Postgraduate Diploma in Epidemiology: Principles and Practice (PGDipEpid)

Authors: Alia Rafey Faruqui 

Publication date:  04 Jun 2005

Who is it for?

This course is suitable for doctors and other health professionals aiming for a career in epidemiological research. It is also of interest to people requiring an understanding of epidemiology, such as statisticians, medical journalists, and scientific officers in government and industry.

When did you do it?

I completed my postgraduate diploma in 2001-3 as a part time external student from the University of London/London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Why did you do it?

I am interested in epidemiology and I hoped that it would help me establish my evidence based practice and an understanding of research methods in a career in either community paediatrics or general practice. The course design and timetable are quite flexible to meet individual needs and it suited me well at a time when I was looking after my young children and preparing for the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) test in order to restart my clinical career.

How much effort did it entail?

Between 14 and 16 hours a week. The overall effort required to complete the diploma depends on whether you wish to complete your diploma in one or two years. The registration is valid for five years.

There are four core subject modules, each module involving four tutor marked assignments which are to be completed after study sessions and submitted either by post or email. Feedback from tutors usually arrives a few weeks after submitting an assignment.

Is there an exam?

Examination by written paper for students in the United Kingdom or Ireland is normally held in London, though a provisional list of other established centres in the UK and Ireland is available on request. In countries other than the UK or Ireland independent bodies known as overseas examination authorities conduct examinations.

There is a two hour unseen written paper for three of the four compulsory core units in June each year. The last module is assessed by two written assignment exercises, including one requiring submission of an outline proposal for a grant application of between 2000 and 3000 words.

Did you go on a course and what are the fees?

It was a distance learning programme. All the course material including tutorial handbooks, books, CDs and relevant statistical software are provided by the university and were included in the course fees. The tutors and students also stay in contact with each other through a web board, providing a virtual university environment to exchange ideas or to discuss any concerns or queries.

The current registration fee is £639 ($1220; €942) and the fee per core unit is £950. The total cost of the four core units for the diploma is £4439.

Top tip

You can pay your fee in instalments, but once you register try not to delay completion of your studies for too long as the fee estimate provided above does not take account of annual increments in fee. The actual cost incurred by a candidate may be higher than that estimated at the time of registration.

Contact for further information

External programme, University of London, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU. [Link]

Was it worth it?

Yes, it was. I was able to combine family commitments with studies. A good understanding of epidemiological research methods, critical appraisal, and skills to write a grant application provided me with transferable skills and knowledge, which I could use in my future career.

Learning to use statistical software through distance learning was difficult and some prior experience of using statistical packages may have helped. ■

Alia Rafey Faruqui clinical attaché Accident and Emergency Department, Ealing Hospital, Middlesex

Cite this as BMJ Careers ; doi: