Career Development

What Does an Epidemiologist Do?

Find out what an epidemiologist does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as an epidemiologist.

Epidemiologists are scientists who study the spread of disease in human populations. They look at how diseases originate, how they affect people and animals, and how they can be prevented or treated.

Epidemiologists may also work to identify patterns of disease outbreaks so that public health officials can take action to prevent further cases from occurring.

Epidemiologist Job Duties

Epidemiologists have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Observing patients’ health status and recording any changes over time
  • Developing new methods for disease prevention, treatment, or cure based on research findings
  • Researching risk factors for diseases and other health problems in order to identify possible solutions or treatments
  • Gather data about the prevalence of diseases in certain populations or geographic areas using statistical analysis techniques
  • Ensuring that all laboratory tests are performed accurately and in a timely manner
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of public health programs, such as immunization initiatives, to ensure they are effective
  • Analyzing medical data to identify risk factors for disease, which may involve reviewing patient records, interviewing patients, and collecting biological samples such as blood or urine samples
  • Communicating findings to the public about public health concerns, including disease outbreaks and risk factors for certain conditions
  • Conducting interviews with patients or their families about lifestyle habits that may have contributed to their condition

Epidemiologist Salary & Outlook

Epidemiologists’ salaries vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the company they work for.

  • Median Annual Salary: $91,500 ($43.99/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $132,000 ($63.46/hour)

The employment of epidemiologists is expected to grow much faster than average over the next decade.

The need to prevent disease and other health problems in older populations will drive demand for these workers. As the large baby-boom population ages, more epidemiologists will be needed to study the health concerns of older people, such as Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

Related: In-Depth Epidemiologist Salary Guide

Epidemiologist Job Requirements

To become an epidemiologist, you will likely need to have a degree in public health, epidemiology, or a related field. In addition, you may also need the following:

Education: Epidemiologists need a bachelor’s degree in a health-related field, such as biology, chemistry or psychology. Many epidemiologists choose to pursue a master’s or doctoral degree in public health. These advanced degrees provide epidemiologists with the knowledge and skills they need to work in a specific field.

Training & Experience: Epidemiologists receive most of their training through their educational programs. On-the-job training is minimal, as epidemiologists learn the specific requirements of their role while completing their education.

Certifications & Licenses: Epidemiologists need to earn a license to practice. Most need a doctoral degree and need to pass an exam to become certified. The Doctor of Public Health (PH.D) is the standard degree for an epidemiologist. Some epidemiologists have a master’s degree instead.

Epidemiologist Skills

Epidemiologists need the following skills in order to be successful:

Communication: Communication is another skill that can be useful for epidemiologists. They often work in teams and may need to explain their work to other professionals. They may also need to communicate with patients and the public about disease risks and treatment options.

Data analysis: Data analysis is the ability to interpret and understand data. Epidemiologists use data analysis to identify trends and patterns in health data. This can help them identify potential health risks and outbreaks. Data analysis can also help epidemiologists create effective prevention strategies.

Critical thinking: Critical thinking is the ability to analyze a situation and make a decision based on the information you have. Epidemiologists use critical thinking skills to make decisions about how to proceed with an investigation, how to interpret data and how to communicate their findings.

Problem-solving: Problem-solving skills allow you to identify the source of an issue and develop a solution to fix it. As an epidemiologist, you may be called upon to investigate an illness that’s affecting a large number of people. Your ability to identify the source of the illness and develop a solution to stop it is crucial to your success in this career.

Teamwork: Working with others is an important skill for epidemiologists. They often work in teams to investigate outbreaks and develop solutions to stop the spread of disease. They also work with other professionals to develop treatment plans and prevention strategies.

Epidemiologist Work Environment

Epidemiologists typically work in offices, although they may spend time in the field conducting research or investigating outbreaks of disease. They work regular hours, although they may be on call to respond to public health emergencies, such as outbreaks of infectious diseases. Epidemiologists may also travel to attend conferences or to conduct research in other areas. The work can be stressful, as epidemiologists must be able to make quick decisions based on incomplete data. In addition, they may be exposed to dangerous diseases while conducting research or investigating outbreaks.

Epidemiologist Trends

Here are three trends influencing how epidemiologists work. Epidemiologists will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Use of Big Data in Epidemiology

The use of big data in epidemiology is a trend that is quickly gaining popularity among researchers. This is because big data allows for the collection and analysis of a much larger set of data than was previously possible, which can lead to more accurate results.

As epidemiologists begin to utilize big data, they will need to learn how to manage and analyze large sets of data. This requires a strong understanding of data analytics tools and techniques, as well as the ability to work with teams of other professionals who are also working with big data.

More Collaboration Between Public Health and Clinical Research

Epidemiologists are increasingly collaborating with public health and clinical research professionals in order to better understand the causes of disease and develop new treatments.

This trend is being driven by the increasing complexity of diseases such as cancer, which require a multidisciplinary approach in order to be understood and treated. As a result, epidemiologists will need to be familiar with a wide range of research methods and be able to collaborate effectively with other professionals.

Greater Emphasis on Patient-Centered Care

The healthcare industry is rapidly changing, and one of the most significant changes is the increased emphasis on patient-centered care. This means that patients are now playing a more active role in their own care, and are being given more control over their decisions.

As a result, epidemiologists will need to adapt their practices to meet the needs of these patients. They will need to be able to communicate effectively with them, and understand what is important to them. They will also need to be able to provide them with the information they need to make informed decisions about their care.

How to Become an Epidemiologist

Epidemiologists have a rewarding career ahead of them. They can specialize in different areas, such as public health or clinical epidemiology. They can also move into management or teaching positions.

No matter what stage of your career you’re at, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest research and developments in your field. Read journals and attend conferences to learn about new methods and techniques. Network with other professionals in your field to exchange ideas and collaborate on projects.

Related: How to Write an Epidemiologist Resume

Advancement Prospects

Epidemiologists typically need a master’s degree in public health (MPH), although some jobs may require a doctoral degree. With experience, epidemiologists may advance to supervisory or managerial positions, such as directing a team of researchers or managing a public health program. Some epidemiologists may also move into teaching or policymaking positions.

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