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Working As a Medical Epidemiologist

  • Analyzing Data or Information
  • Getting Information
  • Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others
  • Interacting With Computers
  • Processing Information
  • Mostly Sitting

  • $82,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Medical 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 A Medical 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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Highest Medical Epidemiologist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Medical Epidemiologist Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/DHHS Atlanta, GA Jan 17, 2011 $127,976
Medical Epidemiologist Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/DHHS Atlanta, GA Jan 30, 2011 $127,976
Medical Epidemiologist Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/DHHS Atlanta, GA Apr 11, 2011 $127,976
Medical Epidemiologist Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/DHHS Atlanta, GA May 22, 2011 $127,976
Medical Epidemiologist Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/DHHS Atlanta, GA Jul 01, 2010 $101,035
Medical Epidemiologist Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/DHHS Atlanta, GA Jun 05, 2011 $85,500

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Medical Epidemiologist Demographics

Gender

Male

54.5%

Female

36.4%

Unknown

9.1%
Ethnicity

White

47.6%

Black or African American

17.2%

Asian

13.5%

Hispanic or Latino

13.3%

Unknown

8.4%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Dakota

33.3%

Polish

33.3%

Chinese

33.3%

Medical Epidemiologist Education

Schools

Emory University

20.0%

Colorado State University

10.0%

Wayne State University

10.0%

Johns Hopkins University

10.0%

Centers for Disease Control National Center Prevention Service

10.0%

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

10.0%

Trinity Washington University

10.0%

California Pacific Medical Center Institute for Health & Healing

10.0%

George Washington University

10.0%
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Majors

Public Health

23.1%

Medicine

23.1%

Veterinary Science

15.4%

Ecology, Population Biology, And Epidemiology

15.4%

Veterinary Medicine

7.7%

Gerontology

7.7%

Health Care Administration

7.7%
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Degrees

Masters

46.2%

Diploma

23.1%

Other

15.4%

Doctorate

15.4%
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Updated May 19, 2020