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Hospital Epidemiologist: Education Requirements and Career Overview

Sep 25, 2019

Hospital epidemiologists require a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the education and job duties to see if this is the right career for you.

Hospital epidemiologists are infectious disease gurus working in a hospital environment. Most have completed a Master of Public Health degree, although some are practicing physicians with residency or fellowship experience in epidemiology. They are responsible for advising and reporting on infectious disease cases or outbreaks.

Essential Information

Hospital epidemiologists generally need to complete a master's degree program, such as a Master of Public Health (MPH) with a concentration in epidemiology or a Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH). Current physicians may participate in postdoctoral fellowship programs that train them in infectious diseases. Once employed, hospital epidemiologists work closely with physicians and staff to treat and contain infectious diseases.

Required Education Master's degree required for non-physicians
Other Requirements Licensed physicians may enter a preventative medicine residency program or post-doctoral fellowship
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 5% for all epidemiologists
Median Annual Salary (2018)* $69,660 for all epidemiologists

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements

The path to becoming an epidemiologist includes earning a master's degree in epidemiology or a related field. Eligibility for these programs vary as some require students to only have earned bachelor's degrees, while others mandate that applicants complete bachelor's degrees in a health-related field. Additional requirements may include minimum grade point averages and previous health-related work experience. The Council on Education for Public Health provides a list of accredited schools that offer these degrees.

The Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH) has outlined core competencies that all students earning health-related master's degrees must attain. Courses include biostatistics, environmental health sciences, epidemiology, health policy and management, and social and behavioral sciences. Additional studies may include virology, bacteriology, pathology, infectious diseases, epidemiological methods and genetics.

Physicians Requirements

Some hospital epidemiologists are physicians who have completed a 4-year medical program after earning their bachelor's degree. Upon completing medical school, physicians participate in a preventative medicine residency program, which may last 2 or more years. Residents in these programs gain a deeper understanding of public health, disease control and healthcare policies. Physicians who have completed residencies on a different specialization may consider entering 2-year post-doctoral fellowship training programs that teach them how to identify and manage infectious diseases.

Career Overview

Job Description

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Science Education breaks epidemiologists into two groups: research and clinical. Hospital epidemiologists fall into the clinical category because they are the go-to person in a heath care facility for information on infectious diseases. These professionals are responsible for identifying, educating and supervising hospital personnel and patients on infectious diseases and how to manage them. They are also responsible for reporting any infectious disease occurrences to proper authorities.

Salary and Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a median annual salary of $69,660 in May 2018 for all epidemiologists. The BLS also notes the lower 10% of epidemiologists earned $42,240 or less, and the top 10% were paid $112,600 or more in 2018. Employment for all epidemiologists was expected to increase by 5% between 2018 and 2028, according to BLS statistics, which is as fast as average for all occupations.

In summary, MPH candidates may choose to specialize in epidemiology, qualifying them to work as a hospital epidemiologist. This career involves working in a health care facility to report and advise on infectious diseases. Job growth should be about as fast as average over the next decade in this field.

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