Epidemiology, according to the World Health Organization, is the "study of of the distribution and determinants of health-related states or events (including disease), and the application of this study to the control of diseases and other health problems." This exciting field combines science, medicine, research and public awareness, making it a great option for students who are not only scientifically minded but who are passionate about making the world a better place. In this resource guide, you will find information on degree programs and their specializations and courses, as well as information related to a variety of careers within epidemiology.
As an epidemiology student, you will have access to science and public health courses that not only cover historical trends and information regarding epidemiology, but the latest research and applications as well. At the University of Washington, for example, courses include Nutritional Epidemiology, Exposure Measurement, and Infectious Diseases.
Depending on the degree program you choose, you may be able to specialize in an area of epidemiology that is of particular interest to you. For example, at Colorado State University, students can choose to take particular classes in the subject areas of Environmental/Occupational Health, Toxicology/Cancer Biology, Microbiology, and Statistics. Many colleges offer a complementary minor in fields like public health or global health, which can serve as a great primer for graduate level pursuits.
Disease and Epidemiology is a highly specialized field that requires at least a bachelor's degree to enter professionally. However, it is possible for a student to begin at the associate level. Each program offers specific benefits and has specific limitations. In order to figure out which is right for you, browse the information provided below and speak with program advisors about what their school's graduates are accomplishing in the field.
There are benefits to entering an associate degree program rather than beginning your career at a traditional university. Not only are community and junior colleges typically cheaper than universities, they also offer entry to students who need to raise their GPA before applying to a bachelor's program. Finally, an associate degree program will allow you to take introductory science courses so you may better understand if you are passionate enough to dive into Disease & Epidemiology.
A bachelor's degree, typically a 4-year program, is not only required for many entry level science jobs, it's also a prerequisite for a master's, arguably the most important level of education in epidemiology.
A master's degree is required for many epidemiology positions, making it the best option for students who aspire to be professional epidemiologists. In a graduate program, students will have the opportunity to conduct their own research with the support of faculty members and university resources.
A doctoral degree is a great option for students who wish to secure a professorship. Ph.D. candidates must present and defend a doctoral dissertation. Graduates may go on to teach college-level students or become professional research scientists. Given that the field deals with public health, at the highest level, professors may be expected to serve as lobbyists or advocates for new public health initiatives. They may also end up being the leaders and decision makers communities rely on to establish preventative and safety measures. These professors are also likely to be turned to during health crises.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the growth rate for epidemiology jobs is 10%, which is on par with the national average of 11%. Graduates of an epidemiology or public health program will have the option to work for government agencies, health organizations and research facilities. If a graduate becomes passionate about teaching, they may become educators in areas like microbiology, public health, or infectious diseases. Professional epidemiologists can expect an annual average salary of $65,270.