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Epidemiologists are public health professionals who investigate patterns and causes of disease and injury in humans. They seek to reduce the risk and occurrence of negative health outcomes through research, community education and health policy.Duties
Epidemiologists typically do the following:
Epidemiologists collect and analyze data to investigate health issues. For example, an epidemiologist might collect and analyze demographic data to determine who is at the highest risk for a particular disease. They also may research and investigate the trends in populations of survivors of certain diseases, such as cancer, so that effective treatments can be identified and repeated across the population.
Epidemiologists typically work either in applied public health or in research. Applied epidemiologists work for state and local governments, addressing public health problems directly. They often are involved with education outreach and survey efforts in communities. Research epidemiologists typically work for universities or in affiliation with federal agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Epidemiologists who work in private industry commonly conduct research for health insurance companies or pharmaceutical companies. Those in nonprofit companies often do public health advocacy work. Epidemiologists involved in research are rarely advocates, because scientific research is expected to be unbiased.
Epidemiologists typically specialize in one or more of the following public health areas:
For more information on occupations that concentrate on the biological workings of disease or the effects of disease on individuals, see the profiles for biochemists and biophysicists, medical scientists, microbiologists, and physicians and surgeons.
Epidemiologists need at least a master’s degree from an accredited college or university. Most epidemiologists have a master’s degree in public health (MPH) or a related field, and some have completed a doctoral degree in epidemiology or medicine.Education
Epidemiologists typically need at least a master’s degree from an accredited college or university. A master’s degree in public health with an emphasis in epidemiology is most common, but epidemiologists can earn degrees in a wide range of related fields and specializations. Epidemiologists who direct research projects—including those who work as postsecondary teachers in colleges and universities—have a Ph.D. or medical degree in their chosen field.
Coursework in epidemiology includes classes in public health, biological and physical sciences, and math and statistics. Classes emphasize statistical methods, causal analysis, and survey design. Advanced courses emphasize multiple regression, medical informatics, reviews of previous biomedical research, comparisons of healthcare systems, and practical applications of data.
Many master’s degree programs in public health, as well as other programs that are specific to epidemiology, require students to complete an internship or practicum that typically ranges from a semester to a year.
Some epidemiologists have both a degree in epidemiology and a medical degree. These scientists often work in clinical capacities. In medical school, students spend most of their first 2 years in laboratories and classrooms, taking courses such as anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, psychology, microbiology, and pathology. Medical students also have the option to choose electives such as medical ethics and medical laws. They also learn to take medical histories, examine patients, and diagnose illnesses.Important Qualities
Communication skills. Epidemiologists must use their speaking and writing skills to inform the public and community leaders about public health risks. Clear communication also is required for an epidemiologist to work effectively with other health professionals.
Critical-thinking skills. Epidemiologists analyze data to determine how best to respond to a public health problem or an urgent health-related emergency.
Detail oriented. Epidemiologists must be precise and accurate in moving from observation and interview to conclusions.
Math and statistical skills. Epidemiologists may need advanced math and statistical skills in designing and administering studies and surveys. Skill in using large databases and statistical computer programs may also be important.
Teaching skills. Epidemiologists may be involved in community outreach activities that educate the public about health risks and healthy living.
Average Length of Employment
Top Careers Before Epidemiologist
Top Careers After Epidemiologist
Hispanic or Latino11.1%
Black or African American1.7%
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University of Arizona6.3%
University of Alabama at Birmingham5.6%
George Washington University5.6%
University of South Florida4.9%
Ohio State University4.9%
University of California - Los Angeles4.2%
School of Health4.2%
Johns Hopkins University4.2%
University of Pittsburgh -4.2%
Florida International University4.2%
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill4.2%
University of South Carolina - Columbia3.5%
West Virginia University3.5%
University of Connecticut2.8%
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|Job Title||Company||Location||Start Date||Salary|
|Epidemiologist||Intellectual Ventures Property Holdings LLC||Bellevue, WA||Feb 03, 2014||$200,665 -
|Epidemiologist||Intellectual Ventures Property Holdings LLC||Bellevue, WA||Sep 10, 2015||$196,000 -
|Epidemiologist||Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/DHHS||Atlanta, GA||Jul 27, 2014||$170,000|
|Epidemiologist||Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/DHHS||Atlanta, GA||Jul 21, 2014||$170,000|
|Epidemiologist||Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/DHHS||Atlanta, GA||Sep 14, 2014||$170,000|
|Epidemiologist||Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/DHHS||Atlanta, GA||Oct 14, 2015||$170,000|
|Epidemiologist||Palo Alto Medical Foundation||Palo Alto, CA||Aug 29, 2013||$144,045|
|Epidemiologists||Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Inc.||Cambridge, MA||Jan 15, 2014||$142,000|
|Epidemiologist||Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/DHHS||Atlanta, GA||Jan 10, 2016||$135,656|
|Epidemiologist||Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/DHHS||Atlanta, GA||Dec 06, 2016||$135,656|
|Asststant Attending Epidemiologist||Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center||New York, NY||Dec 21, 2015||$135,000|
|Epidemiologist||Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/DHHS||Atlanta, GA||Jan 10, 2016||$128,699|
|Epidemiologist||Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/DHHS||Atlanta, GA||Oct 10, 2013||$124,608|
|Epidemiologist||Genentech, Inc.||South San Francisco, CA||Sep 03, 2015||$94,307 -
|Epidemiologist||Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/DHHS||Atlanta, GA||Nov 17, 2016||$94,193|
|Epidemiologist||Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/DHHS||Atlanta, GA||Jun 02, 2013||$93,166|
|Epidemiologist||Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/DHHS||Atlanta, GA||Oct 26, 2015||$93,033|
|Epidemiologist||Genentech, Inc.||South San Francisco, CA||Aug 20, 2016||$92,206 -
|Epidemiologists||Smith Hanley Consulting Group, LLC||Somerset, NJ||Mar 03, 2014||$91,536|
|Epidemiologist||Divers Alert Network, Inc.||Durham, NC||Jan 05, 2015||$90,500|
|Epidemiologist||Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/DHHS||Anchorage, AK||Aug 10, 2014||$90,264|
|Epidemiologists||Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/DHHS||Atlanta, GA||Jun 30, 2014||$79,881|
|Epidemiologists||FHI 360||Washington, DC||Dec 12, 2013||$79,515|
|Epidemiologists||Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/DHHS||Pittsburgh, PA||Jul 26, 2015||$78,708|
|Epidemiologist||Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/DHHS||Atlanta, GA||Nov 15, 2015||$78,238|
|Epidemiologists||Health Research and Analysis||Rockville, MD||Mar 05, 2014||$78,100|
|Epidemiologists||The J. David Gladstone Institutes||San Francisco, CA||Feb 21, 2013||$78,000 -
|Epidemiologist||Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/DHHS||Atlanta, GA||Feb 10, 2016||$76,736|
|Epidemiologist||Pfizer Inc.||New York, NY||Aug 20, 2015||$75,130 -
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What Can You Do with Public Health Degree
A Day in the Life of Public Health