If what interests you in a career is saving lives then there are few choices to better enable you to save the highest number of lives than that of a job in Epidemiology. And a 10% rise in employment for epidemiologists is expected by 2022 so it is a vital and growing field, according to the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics.
Epidemiologists use their Masters or higher graduate degrees – including MDs – to examine the outbreak of disease, the transmission of diseases between individuals and how to treat diseases in a population. The high level of education required for a job in Epidemiology ensures a high salary range, well above the national average.
There are two primary concentrations in Epidemiology careers: research and application.
- Epidemiology researchers often work in universities or government centers.
- Those who directly apply epidemiological knowledge tend to work with public health agencies and local government centers.
There are a number of career paths in Epidemiology. Here are just five:
A Survey Researcher designs, plans and conducts epidemiological studies. She begins with an idea for the study, then performs a critical review of the existing literature to ensure that the study is unique and does not duplicate existing work. Experts in the field may be consulted. The demographics and the geography of the population are examined. Data is collected according to the study parameters and subjected to statistical analysis. The results of the study must then be disseminated.
The Survey Researcher might be responsible for the management of the project and therefore the budget and the timetable to completion. Often the researcher must seek funding for their project.
With the growth of Epidemiology into various fields and widespread funding, there has been a parallel growth in the number of researchers performing studies. Not all of these researchers are trained statisticians. The studies run by these researchers often generates complex data which requires advanced mathematical and statistical analysis. Many studies rely on observational data and appropriate rigorous methods must be brought to bear in analyzing and interpreting such data.
The methods used by the statistician include quantitative methods, mathematical analytics, Bayesian methods, economic principles and theories, biological mechanisms, operations research and mathematical analysis from whatever field is appropriate to the study.
Community Health Worker
A job that applies practical epidemiological principles directly is the Community Health Worker. He helps prevent and treat the diseases that arise in specific populations, often in specific neighborhoods. The results of all the research in the laboratories boils down to information that he can use to make real people better and keep real people from getting sick in the first place.
The Community Health Worker helps set up, evaluate and work in community health systems and services, improves the quality of those services, suggests methods of record keeping and patient management, and may help in administering surveys and questionnaires themselves to aid in improving the general and specific health concerns in the areas surrounding them.
Professor of Epidemiology
Professors of Epidemiology generally have a PhD or MD in a related field. They are campus or hospital based, performing both teaching duties and either research or practical application. Academic interests vary widely, each Professor having a unique insight into the field. Topics include cancer, women's health, psychiatric disorders, infectious diseases, environmental exposure, health disparities, behavioral patterns, birth complications and many, many more. Some of the most pressing current topics being examined include risk factors for obesity and eating disorders.
Professors often take turns serving as Chair of the Department they belong to. They have classroom duties to their students, office hours and papers to grade. But the social and personal rewards of a university life are, to some, very high.
The job of the Veterinary Epidemiologist is similar to yet different from her human counterpart. There is a great need to deal with the diseases and management issues of the enormous flocks and herds of commercial animals in addition to the care and disease prevention for common pets and ordinary farm animals. Disease complexes are more common now than before, which are very costly. There is great interest in evidence-based veterinary medicine, which is research intensive. The collection of much of this data fall on the shoulders of the Veterinary Epidemiologist. The analysis and dissemination of the studies is equally important to the welfare of the animals.
There are far more than the five job categories in Epidemiology listed here. Other titles include Communicable Disease and Immunization Specialist, Statistical Genetics Analyst and a wide variety of others found online.
From community service to high tech lab research to mathematics-intensive data analysis, this career has it all. A job as an Epidemiologist can be rewarding on many levels, in income as well as other less tangible but perhaps more important ways too. Find your niche and enjoy.