Postgraduate study

Epidemiology (Online Learning) MSc, PgDip, PgCert

Awards: MSc, PgDip, PgCert

Study modes: Part-time

Online learning

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Epidemiology (Online Learning)

Epidemiology is the foundational discipline for understanding and improving population health. Its methods underpin medical research, investigates the causes of disease, and evaluates intervention to prevent or control disease.

This online programme will equip the epidemiological leaders of tomorrow with key foundational knowledge and a portfolio of statistical and data science skills to tackle contemporary challenges.

The world needs more epidemiologists

An epidemiologist can tell you who’s most at risk from infection, how fast an epidemic will grow and how to control it. The world needs more epidemiologists. Mark Woolhouse, Chair of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Centre for Global Health

Benefits of studying epidemiology

By studying this degree, you will:

  • develop your expertise in a vital subject
  • gain the skills you need to take on leading roles in epidemiology and address contemporary population health problems
  • benefit from a strong focus on research and inter-disciplinary opportunities, helping to position you at the forefront of this exciting and evolving field in an era of data-driven innovation

The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a light on epidemiology and brought increased recognition of the importance of this discipline. The enhanced focus on infectious diseases and global epidemic control has resulted in job creation, professional opportunities and recognition of the key role in this discipline to help resolve some of the global challenges in the future.

Who the degree is aimed at

If you are interested in developing specialist skills in the field of epidemiology, this exciting and challenging programme is for you.

You don't need to have studied epidemiology previously, but you do need to be comfortable with numerical reasoning. You may come from a clinical or non-clinical background.

You may be interested in developing or progressing a career in academic research, industry or another health-related setting, or you may simply be eager to develop epidemiological expertise.

If you are interested in our programme, but you need more information to decide if this is a good fit for you, please get in touch with us.

Why Edinburgh

By choosing to study with us you will:

  • join one of the top 20 universities in the world (QS World University Rankings 2021)
  • study a degree delivered by the Usher Institute (part of the University of Edinburgh), a world-leader in global health and novel approaches to epidemiology that is well recognised for its contribution to the Covid-19 response
  • be able to tailor your learning experience to your interests thanks to our flexible programme
  • enjoy access to the University’s excellent resources, including our modern, intuitive virtual learning platform that delivers a powerful learning experience on any device with an internet connection
  • have opportunities to interrogate and analyse real-world data through various courses and a dissertation research project
  • benefit from our expertise delivering high quality online programmes in health disciplines, with more than 10,000 students learning online with us since 2015
  • enjoy our supportive virtual learning environment, which allows staff and students to build a strong community and offers a high level of student support

About the Usher Institute

Having pioneered various epidemiology studies with large-scale digital data resources, the Usher Institute is a world-leader in global health and novel approaches to epidemiology.

The Institute is also one of five Data-Driven Innovation (DDI) Hubs in the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal.

As part of the DDI Programme, the Usher Institute will develop innovative and financially sustainable models of health and social care that improve lives, through the application of data science.

The Institute’s contributions to the Covid-19 response include:

  • conducting research
  • advising the Scottish and UK governments
  • providing global public health advice

The world needs more epidemiologists. Not just to help us understand and address the current Covid-19 pandemic but future outbreaks of diseases, and their causes and consequences. If you are interested in problem-solving and contributing to improving the health of populations then do consider joining this new programme. Linda Bauld, Professor of Public Health, Usher Institute

Global public health expertise

Global public health expertise is absolutely vital, now during the Covid-19 pandemic, but also for our ongoing health crises and future challenges. Epidemiology is absolutely essential to understanding how best to improve people’s health, and Edinburgh University is a world-leading university in public and global health issues. This will be vital training for those wishing to transition from lay epidemiologists to expert ones. Devi Sridhar, Personal Chair of Global Public Health

This programme is affiliated with the University's Global Health Academy. Please visit the webpage for more information:

This programme offers a collaborative and nurturing online learning experience.

Benefits of online learning

Online learning is a way to study for an internationally recognised qualification without needing to attend classes on campus. It is aimed at those who wish to study for a postgraduate qualification alongside work or other commitments.

Online programmes are of equal value to on-campus programmes. The only difference is that the programme is delivered online, rather than on campus.

Our online learning platform enables you to communicate with our highly qualified teaching staff from the comfort of your own home or workplace, making this an ideal option for our many international students.

Access to resources

All courses are delivered through the University’s virtual learning environment portal (Blackboard Learn).

This contains all the learning resources you need (or links to external sources such as papers and e-textbooks found via the University library service) and discussion boards where staff and students interact.

How courses are delivered

Lectures, if used, are pre-recorded so you can view them at any time, and courses are divided into weekly blocks of activity. You can complete activities at your own pace, and you don't need to be online at set times. This increases flexibility and enables those with existing responsibilities and those who are students from different time zones to work together without detriment.

How courses are assessed

Assessment for all courses is based on in-course assessment using essays, projects, blog posts and other pieces of written work.

We do not use online examinations, as those require a greater level of technological resource for students.

Instead, assessment is through a mixture of coursework and online participation. Assessments take a variety of formats, including:

  • essays
  • reports
  • magazine articles
  • data analysis
  • groupwork
  • blogs
  • reflections
  • tests

Equipment needs

In general, students do not require expensive or complex equipment to be able to complete the programme – reliable and regular access to a computer with internet connection and speakers or headphones to allow playback of recorded presentations are the major requirements.

