How To Become An Epidemiologist
As an epidemiologist, you are a public health professional. You study the causes of diseases within the human population. You seek to reduce disease and illness within communities and the population at large. All of this is done through a combination of research, health policy, and community education. A career as an epidemiologist is obtained through experience and education. A master’s degree is required.
Why Become An Epidemiologist
There are many diseases and illnesses that affect the human population. Health care professionals are interested in studying these diseases as a part of preventative health care: taking measures to make sure diseases and illnesses can be prevented, instead of merely treated. If medical professionals can stop illnesses before they ever happen, the human population will be much healthier and happier.
Epidemiologists study the patterns of diseases, their causes and effects. They study how diseases spread, and their conditions within certain populations. They create theoretical and computer-based models for their studies. They collect data, analyze results, and interpret their findings. They write reports based upon what they find.
A large portion of this occupation is public health and community education. Epidemiologists want to spread health education to the general community, and inform them about basic medical knowledge. They may give talks in the local community. They may hold question and answer sessions. They may give surveys and hold research studies, to use in their experiments.
Epidemiology covers a wide range of specialties. Epidemiologists can specialize in infectious diseases, emergency response, pediatrics, environmental science, chronic illnesses, injuries, occupational health, oral health, and other fields.
Epidemiologists should possess the following qualities and skills:
- Detail oriented
- Good teacher
- Effective communicator
- Critical thinker
Epidemiologist Work Environment
More than half of epidemiologists are employed by state and local governments. In this capacity they work for their government health departments in an office environment. They study data and reports in an office setting. They analyze data, interpret their findings, and write reports based on what their results are. They are actively involved in the community, traveling for workshops, conferences and community outreach efforts. They administer surveys and studies within the communities they study. They work on teams with other scientists and professionals. This is a full time position.
The median salary for epidemiologists was $70,820 in 2016, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Salary for epidemiologists can vary. Epidemiologists may decide to work for state and local governments. These professionals earned on average $63,000. Some choose to go into research and development, working for major research institutions. Professionals who work in these facilities earned on average $100,000 annually. The venue in which a person works can be a big determining factor in how much salary is offered. Additional years of experience and education can increase salary.
Average Epidemiologist Annual Salary
The average annual salary for epidemiologists is $76,230 a year. Salaries start at $42,810 a year and go up to $113,560 a year.
Average Epidemiologist Hourly Wage
The average hourly wage for a epidemiologist is $36.65. Hourly wages are between $20.58 and $54.60 an hour.
Stats were based out of 6,870 employed epidemiologists in the United States.
Highest Paying States For Epidemiologists
- 1. District of Columbia $54.11 / hr $112,550 / yr
- 2. New Jersey $49.78 / hr $103,540 / yr
- 3. Massachusetts $49.76 / hr $103,510 / yr
- 4. California $46.93 / hr $97,600 / yr
- 5. Washington $44.97 / hr $93,530 / yr
Top Paying Cities For Epidemiologists
- 1. Silver Spring, MD $54.33 / hr$113,000 / yr
- 2. San Francisco, CA $50.34 / hr$104,700 / yr
- 3. Durham, NC $49.94 / hr$103,870 / yr
- 4. Boston, MA $49.84 / hr$103,660 / yr
- 5. Oakland, CA $49.17 / hr$102,270 / yr
Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Epidemiologist Career Outlook
Employment for epidemiologists is set to increase by 6 percent from 2014 to 2024. This is about average compared to other occupations.
Science will always be a field that is needed and invested in. Interest in public health has been increasing steadily. State and local governments are adding jobs in this field, due to the increased need for qualified professionals. This is a diverse field and there are many specialties available. There may be competition depending on which specialty a person wants to go into. Advanced education will help a person become more competitive in their field and open a person up for more job opportunities.
If you are interested in becoming an epidemiologist, read below for more information.
Step 1: Undergraduate education. You will need a bachelor’s degree to become an epidemiologist. Choose from programs such as public health, biology, health sciences, chemistry, or other related fields. Any classes in science and math will help give you a solid background. You will take classes and learn more about this field, and whether it is a good fit for you. It takes four years to receive a bachelor’s degree.
Step 2: Graduate education. In order to become an epidemiologist, you must have a master’s degree. There are many universities which offer a Master’s in Public Health (MPH). Research universities which are known for their MPH programs, apply, and enroll. There are also some schools that offer programs in epidemiology. During your program, you will be able to conduct research within epidemiology. You will be required to complete a practicum or an internship in your field. A master’s of public health can be completed within one year.
Step 3: Consider medical school. Many epidemiologists choose to go to medical school, and vice versa. Medical school can give you a solid background in the public health sector, and also make you more competitive to receiving job opportunities.
Step 4: Choose a specialty. There are many specialties within the field of epidemiology. As an epidemiologist, you can specialize in infectious diseases, emergency response, pediatrics, environmental science and health, chronic illnesses, injuries, occupational health, oral health, and more. Choose a specialty that you are passionate about and want to delve deeply into.