(7.1 out of 10)
|Number of Jobs:||37,600|
|This Job is Ranked in|
|Best Healthcare Jobs||#11|
|The 100 Best Jobs||#19|
Whether they are investigating the triggers of an infection at a public health agency or collecting blood samples at an outpatient care center, epidemiologists examine the causes of diseases to prevent them from transmitting and recurring. “The role is basically like a public health officer for the hospital,” says Tom Talbot, an infectious disease physician who has worked at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville for nine years. An epidemiologist chiefly conducts infection surveillance—tracking infections, reading the data yielded, assessing where problems may reside, and deciding where intervention is needed. Talbot says epidemiologists have the opportunity to provide thoughtful, scientific analysis to help improve the care of patients and the safety of healthcare workers. “There are lots of unanswered questions that bright, energetic people are needed to help address,” he says. These professionals might work at hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, or in colleges, universities, and professional schools.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts employment growth of about 35.8 percent between 2010 and 2020, faster than the average for all occupations. Job prospects look promising, especially for epidemiologists and medical scientists looking to work in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing or at outpatient care centers.
Epidemiologists rank in the top tier of best-paid healthcare workers. In fact, these medical professionals raked in a comfortable $64,220 in 2011. The highest-paid epidemiologists cross the $100,000-mark, earning a whopping $100,020. The lowest-paid earn about $43,380. Areas of the industry that pay well include outpatient care centers and scientific research and development services. The best-compensated in the profession live in the metro areas of San Diego, Oakland, Calif., and San Francisco.
Most employers require epidemiologists earn at least a master’s degree in public health from an accredited postsecondary institution. Some epidemiologists go a step further, earning Ph.Ds. in their chosen fields. Pertinent epidemiology coursework includes public health, biology, and biostatistics, and classes might emphasize statistical design. Many epidemiologists also hold medical degrees. In fact, med students spend their first two years taking courses in anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, psychology, microbiology, pathology, medical ethics, and laws governing medicine. Internships or shadowing opportunities are recommended for those interested in gaining experience in the profession.
Epidemiologists must comfortably mesh communication prowess with critical-thinking, mathematical, and statistical skills. These medical researchers are often asked to present complicated, highly technical findings before public policy officials, so they need to understand their research inside and out as well as be able to share their findings with the broader community. Talbot is a member of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA)—an organization that offers training courses to newcomers and helps them understand the nuts and bolts of the profession. According to him, these courses are beneficial. “I think if you know you want to do hospital epidemiology or hospital infection prevention or healthcare infection prevention, training is increasingly important because it really is a different kind of language.”
Last updated by Jessica Harper.