills will be at an advantage, as there is an enormous volume of esoteric yet important information to retain.
There are several avenues of postgraduate study available to those with an interest in epidemiology, ranging from diplomas and certificates to PhD programs.
Graduate certificates in epidemiology are entry level programs that typically take six months if undertaken full time. Programs like the Graduate Certificate in Infection Prevention Control offered by Griffith University require relevant work experience or education, but others like those offered by the University of Queensland merely require an approved degree or post-secondary qualification not necessarily in the field. This makes it a great way in to the profession or further study.
The Master of Epidemiology is for students more seasoned in the field, testing their bio-statistical and methodological prowess to the fullest. As such, the requirements for entry into these courses are quite strict.
PhD programs in epidemiology are somewhat rare, often taking the form of a Doctor of Philosophy with public health as a specialisation. The University of Western Australia hosts a good example of this in their Doctor of Philosophy from the School of Population and Global Health. PhD level study in epidemiology is ideal for those wishing to becoming proficient researchers and statisticians in the global battle against disease.
Graduates who embark in this field will find themselves contributing to humanity’s knowledge of disease in an academic environment. Institutions like Monash University provide opportunities to carry out individual or team research to achieve specific goals. In this case of Monash, their focus is on breast cancer.
Those qualified in this field find themselves capable of undergoing complex analysis of treatment methods and advising health professionals on ways to optimise their care. The NSW government is always seeking graduates with this skill set to fill the role.
Positions in pharmaceutical epidemiology like the pharmacovigilance epidemiologist are about providing scientific input on commercial pharmaceuticals. Epidemiology graduates will find themselves providing advice on risk management, design of studies and resolution of safety concerns.
There are numerous fields of epidemiology that reflect its equally numerous specifications. Below is a list of important paths one can take.