Certificate in Genetic Epidemiology

A Certificate in Genetic Epidemiology can be earned after successful completion of 7 courses (4 intensive summer plus 3 fall courses). Courses may be taken over one or two consecutive years. The Certificate program is designed to serve research staff and medical employees, medical students, and others who want to learn the fundamentals of Genetic Epidemiology and SAS.

What is genetic epidemiology?

Genetic Epidemiology is the scientific discipline that deals with the analysis of the familial distribution of traits, with a view to understanding any possible genetic basis. However, one cannot study genes except as they are expressed in people living in certain environments, and one cannot study environmental factors except as they affect people who have certain genotypes. Genetic Epidemiology is a uniquely interdisciplinary field that seeks to understand both the genetic and environmental factors and how they interact to produce various diseases and traits in humans. These studies are carried out in relatively large samples of subjects from relevant populations, thus, the population history and dynamics often come into play. Population dynamics alter the frequency and distribution of both genetic and environmental factors, and thus, their net effect on the phenotype of interest. Some population characteristics also can be exploited for the purposes of gene discovery and mapping because the history has affected the genomic structure in a way that specific genotypes associated with disease can be identified.

Human diseases have been the focal point of genetic epidemiologic studies and recent efforts are directed toward complex disorders such as coronary heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, cancer, atopy and allergies, and neurological and psychiatric disorders, to name a few. It is commonly thought that an understanding of the genetic underpinnings of such diseases will revolutionize medicine in the 21st century enabling better preventive measures, diagnosis, prognosis, and novel treatments. Given progress in the Human Genome Project, in computing power, and in the creation of powerful statistical methods of analysis, we are poised to shepherd this revolution. It is an exciting time in science, and opportunities for careers in genetic epidemiology abound.


Students applying for the Certificate in Genetic Epidemiology must have a basic understanding of genetics/biology and strong quantitative skills. Applicants must have an undergraduate or higher degree from an accredited institution in mathematics, statistics, genetics,  biomedical engineering, or other closely related areas, as well as some research experience. All prospective students must provide evidence of basic skills in computer programming through coursework or documented experience. Typically, we expect all applicants to have taken the following courses or their equivalents. If you have any questions about whether a course will meet our prerequisites, please inquire at biostat-msibs@email.wustl.edu or by calling 314-362-1384.

Introduction to Biology
Introduction to Genetics
Calculus I
Calculus II
Elementary Probability & Statistics
Computer Programming


The Certificate in Genetic Epidemiology requires 7 courses (19 credit hours), and begins in the late summer semester, last week of June or first week of July, depending on the academic year.

Core Courses (course descriptions»)

M21-503 Statistical Computing with SAS
M21-506 R Primer
M21-515 Fundamentals of Genetic Epidemiology
M21-550 Introduction to Bioinformatics
M21-560 Biostatistics I
M21-570 Biostatistics II
M21-5483 Human Linkage and Association


For questions related to the Master of Science in Genetic Epidemiology Certificate program or application process, please contact:

Program Manager

GEMS Certificate Application»