11 Epidemiologist Career Choices to Consider (With Tips)

Updated December 11, 2022

A career in the field of epidemiology may suit you if you enjoy conducting research that can impact health care and promote positive patient outcomes. This field is also an excellent choice if you want to promote health and wellness without going to medical or nursing school. Understanding the careers that are available in this field can help you decide which one best matches your interests and skill set. In this article, we list 11 roles you can consider for an epidemiologist career and provide tips to help you choose which one is best for you.

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11 roles to explore for an epidemiologist career

Here's a list of 11 roles you can pursue in your epidemiologist career, along with a brief description of each position:

1. Applied epidemiologist

Applied epidemiologists use the results of epidemiologic research to create plans to promote health and wellness. They also search for indicators to help them identify and track diseases as they move throughout a population. Other medical departments can use an applied epidemiologist's research to create interventions to decrease the spread of disease. These professionals communicate the data they collect to health care professionals and the public, use various methods to develop effective health policies, and evaluate health care and public health services.

2. Academic research epidemiologist

Academic research epidemiology involves researching the factors that cause conditions or diseases. Epidemiologists in this field typically work within an academic centre or university. In some instances, those with a significant amount of experience go on to work as a professor. An academic research epidemiologist's work usually results in major discoveries that can impact the health field and public health policies. These professionals often plan and direct public health studies to discover ways to prevent and treat health issues.

Related: 15 Jobs with a Master's in Public Health (With Salary)

3. Chronic disease epidemiologist

A chronic disease epidemiologist studies chronic health disorders such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease. The aim of their studies is to discover the root cause of diseases, current trends, and their effect on public health. These professionals collect public health data and create and implement evaluation and surveillance plans to predict and prevent a rise in these diseases. They spend much of their time in research laboratories, testing samples or analyzing the results of studies. Their research findings help medical professionals to discover cures, treatments, and methods to prevent the spread of disease.

Related: What Is Certification in Infection Control? (With Benefits)

4. Epidemiology investigator

Epidemiology investigators perform assessments in populations with chronic disease issues and specific infection trends. They collect biological samples and study the population's demographics to identify how likely they are to get infections. These professionals also study environmental concerns that might impact public health. An epidemiology investigator may interact with communities to collect evidence and biological samples. They then analyze the evidence and samples to develop a theory for the cause of a disease and create a treatment plan to stop its spread.

5. Disaster epidemiologist

A disaster epidemiologist studies the possible adverse effects of a disaster to create and implement emergency responses in case a disaster occurs. These professionals assess the potential requirements of the population in the event of a disaster, gather essential resources, and implement disaster responses. They also oversee recovery efforts and use data to determine the possible consequences of future disasters. Their objective is to prevent or reduce injuries, illnesses, and the number of deaths after a disaster. A disaster epidemiologist then provides details to those responsible for making decisions during a disaster and improving mitigation strategies during possible future disasters.

6. Molecular epidemiologist

Molecular epidemiology is a combination of molecular biology and epidemiology and is a relatively new field. Professionals in this field evaluate complex cell, protein, and gene relations to understand diseases. Molecular epidemiologists seek ways to prevent a disease's transmission. They use molecules and genes to determine the risk factors that can spread a specific disease.

Related: What Does a Biologist Do? (With Skills and Salary)

7. Field epidemiologist

A field epidemiologist works closely with communities that are facing a health crisis to understand their issues and help them overcome significant challenges. Depending on the situation, a field epidemiologist might provide time-sensitive responses on site. For example, a field epidemiologist may manage a disaster site or respond to a disaster situation. These professionals typically work within a government agency, such as a disease control centre.

8. Environmental epidemiologist

An environmental epidemiologist studies physical, chemical, and biological environmental factors that are the common causes of diseases and illnesses. Professionals in this field work to understand how environmental factors contribute to a population's or individual's health. They use interviews, statistical analyses, and surveys to perform research and discover the link between the environment and a disease or illness. They also work to understand the relationship between ecological and human health and how this relationship impacts the well-being of a population or individual. Occasionally, their work can focus on long-term challenges, such as protecting natural resources.

9. Clinical trial research epidemiologist

Clinical trial research epidemiologists collect medical evidence to determine whether a product or medication works on a specific illness or disease. Professionals in this field typically focus on heart disease research and studies, but they can work on multiple conditions. Their role is to design studies that use scientific methods to determine a medication's effectiveness. Clinical trial research epidemiologists can work in a hospital, for a pharmaceutical company, or as a part of a research program.

Related: What Is a Clinical Researcher? (With Steps and Career Tips)

10. Pharmaceutical epidemiologist

A pharmaceutical epidemiologist examines the impact of a pharmaceutical drug on a population. They usually focus their research on a specific demographic, such as residents living in the same province or territory, and discover causes of substance abuse. They can also monitor social habits and trends that affect a disease's spread. Pharmaceutical epidemiologists spend a significant amount of time in a laboratory to analyze how tissue samples react to specific chemicals. They then communicate their findings to the community.

11. Supervisory epidemiologist

Supervisory epidemiologists typically have a senior management position within an organization. They may oversee a large team of epidemiologists and manage research efforts. The primary purpose of this role is to improve public health by using effective research. A supervisory epidemiologist may ask junior epidemiologists to collect and compile data and then perform analyses to learn about a disease. They also ensure that their teams follow all regulations closely.

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Tips for choosing an epidemiologist career

If you're considering working in the epidemiology field, the following tips can help you decide which specialty is suitable for you:

Consider your interests and skill set

It's beneficial to work in a career that energizes and excites you every day. What you enjoy working on and what you value can be helpful factors to consider when deciding on your career. To help you determine which epidemiology field is right for you, consider what you enjoy learning about, how you want to spend your time, and whether you prefer mental or manual labour. You can also identify your strengths, priorities, and values. This can give you an idea of where to focus your career.

Related: How to Become an Epidemiologist in 6 Easy-To-Follow Steps

Reflect on your motivations

When determining the most suitable field in epidemiology for you, consider your motivations. You might want a career that pays a high salary or one that provides you with flexibility. Some roles may better suit your requirements than others, so consider what's most important to you and what you're willing to compromise on.

Think about your long-term goals

Create a list of your long-term professional and personal goals to determine what it's going to take to achieve them. Your list can also help you determine how to approach your job search. For example, if you wish to work in the same epidemiology field ten years from now, research roles with the potential for longevity and career advancement.

Research the field

After determining a field you wish to work in, develop your knowledge about the career path. A thorough investigation can help you discover your suitability for the role and your ability to fulfill its requirements. Investigating the field by consulting resources and study materials can help substantiate your decision. You can perform a search online to locate information to help you manage the early stages of your career.

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