How To Become An Infectious Disease Epidemiologist

It is quite impossible to have a conversation about the improvement of public health and safety for a global population without mentioning infectious disease Epidemiologists.

Epidemiology is a very important discipline that plays a key role in the securing of public health, safety, and wellness. It does this by investigating, controlling, and preventing the spread of diseases and infections on a global scale.

Do you want to make a difference in the world and fight infectious diseases? To work amongst a community of people whose jobs are to prevent, control, and eradicate infectious diseases and promote public health to make the world a safer, healthier place.

Becoming an infectious disease epidemiologist requires a lot of hard work, dedication, a strong background in science mathematics, and statistics, and a passion for public health. Also, most importantly, adequate knowledge of Epidemiology.

What Is An Infectious Disease Epidemiologist?

An infectious disease epidemiologist is a public health specialist who studies the distribution, patterns, and determinants of the spread of infectious diseases in populations. They collect and analyze data on diseases and use that information to identify risk factors and develop and implement strategies to prevent and control outbreaks. 

They also collaborate with other public health professionals, such as doctors, nurses, and laboratory scientists, to conduct research and implement public health interventions. Their work helps to improve public health and reduce the spread of infectious diseases.

What Does An Infectious Disease Epidemiologist Do?

An epidemiologist aims to better understand disease spread, prevention methods, and potential treatment. Infectious disease Epidemiologists are trained to study health-related events. They work in a variety of settings, including government agencies, academia, and non-profit organizations. Their specific duties may vary depending on their employer, but they typically include:

  • Researching the causes, transmission, and prevention of infectious diseases.
  • Monitoring and tracking the spread of infectious diseases.
  • Developing and evaluating public health interventions to prevent and control infectious diseases.
  • Advising policymakers and the public on infectious disease prevention and control.

How To Become An Infectious Disease Epidemiologist; Steps to Become an Infectious Disease Epidemiologist

The journey to becoming an Infectious disease epidemiologist is quite a long road and requires a certain level of educational qualifications, certificates, and work experience. It is best you know what is required of you so that you can be better equipped for a career choice in this line.

Step 1. Obtain a bachelor’s degree

The introductory step to entering the epidemiology field is to earn an undergraduate degree. For those interested in pursuing a career in epidemiology, a bachelor’s degree in public health or a related discipline can provide a strong foundation.

There is no certain prerequisite required study course to become an infectious disease epidemiologist. A bachelor’s degree in any of these fields can provide students with the foundational knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in a master’s program in epidemiology.

The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) provides accreditation to schools of public health, including some bachelor’s programs. You can find CEPH-accredited bachelor’s programs in the agency’s list of accredited schools.

Step 2. Gain work experience

To gain admission to competitive health and medical schools, as well as master’s programs in epidemiology, applicants may need to have prior work experience in the field. Additionally, many master’s programs in epidemiology require a residency after graduation, especially for students pursuing a dual degree in medicine. Through these experiences, students can gain hands-on experience and prepare for their careers in epidemiology.

Experience is an essential component of a successful application to top schools and for many epidemiologist positions. The skills gained through these experiences can make students more competitive for top schools and positions. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requires at least one year of professional experience.

Step 3. Earn a master’s degree

Epidemiologists typically have a master’s degree from an accredited university. Two common degree options are a Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH) and a Master of Public Health (MPH). An MSPH degree focuses more on research and is well-suited for those interested in pursuing a research-oriented career. An MPH program is broader in scope, with a focus on public health practice. Both degree programs typically take 2-3 years to complete.

A master’s degree is typically required for most epidemiologist positions. While there is no specific major required, a master of public health (MPH) degree with a concentration in epidemiology is a popular choice among students. The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) accredited MPH programs to ensure they meet high standards. You can check CEPH’s website to find out if your program is accredited.

Step 4. Earn certifications

There is no required exam to become an epidemiologist, but there is a certification available to professionals in the field. The Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology offers the Certified in Infection Prevention and Control (CIC) certification.

This certification is voluntary and requires applicants to meet certain educational and work experience requirements. The CIC certification demonstrates a commitment to public health, patient safety, and infection prevention.

