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Epidemiologist Job Description, Career as an Epidemiologist, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: College, graduate degree, and possibly medical school

Salary: Median—$54,800 per year

Employment Outlook: Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Epidemiologists are medical scientists who investigate and describe factors that influence the development of disease, disability, and other health outcomes. They formulate means for prevention and control. Epidemiologists focus either on research or on clinical situations.

Research epidemiologists conduct studies to determine how to wipe out or control infectious diseases. They often focus on basic research as well, determining the incidence of a particular disease in a particular part of the world, for example. They may study many different diseases, such as tuberculosis, influenza, or cholera, often focusing on epidemics. Research epidemiologists work at colleges and universities, schools of public health, medical schools, and research and development services firms.

Clinical epidemiologists work mainly as consultants in hospitals, informing medical staff of infectious outbreaks and providing ways to control the spread of infection. In addition, clinical epidemiologists are usually the ones who develop a hospital's standards and guidelines for the treatment and control of infectious diseases.

Education and Training Requirements

To become an epidemiologist, you must have at least a master's degree from a school of public health. In some cases you might need a Ph.D. or medical degree depending on the work you will do. Clinical epidemiologists or research epidemiologists who work in hospitals and health care centers often must have a medical degree with specific training in infectious diseases. You will need to be a licensed physician (that is, you must have passed licensing examinations) if you are going to administer drugs in clinical trials. Epidemiologists who are not licensed physicians frequently work closely with those who are.

Getting the Job

The placement offices of medical and graduate schools will have information on available positions. Qualified individuals can also contact research facilities directly to inquire about research openings.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

After gaining experience in epidemiology, individuals can become supervisors of epidemiology departments or directors of research facilities.

Opportunities in epidemiology are highly competitive because the number of available positions is limited. However, some new positions are being added in hospitals and health care centers. Epidemiologists are also needed to investigate outbreaks of new infectious diseases and diseases associated with bioterrorism.

Working Conditions

Epidemiologists generally work in clean, well-lighted offices and laboratories. In addition to hospitals, epidemiologists work in colleges and universities, schools of public health, medical schools, and research and development services firms. Many work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, or for other government agencies. A forty-hour, five-day week is the standard; however, a flexible schedule is often required.

Where to Go for More Information

International Society for Environmental Epidemiology
c/o JSI Research and Training Institute
44 Farnsworth St.
Boston, MA 02210
(617) 482-9485
http://www.iseepi.org

American College of Epidemiology
1500 Sunday Dr., Ste. 102
Raleigh, NC 27607
(919) 861-5573
http://www.acepidemiology2.org

International Epidemiological Association
http://www.IEAweb.org

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings vary depending on the type of employer and the experience and qualifications of the epidemiologist. Median annual earnings of epidemiologists were $54,800 in 2004. Epidemiologists are usually provided with medical insurance, paid vacations and holidays, and retirement plans.

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