Epidemiologist - How to Become an Epidemiologist

Epidemiologist

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Epidemiologist Job Description

 

Epidemiologists are called to action when influenza outbreaks, food poisoning or any other form of disease attacks a community and affects the masses. The job of the epidemiologist is to investigate the cause of the diseases and suggest procedures that can be implemented to limit the damage and control the spread of the disease.

Epidemiologists are required to carry out thorough fieldwork in order to discover the root causes of illnesses or injuries. Their job dictates them to find out the risk factors and suggest preventive measures that can be taken by the authorities and local health care facilities. The initial discovery and containment of any outbreak comes from an epidemiologist.

The approach taken and methods used by professionals vary depending on their academic background and their degree of expertise. Statistical analysis is commonly used by epidemiologists. They are required to take into account a plethora of medical information including hereditary, environmental, health care and behavioral factors. Techniques used by epidemiologists are based on biochemistry and molecular biology.

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Responsibilities

 

Epidemiologists are tasked with discovering the origin of a disease or agent that's harmful to humans, containing it, and resolving it.  They're charged with investigating the scene of an incident and devising methods for containing its spread, in the case of virus or disease. Much of their duties revolve around collecting and interpreting data in order to draw the right conclusions

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Skills

 

Communication

Must effectively communicate with your co-workers to ensure the best care and the proper procedures. Must be able to communicate in high-stress environments.

Active Listening

Offering your full attention to an individual person or group in order to fully understand problems and their nature.

Critical Thinking

Must use logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

Judgment and Decision Making

Needs to be able to act autonomously and make difficult decisions that would benefit the patient or make corrections. Must consider all benefits and repercussions of potential actions and choose the appropriate one. 

Complex Problem Solving

Must be able to identify complex problems and develop and evaluate corrective options and implement solutions. 

Stress Management

Must be able to endure intense situations and handle pressure that comes with extreme situations you may encounter.

Trustworthiness

Must be trustworthy because you have people's lives in your hands and what you do could help or hurt them. They are entrusted with a great responsibility and must live up to it. 

Perceptiveness

Gauging how people react and read their body language to decipher their feelings and predict their actions. They must be able to determine if people could be a risk to themselves or others and to distinguish truths from lies.

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Working Conditions

 

Epidemiologists divide their work hours between the office and the investigation fields. They typically work for health departments, hospitals, colleges, and universities and are required to work hectic and long hours when there is an outbreak. The stressful work continues till the outbreak is contained and a temporary/permanent cure is found.Their field work may bring them in contact with infectious diseases or pathogens, but it is a rare case for one to become ill.

As of 2012, 52% of epidemiologists worked for state and local governments, with the rest finding employment with hospitals, colleges and universities, life science search and development centers, consulting services, and pharmaceutical companies.

 


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How to Become an Epidemiologist:

 

1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree (4 Years)

 

The first step to becoming an epidemiologist is to earn a bachelor's degree in a science-intensive field, like biology, chemistry, biostatistics, or physiology. Students should aim to maintain a high GPA (3.5+) to remain competitive for admission into graduate or medical schools.

 

The preparation timeline below provides an example public health curriculum:

 

Grade Level

Example Courses

Freshman Year

 

  • Public Health I

  • Public Health II

  • Biology I & Lab

  • Psychology I

  • Pre-Calculus

  • English I

  • English II

  • Humanities Requirement/Electives

Sophomore Year

  • Introduction to Epidemiology

  • Issues in Global Environmental Health

  • Behavior in Public Health

  • International Health Care & the U.S.

  • Environmental Justice

  • Research Methods in Public Health

  • Humanities Requirement/Electives

Junior Year

 

  • Fundamentals of Environmental Health risk Assessment

  • Climate Change and Human Health

  • Biostatistics for Public Health

  • Global Health Illness

  • Medical Sociology

  • Violence

  • Criminology

  • Social Stratification

  • Humanities Requirement/Electives

Senior Year

  • Biology I & Lab

  • Outbreak Investigation

  • Infectious Diseases in the Developed World

  • Capstone

  • Health Disparities in Social Context

  • Remaining Electives

 

2. Take the Graduate Requisite Exam (GRE)

 

With a master's degree or higher being the entry-level qualifications for most epidemiologists, students must prepare themselves for the Graduate Requisite Examination (GRE), a 3 hour and 45 minute, standardized, multiple choice exam covering analytical writing, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning.

