|Career data updated last on 11/15/2009|
Epidemiologists are medical scientists who chiefly by the use of statistics, study patterns of human disease occurrence in populations and ways to prevent or control disease. Unlike other medical disciplines, epidemiology concerns itself with groups of people rather than individual patients. Epidemiologists may study many different diseases such as tuberculosis, influenza, or cholera, often focusing on epidemics. Epidemiologists provide the scientific data to help governments, health agencies, health care providers, and communities deal with epidemics and health issues.
Epidemiologists can be separated into two groups, research and clinical. Research epidemiologists conduct basic and advanced research on infectious diseases that affect the entire body, such as AIDS or typhus—attempting to eradicate or control these diseases. Clinical epidemiologists work primarily in consulting roles at hospitals, informing the medical staff of infectious outbreaks and providing containment solutions. These clinical epidemiologists sometimes are referred to as infection control professionals. Consequently, many epidemiologists in this specific area often are physicians. Epidemiologists who are not physicians often collaborate with physicians to find ways to contain diseases and outbreaks.
|Significant Points||Epidemiologists typically require a master’s degree in public health or, in some cases, a medical degree; other medical scientists need a Ph.D. degree in a biological science.|
|Work Environment||Research epidemiologists work at colleges and universities, schools of public health, medical schools, U.S. government, and research and development services firms. Clinical epidemiologists work primarily in consulting roles at hospitals, informing the medical staff of infectious outbreaks and providing containment solutions. Some clinical epidemiologists may work in outpatient settings.|
|High School Prep||General college preparation is recommended: three courses in math including algebra I, algebra II and geometry, or a higher level math course for which algebra II is a prerequisite; three science courses including one biological science, one physical science and one lab course; four English units and two social studies units, including one in U.S. History; and two years of a second language.|
An excellent under-graduate preparation for a graduate program in this field would include a baccalaureate degree in the health sciences, mathematics, biological science, or behavioral science. Undergraduates should study biological sciences and should have a solid background in chemistry, mathematics, and computer science. Once a student is prepared for graduate studies, he or she can choose a specialty within epidemiology. For example, those interested in studying environmental epidemiology should focus on environmental coursework, such as water pollution, air pollution, or pesticide use. The core work of environmental studies includes toxicology and molecular biology, and students may continue with advanced coursework in environmental or occupational epidemiology.
The minimum educational requirement for epidemiology is a master’s degree from a school of public health. Some jobs require a Ph.D. or medical degree, depending on the work performed. Epidemiologists who work in hospitals and healthcare centers often must have a medical degree with specific training in infectious diseases. Currently, 134 infectious disease training programs exist in 42 States. Some employees in research epidemiology positions are required to be licensed physicians, as they are required to administer drugs in clinical trials. Epidemiologists who perform laboratory tests often require the knowledge and expertise of a licensed physician in order to administer drugs to patients in clinical trials. Epidemiologists who are not physicians frequently work closely with one.
- Colorado State University
- University of Colorado Denver - Anschutz Medical Campus
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