The MSGE program provides in-depth training in genetic epidemiology through unique coursework and training opportunities.


What is genetic epidemiology? Genetic epidemiology is an interdisciplinary field that draws on training in epidemiology, genetics, and biostatistics. This unique field examines how genes and environmental factors interact to influence health and disease in human populations.

The Master of Science degree in Genetic Epidemiology at the UW was one of the first such programs to be developed. Training in genetic epidemiology focuses on methods to identify genetic diseases and their interactions with environmental exposures in populations. The program emphasizes applied research skills.

As part of its recent 5-year review by the U.W. Graduate School, the MSGE program was extensively evaluated by a review committee made up of internal and external reviewers. The official review committee report stated that the program is "...positioned to be at or near the top for the foreseeable future...The breadth of courses in genetic epidemiology and public health genetics is likely unequaled at U.S. institutions...The program also benefits from superb faculty from a variety of disciplines".

Prospective students are expected to have an excellent academic record with a bachelor's degree and coursework in probability, statistics, and human genetics. For information about admissions and financial aid, go over information in Prospective Students.

The program is designed to be completed in two academic years (five to eight quarters). The degree requirements include classes in epidemiology, biostatistics, public health genetics, human genetics, and statistical genetics plus the completion of a research-based Master's thesis.

Learning Objectives for the MSGE Program in Public Health Genetics

The Master of Science degree offers advanced training in Genetic Epidemiology with an emphasis on applied research skills to understand the etiology and prevention of complex diseases with genetic and environmental components. Completion of this degree prepares graduates for careers in academic institutions, health care delivery systems, public health departments, governmental agencies, and the private sector, particularly biotechnology. The core curriculum develops competencies in genetic epidemiology, epidemiology, biostatistics, and bioinformatics within the broader context of ethical, legal and social issues. The degree requires coursework in genetic epidemiology, epidemiology, biostatistics, bioinformatics, law, and bioethics. Upon completion, graduates will have been introduced to the research principles and methods that will enable them to design, conduct, analyze, and interpret genetic epidemiologic research. Successful completion requires a research-based master's thesis.

Upon satisfactory completion of the MS in Genetic Epidemiology, graduates will be able to:

  • Meet the generic SPH learning objectives for the MS degree (see Criterion 2.6.a) as detailed in the SPH Competencies for All Degrees section of the SPH website;
  • Apply knowledge of inheritance to understanding the etiology of a variety of diseases and health conditions;
  • Describe the major genetic epidemiologic research study designs and their advantages and limitations and apply epidemiological and statistical approaches to the study of risk factors and diseases with a genetic component;
  • Design, conduct and analysis of genetic epidemiologic studies and interpretation of findings, including integration of findings from other genetic epidemiologic studies;
  • Describe the importance of evaluating interactions among genes, environmental factors, and behaviors, and their roles in health and disease;
  • Critically read and evaluate quantitative research findings contained in, genetics, medical and public health journals;
  • Write a research proposal including rationale for a specific genetic epidemiologic investigation, including a clear description of methods, and strengths and limitations of the proposed study;
  • Demonstrate proficiency in conducting statistical analysis of genetic epidemiologic data;
  • Describe the legal, ethical and social issues that may be associated with the collection and application of genetic and genomic information;
  • Describe the latest technologies and genomic advances used to investigate the role of genes in disease and normal variation of traits; and
  • Communicate effectively and persuasively, both orally and in writing, with colleagues within genetic epidemiology and from other disciplines.


Students must earn a minimum of 63 course credits. Of these, 30 must be graded credits (not including 1-credit seminars, independent study, and thesis research credits). Substitutions or waivers based on prior coursework or extensive work experience may be made with the approval of the course instructor, the student's academic advisor, and the IPHG Graduate Program Coordinator.

Required coursework

  • 12¬†credits of Genetic Epidemiology & Statistical Genetics courses
  • 8 credits of Epidemiology courses
  • 8 credits of Biostatistics courses
  • 3 credits of Bioinformatics and Gene Sequence Analysis
  • 3 credits of Genetic and Genomic Analysis
  • 14¬†credits of Approved Electives
  • 6 credits of PHG Seminar (PHG 580)
  • 9 credits of Master's Thesis (PHG 700)

All required courses must be taken for a grade with the exception of PHG 512, PHG 536, EPI 573, and GENOME 552 which may be taken on the Satisfactory/Not Satisfactory (S/NS) option.

Course Prerequisites

  • Course prerequisites are described in the Required Courses list.
  • Incoming students should have a fundamental knowledge of human genetics and molecular biology. Those who do not are required to complete the equivalent of GENOME 371 and GENOME 372 either before entering the program or during their first year of study in the program.

Schedule of Coursework for MSGE Students

A typical course of study leading to the MS in Genetic Epidemiology takes two years. Actual student schedules can vary, however, depending on a number of personal and academic factors. Sample schedule.