How to Become an Epidemiologist

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Epidemiology is a discipline of public health that examines factors that affect the health and wellness of populations. Epidemiologists are trained professionals that strive to improve the health of the public by studying the causes of conditions and developing resolutions.


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What does an epidemiologist do?

Epidemiologists are concerned with improving the health of the public. They gather and analyze data, design health studies, compose reports, and address the public about their findings from research. They study a wide range of conditions such as infectious diseases, chronic diseases, illnesses related to genetic traits, illnesses from environmental exposure, and injuries. They also study the benefits and risks of medications and assist in researching better treatments. Epidemiologists are typically categorized in two groups, research and clinical. Research epidemiologists conduct a great deal of research to help prevent and control infectious diseases. Clinical epidemiologists typically work in medical facilities to help stop or prevent infectious outbreaks.

What kind of training does an epidemiologist need?

Epidemiologists need at least a master degree in public health, but some employers prefer a medical or doctorate degree. Some epidemiologists start their career in other medical professions such as medical technologists or registered nurses. Prospective epidemiologists typically take courses in chemistry, anatomy and physiology, infection control, and toxicology. Many epidemiologists specialize in a specific area such ad environmental epidemiology, occupational epidemiology, outbreak investigation, and infection control precautions. Epidemiologists that interact directly with patients and perform invasive procedures must be licensed physicians. Many epidemiologists become certified infection control professionals and gain the designation from the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. They must stay up to date on the current advancements in the field and often complete continuing education courses.

What are the prospects for a career as an epidemiologist?

Employment of epidemiologists is expected to grow faster than average for all professions, increasing 14% from 2006 to 2016 (1). An increased concentration on observing patients at medical facilities to make sure the patient outcomes are positive will drive job growth.

Job prospects are expected to be good, especially for epidemiologists with advanced education. Numerous job openings will also stem from the need to replace epidemiologists that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do epidemiologists make?

As of November 2009, epidemiologists with less than 1 year experience earn average annual salaries between $35,186 and $51,244. Those with 1 to 4 years experience earn average annual salaries between $41,270 and $60,791 (2).

A career as an epidemiologist is an excellent choice for individuals with a strong interest in epidemiology. Epidemiologists must have a solid science and math background and be able to obtain, examine, and understanding a variety of medical data. Detail orientation, determination, analytical thinking, and good problem solving skills are essential characteristics. Epidemiologists must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills. They must also be able to effectively work independently as well as part of a team.

Joshua T Osborne

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