Step 5. Pursue a doctoral degree

A doctoral degree is not mandatory for a career in epidemiology, but it can open the door to more opportunities in academia and research. A Ph.D. in epidemiology is the most common doctoral degree for epidemiologists who want to become professors or direct research projects.

These degree programs typically allow students to specialize in a specific area of epidemiology. PhD programs in epidemiology usually take 4-8 years to complete, depending on factors like whether students choose a full-time or part-time option.

Step 6. Complete an internship

Completing an internship in epidemiology is an excellent way to gain experience and learn more about the field. Many degree programs offer internship experiences as a required part of their curriculum. However, there are also opportunities for internships outside of a formal degree program.

For example, you could apply for an internship with a local health department, hospital, or government agency. An internship can provide hands-on experience in data collection and analysis, as well as collaboration with experienced professionals in the field.

Step 7. Acquire experience in a public health position

Pursuing an entry-level position in public health is an excellent way to gain experience and learn more about the industry. This can also be beneficial when applying for a job as an epidemiologist. You can consider working as a research assistant or study coordinator for a non-profit or government agency.

These positions typically involve collecting data, organizing records, and communicating with clients and participants. This kind of experience can help you develop essential skills and knowledge that will be useful in a career as an epidemiologist.

Infectious Disease Epidemiologist Salary

Epidemiologists can expect a strong job outlook over the next decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  The BLS projects that the field of epidemiology will grow by 26% between 2021 and 2031, which is much faster than the average growth rate for all occupations. 

However, it’s important to note that epidemiology is a small and competitive field, with only about 800 new positions expected to open each year between 2021 and 2031.

The salary of an epidemiologist can vary based on several factors, including the industry in which they work, the location of the job, and their level of experience and education. In general, epidemiologists working in scientific research and development tend to earn more than those working in academia. The salary also varies based on the state or region of employment. For example, the highest mean annual wage for epidemiologists in 2018 was reported in Massachusetts, the District of Columbia, and Washington state.

Among the different types of epidemiologists, infectious disease epidemiologists are the top money earners. Current data indicates they earn $113,482 yearly, which equals approximately $54.56 hourly.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on How To Become An Infectious Disease Epidemiologist

See below;

What education and training do I need to become an infectious disease epidemiologist?

To become an infectious disease epidemiologist, you will need at least a master’s degree in epidemiology or public health with a concentration in infectious diseases. Some employers may prefer candidates with a doctoral degree in epidemiology or a related field.

Bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as public health, biology, or statistics

Master’s degree in public health (MPH) with a specialization in epidemiology

Experience working in public health or a related field

How long does it take to become an epidemiologist?

The time it takes to become an epidemiologist varies based on your previous education and experience. Typically, it takes a minimum of seven years to become an epidemiologist: four years for an undergraduate degree and two to three years for a master’s degree.

There are also accelerated master’s programs available that may take less time. If you already have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a relevant field, you may be able to begin applying for positions sooner. So, the overall timeline depends on your background and circumstances.

What skills do I need to be an infectious disease epidemiologist?

Infectious disease epidemiologists need to have a strong foundation in quantitative methods, such as statistics and biostatistics. They also need to be able to analyze large datasets and communicate their findings to a variety of audiences.

  • Analytical and problem-solving skills.
  • Strong research skills.
  • Communication and interpersonal skills.
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a team.

What are the job prospects for infectious disease epidemiologists?

The job outlook for infectious disease epidemiologists is good. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of medical scientists, including epidemiologists, will grow 8% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.

How can I find a job as an infectious disease epidemiologist and where do they work?

There are several ways to find a job as an infectious disease epidemiologist. You can search for jobs online, contact government agencies or non-profit organizations directly, or attend job fairs.

You may also want to join professional organizations, such as the American Society for Microbiology or the Infectious Diseases Society of America. These organizations can provide you with networking opportunities and job postings

Conclusion on How To Become An Infectious Disease Epidemiologist

Becoming an infectious disease epidemiologist can be a fulfilling and impactful career choice. In this role, you have the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of people by preventing and controlling the spread of infectious diseases.

It’s also a great career path if you’re interested in public health, research, and data analysis. The steps to becoming an infectious disease epidemiologist may seem daunting, but with the right education and experience, you can find success in this field.


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