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Become An Epidemiologist

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Working As An Epidemiologist

  • Analyzing Data or Information
  • Interacting With Computers
  • Processing Information
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others
  • Mostly Sitting

  • $80,110

    Average Salary

What Does An Epidemiologist Do

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:

  • Plan and direct studies of public health problems to find ways to prevent and to treat them if they arise
  • Collect and analyze data—through observations, interviews, and surveys, and by using samples of blood or other bodily fluids—to find the causes of diseases or other health problems
  • Communicate their findings to health practitioners, policymakers, and the public
  • Manage public health programs by planning programs, monitoring their progress, analyzing data, and seeking ways to improve the programs in order to improve public health outcomes
  • Supervise professional, technical, and clerical personnel

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:

  • Infectious diseases
  • Public health preparedness and emergency response
  • Maternal and child health
  • Chronic diseases
  • Environmental health
  • Injury
  • Occupational health
  • Behavioral epidemiology
  • Oral health

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.

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How To Become An Epidemiologist

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.

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Epidemiologist jobs

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Epidemiologist Demographics

Gender

  • Female

    58.3%
  • Male

    34.1%
  • Unknown

    7.6%

Ethnicity

  • White

    65.7%
  • Asian

    18.3%
  • Hispanic or Latino

    11.1%
  • Unknown

    3.2%
  • Black or African American

    1.7%
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Languages Spoken

  • Spanish

    33.8%
  • French

    16.2%
  • Arabic

    7.4%
  • Chinese

    5.9%
  • Russian

    4.4%
  • Portuguese

    4.4%
  • Hindi

    2.9%
  • Hebrew

    2.9%
  • Gujarati

    2.9%
  • Tagalog

    2.9%
  • Mandarin

    2.9%
  • Filipino

    1.5%
  • Ukrainian

    1.5%
  • German

    1.5%
  • Igbo

    1.5%
  • Kannada

    1.5%
  • Armenian

    1.5%
  • Malayalam

    1.5%
  • Korean

    1.5%
  • Nepali

    1.5%
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Real Epidemiologist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Epidemiologist Intellectual Ventures Property Holdings LLC Bellevue, WA Feb 03, 2014 $200,665 -
$250,837
Epidemiologist Intellectual Ventures Property Holdings LLC Bellevue, WA Sep 10, 2015 $196,000 -
$294,000
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 -
$186,600
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 -
$186,600
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 -
$107,000
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 -
$166,800

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Top Skills for An Epidemiologist

DiseaseSurveillanceEpidemiologicStudiesPublicHealthSASOutbreakInvestigationsCDCDataCollectionToolsCommunicableDiseaseSurveillanceSystemDataAnalysisInfectiousDiseaseStatisticalAnalysisEmergencyHealthCareProvidersDataManagementHiv/AidsSurveillanceDataInfluenzaLiteratureReviewsInjury

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Top Epidemiologist Skills

  1. Disease Surveillance
  2. Epidemiologic Studies
  3. Public Health
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Used The National Electronic Disease Surveillance System (NEDSS) to support epidemiological investigations and enter disease reports.
  • Conducted multivariate and spatial analysis for epidemiologic studies and cluster investigations.
  • Review or create patient record during a public health investigation.
  • Respond to regional outbreaks, natural disasters, and public health concerns.
  • Assisted in outbreak investigations and recommending control measures.

Top Epidemiologist Employers

Epidemiologist Videos

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