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Epidemiologist: Job Duties & Career Information

Learn about what an epidemiologist does. Read about the education requirements, skills, salary and job outlook to decide if this is the right career for you.

Career Definition for an Epidemiologist

The two categories of epidemiologists are research and clinical. Research epidemiologists study diseases to find ways to cure or prevent them, researching diseases that affect the whole human body, like HIV, or focusing their research on illnesses that target one region of the body, such as the lungs or heart. Research epidemiologists typically work at research facilities, such as universities, or for the federal government. Clinical epidemiologists usually work in hospitals or outpatient centers, where they collaborate with doctors to stop or prevent the outbreak of diseases.

Education Master's degree or Ph.D. in Epidemiology
Job Skills Analytical, detail-oriented, and able to communicate effectively
Average Salary (2017)* $76,230 (all epidemiologists)
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 9% (all epidemiologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Needed

Epidemiologists need to hold at least a master's degree, but a number of advanced positions require a medical degree or a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). Students interested in becoming epidemiologists should take courses such as anatomy, chemistry, outbreak investigation, infection control, and toxicology.

Required Skills

Epidemiologists need a strong math and science background and should be capable of gathering, analyzing, and understanding medical data. They must also be detail oriented and able to effectively communicate verbally and through writing.

Career and Economic Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), epidemiologists earned a mean annual salary of $76,230 as of May 2017. Job growth of 9% was expected in the field from 2016-2026 due to local public health concerns and the increasing pressure on hospitals to track health outcomes.

Alternate Career Options

Other career options within this field include:

Health Educator

With a bachelor's degree, health educators can develop programs and teach people about leading healthy lives. Faster-than-average job growth of 14% was predicted by the BLS from 2016-2026 for this profession. The annual average salary for health educators was $59,010 as of 2017.

Microbiologist

These scientists can enter the field to study microscopic organisms with bachelor's degrees, although a Ph.D. is usually required for independent research or to work in college settings. Microbiologists in 2017 earned $78,400 annually on average, according to the BLS, and could expect a 8% employment increase from 2016-2026.


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