The University’s Microsoft 365 membership gives you access to email and calendar facilities (through Outlook), as well as the Microsoft Office suite for preparing written material or presentations.

We make some additional use of open-source software, so it is desirable for students to be able to install new software packages on the machine they are using (this may require administrator-level access in some cases).

Student support

You will be supported throughout your programme by our student support and wellbeing services.

You will also have access to a full range of online support services within the wider university, in areas such as:

  • careers
  • IT support
  • support for disabilities
  • counselling
  • the students’ association
  • training for study skills

Online journal club

You will have the opportunity to participate in a student-led online journal club for all students from the programmes run by the Usher Institute.

The journal club will be an opportunity to:

  • consider and critique academic studies from a range of different academic disciplines (public health, family medicine, clinical trials, data science and global health
  • network with students with a wide variety of related interests from around the world

For this online programme you can choose to complete:

  • a one year postgraduate certificate
  • a two year postgraduate diploma
  • three years of study to receive a Master’s degree

We offer part-time study options for all of these awards.

Year 1

You will take five core courses:

  • Introduction to Epidemiology & Statistics
  • Data Analysis with R
  • Intermediate Epidemiology
  • Epidemiology for Public Health Practice
  • Statistical Modelling for Epidemiology

Year 2

You will take two new core courses:

  • Infectious Disease Epidemiology
  • Research Design for Epidemiology

In the second half of the year, you will choose four elective courses from a diverse range of optional courses offered by the Epidemiology programme and other programmes within and outside the Usher Institute. These options include:

  • Introduction to Environmental & Occupational Epidemiology
  • Global Health Epidemiology
  • Advanced Statistics for Epidemiology
  • Global Burden of Mental Illness
  • Systematic Reviews
  • Non-communicable Diseases in a Global Context
  • Advanced Epidemiology
  • Introduction to Genetic Epidemiology

You will also have other relevant course options from Masters’ programmes in areas such as:

  • Clinical Trials Clinical Trials (Online Learning)
  • Data Science for Health and Social Care
  • Public Health

Year 3

You will be supported to undertake a dissertation research project.

All practical analytical learning is underpinned by training in R software, the primary statistical software used in epidemiological research.

Semester dates for the academic year

These are key dates in the academic year, which may vary slightly year to year. For your programme these are currently:

  • Welcome Week: September 2023
  • Term 1: September 2023
  • Term 2: January 2024
  • Term 3: April 2024

Specific dates will be added as they are available.

Teaching and learning

The programme is taught fully online, with a study commitment of 10-15 hours per week.

Courses run during five-week (or occasionally 10-week) blocks, but there are no specific times that you have to attend class.

This gives you a structured, yet flexible, learning environment, thus complementing the work/family commitments and diverse geographical locations of our students.

You will study alongside students from diverse backgrounds, interacting and communicating ideas through discussion boards, blogs, group work and videos.

You will be taught by lecturers and researchers at the Usher Institute.

You will gain:

  • a critical understanding of the principles and practice of epidemiology
  • research and enquiry skills
  • the ability and skills to critically evaluate epidemiological evidence
  • the ability to convey complex information to a range of audiences
  • skills for working in teams and leading where appropriate

The skills developed by this programme are key for most types of health science research, focusing strongly as they do on different types of enquiry.

Many aspects of this programme involve problem solving, critical thinking and evaluation, thus developing research skills and personal and intellectual autonomy. A key aim of the programme is to contribute to your ability to conceive and execute epidemiological research.

On completing the programme, you will:

  • have developed an understanding of the principles and practice of epidemiology
  • be able to design research projects and collect data
  • be able to evaluate and interpret epidemiological evidence and communicate this evidence to a range of audiences
  • have acquired skills for working in teams and groups
  • be equipped to move into a range of health science research or allied careers, or progress to further doctoral-level training

Our graduates will be suitably qualified to pursue a range of careers across multiple sectors, including in:

  • academia/research
  • government
  • NGOs/charities
  • medical practice, including public health and other health-related professions

As well as gaining expertise in the field of epidemiology, you will develop key transferable skills including collaborative team-working, communication and research skills.

The Usher Institute has well-established strong connections to the National Health Service, Public Health Scotland, Scottish Government and Public Health Policy.

These entry requirements are for the 2023/24 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2024/25 academic year will be published on 2 October 2023.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent in science, medicine, biomedicine, nursing, social science, statistics, or other related discipline.

Students from China

This degree is Band D.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.5 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 23 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 185 with at least 176 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 62 in each component.

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries (non-MESC).

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.

Find out more about our language requirements:

Tuition fees

Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarships

We are offering 10 awards covering tuition fees. These scholarships will be awarded to outstanding candidates who are citizens of and resident in low- and middle-income Commonwealth countries. Successful applicants will benefit from the University’s Global Academy network.

The University of Edinburgh offers a small number of scholarships to outstanding candidates. These are very competitive. We publish data on the success rate for scholarship applications to help you understand the level of demand.

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments.

The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on:

  • your programme
  • the duration of your studies
  • your tuition fee status.

Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Usher Institute of Molecular, Genetic and Population Health Sciences
  • Old Medical School
  • Teviot Place
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AG

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • Usher Institute of Molecular, Genetic and Population Health Sciences
  • Old Medical School
  • Teviot Place
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AG