Epidemiology Careers


Master's Degree in Epidemiology


Certificate in Epidemiology








$63010 /yr

$30.29 /hr

All Stats from BLS.gov

Epidemiologists specialize in researching infectious diseases and other public health issues. They often work in a public health capacity, investigating the causes and vectors of diseases and developing strategies to prevent them from spreading.

Epidemiologist Careers: Frequently Asked Questions:

What is an Epidemiologist’s Job Description?

An epidemiologist usually works both in the lab and in the field—planning and leading studies that analyze new diseases and determine who is most at risk for existing diseases; and develop cures or ways to prevent them from spreading. They may collect blood, fluid, or tissue samples in the field, interview patients, develop and collect surveys, and analyze data.

Once they’ve painted a clear picture of a new disease, an epidemiologist often reports the findings to health care practitioners and government policymakers—as well as the public. Epidemiologists sometimes move into public health care management roles, in which they would plan and monitor the performance of various health programs.

What’s Included in an Epidemiologist’s Education?

Infectious disease is one of the more common subjects for epidemiologists, but it is by no means the only area of interest. Other areas of study might include bioterrorist threats and emergency response strategy; maternal, prenatal, and child health; chronic disease; environmental threats to public health; workplace health; substance abuse; oral and ocular health; and injury.

Where are the Epidemiologist Jobs?

There are a variety of organizations that might hire you as an epidemiologist. These include:

Private or public universities. Research epidemiologists do mostly lab and field research within a university capacity. This position may also include teaching at the undergraduate or graduate level, as well as publication in academic journals. Research epidemiologists typically look at infectious disease—but other types of health issues may also be part of their research.

Government agencies. While applied epidemiologists—the most common job term in this sector—may conduct laboratory and field research as well, their job often involves making and analyzing public policy relevant to various public health concerns. Their job often involves not only identifying those who may be at risk for a particular disease—something they may do themselves, or rely on academic research to identify—but developing the public programs that could help mitigate that risk among targeted populations.

Private companies. Most companies that hire epidemiologists include health insurance agencies and pharmaceutical companies. Within a health insurance agency, an epidemiologist may conduct research to determine risk levels for specific diseases to help the company make policy pricing and coverage decisions. For pharmaceutical companies, an epidemiologist might conduct research identifying possible new markets for various drugs, and developing new drugs and treatments in a laboratory environment.

Nonprofits. Epidemiologists who work for nonprofit organizations often advocate for particular populations at risk for certain diseases. They may report their findings to public agencies and the news media as well.

How do I Become an Epidemiologist?

A traditional or online Master’s Degree. A Master’s degree is typically the entry-level requirement for a career in epidemiology. Most people work in the field major in public health with a focus on epidemiology—although there are a few Masters degrees out there specifically in epidemiology.

A traditional or online PhD degree. Doctoral degrees in epidemiology are most commonly required within academic research positions. However, a PhD may also be required for more high-level positions within government public policy or even private industry.

A medical degree. Some epidemiologists come from a medical background and have spent some time practicing medicine. Some have a dual medical and epidemiology degree.

Can I Become an Epidemiologist with an Online Degree?

Traditionally, employers in the sciences have been slower to accept online degrees than those in other industries. It’s possible to become an epidemiologist with an online degree, but it’s more difficult than it is if you earn a traditional credential.

If you are planning to take the online path toward a degree in epidemiology, be sure your program has a strong in-person laboratory component—many employers and postgraduate academic institutions consider this essential. Be sure your program is properly accredited—see our coverage of online accreditation issues for more information.

Also, if possible, earn your online degree from a nonprofit traditional institution that also offers an online component—such as Boston University Online or George Washington University rather than a for-profit or completely online school. This will assure you’ll have less trouble transferring credits or getting admitted to advanced degree programs as well as facing less bias from employers.

What’s the Job Outlook for Epidemiologists?

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, demand for epidemiologists is expected to grow 24% in the coming decade—faster than the average job growth predicted for the economy as a whole.

There is expected to be particular demand within government positions, as governments are continually looking to cut healthcare costs and develop cost-effective plans for public health risks as they arise. 

What is an Epidemiologist’s Salary Range?

The median wage for epidemiologists was approximately $63,010 in 2010 according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook’s most recent survey. Entry-level work may pay around $42,360 on the lower end of the scale, while those in the higher earnings bracket may earn as much as $98,380.

The highest-paying opportunities are typically found in pharmaceutical and medical manufacturing, with median pay around $92,920. Government opportunities pay the least, with the median around $57,390.

However, the majority of epidemiologists—approximately 54% according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook’s 2010 numbers—worked in government positions, and this sector is where the strongest job outlook is expected to be.

Epidemiology is an important field, and its practitioners play an important role in public health. Start with a Masters degree or continue to earn your Medical degree or PhD—and you should be able to make a strong contribution to this crucial sector.

 Where to Look for Epidemiologist Jobs: