What does an epidemiologist do?
Epidemiologists are public health professionals who study the distribution and underlying factors of health conditions in large populations.
- They develop strategies that control the spread of diseases throughout communities in order to protect and improve public health.
- They focus on identifying the origins of infectious diseases, limiting their reproduction and monitoring patterns related to outbreaks.
- Epidemiologists collect data, research health risks among populations, educate communities about their findings and produce reports that serve as a foundation for government officials to improve public health policies.
Where do epidemiologists work?
Epidemiologists typically work in an office or laboratory setting, but the workplace environment can vary according to their specific interests and expertise. Epidemiologists may specialize in areas such as infectious diseases, pharmacoepidemiology, chronic diseases, social epidemiology or global health issues. Common workplaces for epidemiologists include:
- Education: Some epidemiologists work as professors or researchers at universities and colleges, where they teach scientific subjects while conducting epidemiological research.
- Healthcare systems: Epidemiologists focused on healthcare may work in hospitals or other medical facilities, working on infection control, healthcare-associated infections and patient outcomes research.
- Occupational health and safety: Epidemiologists in this area focus on workplace-related health issues and safety, working with companies and government agencies to protect workers.
- Pharmacoepidemiology: In this specialized field, epidemiologists work with pharmaceutical companies to study the use and safety of pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines.
- Public health departments: Many epidemiologists work for government agencies at the local, state, or federal levels. In these roles, they monitor and respond to public health threats, conduct disease surveillance and build public health policies.
- Research institutions: Epidemiologists often work in a variety of research institutions, analyzing data and publishing their findings in scientific journals to contribute to the field's knowledge.
An epidemiologist’s career path
An epidemiologist's career path typically involves several steps that vary depending on individual interests, educational background and specific career goals.
For all careers in epidemiology, you’ll need a bachelor's degree in some form of life sciences, such as public health, chemistry or biological sciences. It’s common for epidemiologist roles to also require a master’s degree and previous hands-on work experience, such as internships or residencies. Since there are different specializations within epidemiology, there are many pathways available for entering the field. It’s important to explore what area of focus is the most interesting to you and discover the educational and background requirements for your desired industry.
Epidemiologist salary and employment outlook
Epidemiologists will be in high demand over the next decade. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of epidemiologists is expected to grow 27% between 2022 and 2032, which is much faster than the average growth rate for all occupations.
Additionally, the median annual salary for epidemiologists was $78,520 in 2022.
The degrees that can prepare you for an epidemiology career
Earning an online degree can provide you with the foundational knowledge and practical experience needed to begin your career as an epidemiologist.
Arizona State University’s online Bachelor of Science in biological sciences with a concentration in biomedical sciences focuses on human biology, such as anatomy, physiology and genetic behavior. This program prepares you for careers in many scientific avenues, including academic, medical, clinical or research settings. You’ll study the biological sciences core curriculum in biology and chemistry, with a concentrated focus on courses such as Neurobiology and Endocrine Physiology.
By earning a Bachelor of Science in biological sciences with a concentration in genetics, cell and developmental biology, you’ll learn from a one-of-a-kind program that combines the study of three essential areas of life science. You’ll gain a deep understanding of diseases, regeneration and the process of aging. This program prepares you for careers in medicine, biotechnology or medical research. The curriculum includes core topics in chemistry and physics, with a concentrated focus on courses such as Immunology, the study of molecular and cellular foundations.
Additionally both of these bachelor’s degrees can be completed as part of an Accelerated Master’s program with the Master of Science in biology. When accepted, you can earn a master’s degree in as little as one year after completing your undergraduate degree.