Epidemiologists study factors that affect the health and illness of populations, to provide the foundation for interventions in public health and preventive medicine.
As an epidemiologist, you are a “disease detective.” You investigate the cause of disease by using social demographics, with the aim of controlling the spread of disease. For example, you’d investigate an epidemic such as Ebola and help control the disease from spreading. Much of your work is doing experiments and fieldwork to collect data. You analyze results to make predictions about the likelihood of a disease occurring and to recommend prevention strategies. You will plan and conduct studies, collect and interpret data, write journal articles and develop disease control and prevention programs. Your research allows other health care professionals to offer advice on how to prevent disease. Many epidemiologists specialize in a particular field such as cancer, asthma or diabetes. Various health care providers, such as physicians or nurses, often branch into epidemiology.
Where You Work
You work in public health agencies, local and state health departments, private research facilities, universities, and hospitals. You may also work for international organizations such as the World Health Organization or UNICEF. Various health care providers, such as physicians or nurses, also branch into epidemiology.
How You Help
Your expert knowledge of disease cause and transmission helps patients from every walk of life. You can work in cancer research to determine why cancer affects certain populations and develop ways to prevent it. You might work on figuring out why some diseases are more prevalent in some groups of people compared to others. Or you could study why some populations respond better than others to a specific treatment. Molecular epidemiologists may have experiments that also take place in the laboratory for instance, to understand genetic associations with disease. Physicians and pharmaceutical companies use your work to develop new ways to treat or prevent disease.
Helpful High School Courses
- Advanced mathematics
- Computer Science
Skills to Build
- Ability to collect and interpret data
- Strong in math and statistics
- Detail oriented
- Curious and inquisitive
- Knowledge of disease
- Helping patients, other researchers, and doctors solve medical issues
- Flexible hours (possibly work from home)
- Hands-on investigative work
- Work in a variety of locations
- May be difficult to keep up with new advancements and research
- May become frustrating as studies generally take a long period of time and results are not always as expected
Education You Need
Bachelor’s degree in science and master’s or doctorate in epidemiology or public health
A Day in the Life
A Day in the Life
8:00Meet with other investigators to discuss project
9:00Work on journal article about exercise and cancer prevention
11:30Attend meeting to hear about research from an expert in the field
1:00Travel to different site to supervise data collection
3:00Discuss data analysis with biostatistician
5:00Contact participants to conduct a survey about fitness
Average Annual Salary Range
* Actual salary dependent on education, experience, location, and other variables