Career Profile: Epidemiologist
These days, the COVID-19 pandemic is on everyone’s minds. While schools are closed and businesses are shut down, epidemiologists are working to find a solution to the problem. Someday, you might be able to help people overcome another crisis like this by becoming an epidemiologist. If you like science and research, this might be a good choice for you.
Epidemiologists are very important at a time like this. Basically, epidemiologists study diseases that pass easily from one person to another. When these infectious diseases start to affect hundreds or thousands of people at once, they are called epidemics. If they affect many different countries, they are pandemics. Epidemiologists identify the diseases and find out what causes them. If possible, they find a cure and develop a vaccine for the disease.
Much of the work of epidemiologists is in labs or offices, where they study samples from patients or look at data about where the epidemic started, how it spread, and many other factors. Sometimes, they might need to gather information at hospitals or other places where they can learn more about the illness.
Generally, epidemiologists work regular hours, but in crises they might have to work in the evenings or on weekends. The work is generally not physically demanding, but it can be intense in public health emergencies. Salaries start at about $46,000 per year and can rise to about $86,000. Epidemiologists work with various levels of government, in universities, private organizations, or with international development agencies.
Depending on where they work, epidemiologists might work with different diseases. Right now, COVID-19 is in many countries around the world. The Ebola epidemic was more local, staying mainly in Africa. Other diseases like SARS have spread more widely, but they still tend to be worse in some areas than in others.
Becoming an epidemiologist involves university studies, normally a master’s degree in epidemiology or in public health with a substantial number of courses in epidemiology. A bachelor’s degree in the physical sciences or a related topic is good preparation for further studies in the field. People getting into this field should be prepared to be in university for at least five or six years after high school, and possibly longer if they write a thesis as part of their studies.
Epidemiologists have a very important role when they help to cure deadly diseases. People in this field should be able to work alone when they are doing research, but they should also be able to work with other people. Knowing where to find information is very important. If you are interested in this job, you can plan to take biology and chemistry classes in high school. Even now, your science and health courses are very important preparation for the work. Good reading skills are also essential, because epidemiologists need to read about the latest scientific research.
Working as an epidemiologist can be a very challenging but rewarding job. If you enjoy research and you want to help people, this could be the right job for you.
Academic Invest. “How to Become an Epidemiologist.” https://www.academicinvest.com/science-careers/biology-careers/how-to-become-an-epidemiologist.
Doctors Without Borders. “Epidemiologists.” https://www.doctorswithoutborders.ca/job-profile/epidemiologists.
Government of Canada. “Field Epidemiologists: Disease Detectives of Public Health.” https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/063.nsf/eng/97581.html.
Payscale. “Epidemiologist Salary in Canada.” https://www.payscale.com/research/CA/Job=Epidemiologist/Salary.