 

The GRE is broken down into six main sections:

 

1 Analytical Writing Section
  • 2 writing assignments
  • 60 minutes
  • Tests student's abilities to assess arguments and communicate ideas
2 Quantitative Reasoning Sections
  • ~20 multiple-choice questions
  • 35 minutes per section
  • Tests student's abilities to solve mathematical problems and interpret data

2 Verbal Reasoning Sections

  • ~20 questions per section
  • 30 minutes per section
  • Tests the ability to understand and analyze written material
1 Unscored Section
  • A duplicate of one of the above sections

 

3. Earn a Master of Public Health Degree (2 Years)

 

This is a strongly interdisciplinary field, which means that students have to possess quantitative skills, such as biostatistics and computer applications, as well as demonstrate skills which pertain to promoting health awareness, disease prevention and educating the general masses.

An ideal epidemiologist is also required to evaluate the quality of health care. To become an epidemiologist, students must be a part of an accredit program for epidemiology. A list of such programs can be found in the website of the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH).

 

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Salary Outlook

Title Company Location Posted
12.05.2016
The Nurse Epidemiologist is a nurse with advanced skills who is responsible for activities surrounding infection prevention and control with emphasis on surveillance, investigation, data analysis/interpretation, consultation, and education....
12.05.2016
The Nurse Epidemiologist is a nurse with advanced skills who is responsible for activities surrounding infection prevention and control with emphasis on surveillance, investigation, data analysis/interpretation, consultation, and education....
12.05.2016
Outstanding opportunity for an infectious diseases physician to serve as the Hospital Epidemiologist for the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, a 720-bed academic medical center. The Hospital Epidemiologist oversees a team of 6 infection...
12.05.2016
This Associate-level position is located within the Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, and University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. The Division is seeking an outstanding infectious disease modeler or...
12.05.2016
The Department of Epidemiology, College of Public Health is pleased to announce an exciting new faculty position in the area of molecular epidemiology in cancer. This open-rank position will be for a tenure-track faculty member whose research...
12.05.2016
Assists with the planning and implementation of the Infection Control/ Hospital Epidemiology program by functioning as an epidemiologist (surveillance officer, data collector, and researcher), consultant and educator. Essential...
12.05.2016
PURPOSE: The Director of Infection Prevention is responsible for designing, implementing and directing a system-wide infection control program. These responsibilities include (but are not limited to) surveillance, analysis, reporting,...
  1. Nurse Epidemiologist Augusta, GA Augusta University Medical Center
    The Nurse Epidemiologist is a nurse with advanced skills who is responsible for activities surrounding infection prevention and control with emphasis on surveillance, investigation, data analysis/interpretation, consultation, and education....
  2. Nurse Epidemiologist Augusta, GA Augusta University Medical Center
    The Nurse Epidemiologist is a nurse with advanced skills who is responsible for activities surrounding infection prevention and control with emphasis on surveillance, investigation, data analysis/interpretation, consultation, and education....
  3. HOSPITAL EPIDEMIOLOGIST Iowa City, IA University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
    Outstanding opportunity for an infectious diseases physician to serve as the Hospital Epidemiologist for the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, a 720-bed academic medical center. The Hospital Epidemiologist oversees a team of 6 infection...
  4. INFECTIOUS DISEASE OR EPIDEMIOLOGIST INVESTIGATOR Iowa City, IA University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
    This Associate-level position is located within the Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, and University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. The Division is seeking an outstanding infectious disease modeler or...
  5. CANCER MOLECULAR EPIDEMIOLOGIST Iowa City, IA University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
    The Department of Epidemiology, College of Public Health is pleased to announce an exciting new faculty position in the area of molecular epidemiology in cancer. This open-rank position will be for a tenure-track faculty member whose research...
  6. Infection Control Practitioner Boston, MA Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
    Assists with the planning and implementation of the Infection Control/ Hospital Epidemiology program by functioning as an epidemiologist (surveillance officer, data collector, and researcher), consultant and educator. Essential...
  7. Director of Infection Prevention Hyannis, MA Cape Cod Healthcare
    PURPOSE: The Director of Infection Prevention is responsible for designing, implementing and directing a system-wide infection control program. These responsibilities include (but are not limited to) surveillance, analysis, reporting,...