Milken Institute School of Public Health
Gillings School of Global Public Health
When you’re considering an epidemiology career, there are probably plenty of different figures that you look at. Average earnings of 63,010 dollars per year, a twenty four percent growth rate, and much more help to make the career very attractive – not to mention the fact that you’ll be working in an exciting field and doing your part to improve the public health of the world. But there are numerous different areas within the epidemiology field that are worth learning more about as well. You could end up working in a variety of different positions, and it’s a good idea to take a look at each of them to see what the future may hold in store for you.
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What Is Epidemiology, and Why Should You Study It?
Some of the areas an epidemiology career could lead include:
#1 Academic Research Epidemiologist
This career area finds epidemiologists employed in academic centers or universities. It involves researching the different factors that cause diseases or conditions and in some cases those in the field will go on to become a professor. Their work usually leads to major discoveries that can influence the health field as a whole and may also impact policies related to public health.
Specialists in this field often direct and plan studies of serious public health issues to learn about ways to treat and prevent health problems. Also, they collect and analyze vital public health information with observations, interviews, blood and other bodily samples, to best determine causes of disease.
As with all epidemiologists, you need at least an MPH, and some in academia require a Ph.D.
#2 Infection Control Epidemiologist
An infection control epidemiologist deals with public health problems within a hospital or a medical facility. They collect and analyze health-related data within the facility through observations, surveys, interviews, blood samples and other bodily samples.
Infection control epidemiologists often deal with problems such as MRSA within a hospital, enforcement of hygiene issues, and general cleanliness to prevent spread of infection.
The majority of these professionals worth for state and local hospitals, while some also work for university hospitals.
You need to have a master’s degree in epidemiology, which will include classes in public health, biological and physical sciences, math and statistics.
#3 Clinical Trial Research Epidemiologist
These experts usually work for health organizations or drug companies. They complete clinical trials of drugs and procedures and monitor side effects and results. The overall goal is obviously to find new treatments and medications for various drugs. They usually work in labs in the field, and their focus is on reducing the number of negative health outcomes.
Note that a clinical trial research epidemiologist does not work with individual patients where he or she cares for them at the bedside. Rather, they work behind the scenes to make health and wellness better for many patients.
You will need to earn a master’s degree in public health or epidemiology for this occupation.
#4 Field Epidemiologists
These professionals are the ones made famous by movies like “Outbreak”. They work in health departments and actually are dispatched to various locations around the nation or even the world when an outbreak of disease occurs. They’ll work to identify the disease, determine its cause, and work to stem the spread of the disease accordingly.
The focus of the work of this professional is to study disease and to change how it spreads. A field epidemiologist can work in many areas, such as environmental health, infectious diseases, chronic disease and oral health.
A master’s degree in epidemiology is required to become a field epidemiologist.
#5 Applied Epidemiologist
These professionals usually work in health agencies or departments at a national, state, or local level. Examples of employers include the CDC or the FDA. This career area focuses on investigation of disease distribution and risk factors.
Applied epidemiologists often plan or direct clinical studies of pressing public health problems, to learn ways to prevent such problems from recurring. They also collect a great deal of public health information by conducting interviews, making observations, taking blood samples, as well as taking samples of other bodily fluids.
Essentially they work to identify the areas that are susceptible to a certain illness, why that is, and what can be done to overcome the problem.
The field of applied epidemiology requires you to earn at least a master’s degree. Note that if you want to direct research projects, you will probably need to have a Ph.D.
#6 Epidemiology Investigator
An epidemiology investigator does assessments in populations where typically there are chronic disease problems and specific trends of infection. These professionals gather biological samples, and also study the demographics of populations to determine how likely they are to get infections.
These investigators also look at environmental concerns that could have an impact on public health. They might interact with the local community to gather more evidence, and also collect biological samples. Then, those samples and information are analyzed to come up with a theory for cause and to devise a treatment intervention to stop the spread of disease.
An MPH is necessary to work in this field, which takes 2-3 years to complete.
These are some of the areas that an epidemiology career could take you. They’re all excellent career choices and could lead to a rewarding career that you will enjoy every day. In most cases your college education will impact which field you can enter, but usually those with an MPH in Epidemiology will be able to enter nearly any of these areas of work.
#7 Pharmaceutical Epidemiologist
A pharmaceutical epidemiologist studies what causes how various pharmaceuticals affect a given human population. They do research and clinical studies on how pharmaceuticals affect health and physiology. They also look at social trends and habits that could spread certain diseases.
These professionals spend much of their time in the laboratory, as they look at how chemicals react with tissue samples. They typically analyze such results and then relate them to findings in the community.
As you earn an MPH to move into this field, you will need to take classes in public health, biology, chemistry and statistics.
#8 Ph.D. Epidemiologist
A Ph.D. epidemiologist holds a doctorate in the field, and typically will hold major leadership positions in a research facility, university, or possibly be the head of a major research study.
If you have a Ph.D. in this field, you can possibly work as a statistician that analyzes data and statistics as it relates to many infectious diseases. Also, you could work as a research scientist who researches how infectious diseases spread. Or, you could manage a research project of various kinds that could involve many branches of epidemiology.
Another common career path for the Ph.D. in this field is college professor. Someone with a doctorate can become a full professor at many universities around the US.
It takes at least four years of full time study to earn a Ph.D. as an epidemiologist. Some programs allow you to earn your MPH and then your Ph.D. together, in less time than it would take separately.
#9 Supervisory Epidemiologist
A supervisory epidemiologist is one who has taken a senior management or supervisory role in an organization. This professional will oversee a large team of junior epidemiologists, and will need to effectively manage research efforts. The main goal of this professional is to better public health through effective research, which a supervisory epidemiologist can have a major effect upon.
This advanced professional typically will advise other epidemiologists to gather and compile data, and to then perform analysis to learn more about the disease. It also is very important for this professional to ensure that all regulations are being closely followed.
In addition to having an MPH, you will need to have several years of experience in the field to become a supervisor.
#10 State Epidemiologist
A state epidemiologist also investigates causes of disease and how to prevent them from spreading, just as a regular epidemiologist does. However, the focus in this career is on the health of the population in a single state. This means that you generally will be working for a state government, and will provide vital services to help people avoid disease and illness.
You may plan public health studies in the state, develop and implement them, and also collect and gather samples and data. You then will organize and analyze all of this data, and present findings to stakeholders within the government.
A state epidemiologist may work on issues specific to that state, such as substance abuse, chronic disease or bioterrorism.
#11 Disaster Epidemiologist
A disaster epidemiologist studies the various factors that lead to disasters, and finds ways to cut down on their adverse health effects. This type of epidemiologist uses advanced epidemiologic methods, such as surveillance systems, to ID injuries and diseases that may be caused by the disaster.
One of the most important roles of a disaster epidemiologist is to provide relief workers with accurate situational awareness so that they are able to to more effectively respond to the emergency.
#12 Molecular Epidemiologist
A molecular epidemiologist applies advanced techniques of molecular biology to the study of various problems in epidemiology. Some of these techniques, such as nucleic acid analysis, allows workers in public health to look into what causes diseases in a population, and to precisely measure factors in the exposure to a disease. For instance, molecular epidemiology can be very helpful in studying diseases including polio and AIDS, which are caused by viruses.