Milken Institute School of Public Health
Gillings School of Global Public Health
An epidemiologist studies the causes of diseases and other types of serious health problems in the public to stop them from spreading.
Infectious disease specialists then report what they learn to officials in the government and to the public.
Typical duties of epidemiologists include:
- Organize and supervise studies of serious public health problems; find methods to prevent them and to treat the disease
- Collect and perform analysis of a great deal of public health data. This will include the use of observations, surveys, personal interviews, blood samples and other human tissue samples to discover what is causing the spread of disease
- Communicate findings on public health problems to public officials, practitioners of health, and also the general public
- Provide management for public health program, monitor their progress, analyze data, and try to learn to improve these programs
Epidemiologists spend much of their time collecting data and then analyzing it. You may collect large amounts of demographic data, and then analyze it to figure out who is at highest risk for diseases.
An epidemiologist will usually work in a university setting. An applied epidemiologist works in government. If you work in private industry, you will likely work for a health insurance firm or even a pharmaceutical company. Research epidemiologists will often work for a college or university.
Epidemiologists can also work in the following areas:
- Infectious diseases
- Bioterrorism/emergency response
- Maternal and child health
- Chronic diseases
- Environmental health
- Occupational health
- Substance abuse
- Oral health
Epidemiologist Career & Salary Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that epidemiologists will see their job prospects increase by 24% in the next 10 years. This is faster than average compared to other occupations. It is expected that their job possibilities will continue to be on the upswing, as there is an increase in public awareness of public health issues. Also, due to changes in government policy on health care, there is more reliance of the analysis of medical records to make public policy decisions. So, it is logical that demand in this field will continue to increase. The new legislation that is coming regarding better medical record-keeping will create plenty of work for infectious disease specialists.
A great many states are reporting a shortage of qualified specialists for applied epidemiology jobs.
The median wage for epidemiologists in 2010 was $63,400. The top 10% earned $98,000. It is a good possibility that a person with a master’s in public health will earn near the top of the pay scale with 4-5 years of experience.
Some of the most common industries where epidemiologists work are:
- Pharmaceutical and medical manufacturing: $92,000
- Hospitals: $72,500
- Scientific research services: $67,150
- Colleges and universities: $61,800
- Government: $57,500
Job Outlook for Epidemiologists
BLS reported that epidemiologists will continue to enjoy favorable job prospects in the next decade. There are shortages reported in many states for professionals in this field. A professional with a master’s degree in public health will have a very much in demand skillset in these areas.
Epidemiologist Education and Training
An epidemiologist will usually have a bachelor’s in a related science field, and master’s degree in epidemiology. A master’s degree in public health is highly desirable. You should have taken advanced graduate coursework in public health, biology and statistics. Also, your studies should stress multiple regression, medical informatics, focus on biomedical research and also practical application of collected data.