Epidemiologists play a vital role in the nation’s general health. These types of professionals may practice their expertise through field or laboratory research or with clinical responsibilities. Either way, an epidemiologist pioneers the prevention of infectious and contagious diseases through research and discovery of methods to prevent or cure the diseases.
Epidemiologist Job Responsibilities
An epidemiologist can practice in various sub-fields. These include a position as an environmental epidemiologist or a veterinary epidemiologist. An environmental epidemiologist studies the harmful effect of industrial and commercial chemicals to human health. A veterinary epidemiologist on the other hand still functions in a similar manner but the study of infectious diseases herewith is focused on animal health. It also includes understanding, treating, and preventing human illnesses which are caused or carried by animals.
Regardless of the sub-field, there are only two ways to practice this profession. An epidemiologist can either be involved in clinical work or in research studies. Clinical epidemiologists work mainly in health facilities such as hospitals and clinics. They are involved in the education of the medical staff about infectious diseases. They may also participate directly in making standards to prevent the spread of contagious diseases within the hospital grounds.
Research oriented epidemiologists on the other hand practice the profession while on the field or in laboratories. They study diseases and find ways to cure or prevent their spread. Most often, epidemiologists working for research purposes are employed by health and pharmaceutical companies as well as government and public organizations. They also spend time on various parts of the world where disease outbreaks are present. In some cases, field and laboratory studies in epidemiology can be practiced in scholastic institutions, medical agencies, and by private individuals.
Epidemiologist Training and Education Requirements
An epidemiologist is often a licensed doctor whose expertise or major is in infectious disease control. Otherwise, an epidemiologist should be awarded with a masters or doctorate degree in public health and safety, epidemiology, or any other related field with a background in community health.
The Center for Disease Control, a government agency which aims to promote public awareness about contagious illnesses, also offers programs in Epidemiology for students. These are the following:
Senior students of medicine and veterinary may opt to enroll in an Epidemiology Elective Program which lasts for 6-8 weeks. The program involves researching and studying public safety in various as assigned all over the country.
Students in their second or third year in medicine may avail of a one year training program. This provides hands on experience under the CDC Experience Applied Epidemiology Fellowship. They will be closely monitored and mentored by experts at the CDC main office in Atlanta, GA.
The Epidemic Intelligence Service on the other hand is for post graduate students. This training in epidemiology and public health runs for two years and participants are paid like hired practitioners.
The CDC partners with the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists or CSTE for the CDC/CSTE Applied Epidemiology Fellowship program. This is also offered to post graduates. Here, students are entrusted upon professional mentors for on the job training which will lead to possible employment.
Epidemiologist Salary and Wages
As of May 2010 based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics or BLS, the median salary of epidemiologists is at $63,010. Most professionals practicing in this field ranges from $50,930 up to $78,530. This accounts to about 50% of the total population of epidemiology practitioners. The lowest paid group (10%) was paid less than $42,360. The highest paid 10% on the other hand earned over $98,380.
The variants include nature of work, type of employment, experience, and other factors. Research based epidemiologists are paid more than clinical based ones. When it comes to employers, those that are employed by private companies particularly those which offer medical and pharmaceutical products earn more than others. Experience also does matter as with any other profession. Entry level practitioners are often offered a starting basic of around $40,000. Those with greater experience in this work are paid a higher base pay.
Upon graduation from a related bachelor course and acquiring experience, an aspiring epidemiologist must pass the Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology Inc. or CBIC. This is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agents or NCCA. Those who pass the examinations will be awarded the Certified Infection Control or CIC. Certification is valid for 5 years. After which, epidemiologists must apply for recertification by passing the Self Achievement Recertification Examination or SARE.
Epidemiologist Professional Associations
Some of the most notable associations in epidemiology include the American Public Health Association. The APHA is one of the largest and oldest organizations for professionals in public health in the world. The International Epidemiology Association or IEA on the other hand is an international counterpart also enjoying the same level or experience as the APHA.
Other noteworthy organizations include the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, Inc., International Genetic Epidemiology Society , International Society for Environmental Epidemiology , Society for Epidemiological Research (SER) , and the Society for Veterinary Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine.