Detailed Guide forEpidemiologists in California
May also be called: Chronic Disease Epidemiologists; Communicable Disease Specialists; Environmental Epidemiologists; Infection Control Practitioners; Medical Epidemiologists; Nurse Epidemiologists; Pharmacoepidemiologists; and Public Health Epidemiologists
Specialties within this occupation include: Research Epidemiologists; and Clinical Epidemiologists
What Would I Do?
Epidemiologists are medical scientists who investigate and describe the causes and spread of disease and other health problems to prevent them from spreading or from happening again. They may also develop the means for prevention or control. Epidemiologists study many different illnesses, often focusing on major infectious diseases such as influenza or cholera. Epidemiologists typically work in two different settings—research and clinical.
Research Epidemiologists conduct research in an effort to eradicate or control infectious diseases. Many work on illnesses that affect the entire body, such as AIDS or typhus, while others focus on localized infections such as those of the brain, lungs, or digestive tract. Research Epidemiologists work at colleges and universities, schools of public health, medical schools, and independent research firms. In addition, Research Epidemiologists may teach at colleges and universities.
Clinical Epidemiologists work primarily in consulting roles at hospitals, informing the medical staff of infectious outbreaks and providing containment solutions. These Epidemiologists sometimes are referred to as Infection Control Practitioners. Some Epidemiologists are also physicians. Clinical Epidemiologists who are not also physicians often work with physicians to find ways to contain outbreaks of diseases. In addition to traditional duties of studying and controlling diseases, Clinical Epidemiologists also may be required to develop standards and guidelines for the treatment and control of communicable diseases. Some Clinical Epidemiologists may work in outpatient settings.
Tools and Technology
Epidemiologists primarily use desktop or laptop computers. They also use technologies such as analytical or scientific software, database user interface and query software, and data mining software.
Important Tasks and Related Skills
Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.
|View the skill definitions|
|Task||Skill Used in this Task|
|Monitor and report incidents of infectious diseases to local and state health agencies.||Problem Sensitivity|
|Plan and direct studies to investigate human or animal disease, preventive methods, and treatments for disease.||Medicine and Dentistry|
|Provide expertise in the design, management and evaluation of study protocols and health status questionnaires, sample selection and analysis.||Critical Thinking|
|Investigate diseases or parasites to determine cause and risk factors, progress, life cycle, or mode of transmission.||Science|
|Oversee public health programs, including statistical analysis, health care planning, surveillance systems, and public health improvement.||Complex Problem Solving|
|Communicate research findings on various types of diseases to health practitioners, policy makers, and the public.||Writing|
|Conduct research to develop methodologies, instrumentation and procedures for medical application, analyzing data and presenting findings.||Mathematics|
|Identify and analyze public health issues related to foodborne parasitic diseases and their impact on public policies or scientific studies or surveys.||Reading Comprehension|
|Educate healthcare workers, patients, and the public about infectious and communicable diseases, including disease transmission and prevention.||Oral Expression|
|Prepare and analyze samples to study effects of drugs, gases, pesticides, or microorganisms on cell structure and tissue.||Biology|
Below is a definition for each skill.
|View the tasks to skills list|
|Problem Sensitivity||The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.|
|Medicine and Dentistry||Knowledge of the information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.|
|Critical Thinking||Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.|
|Science||Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems.|
|Complex Problem Solving||Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.|
|Writing||Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.|
|Mathematics||Using mathematics to solve problems.|
|Reading Comprehension||Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.|
|Oral Expression||The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.|
|Biology||Knowledge of plant and animal organisms, their tissues, cells, functions, interdependencies, and interactions with each other and the environment.|
Epidemiologists typically work regular hours in offices or laboratories, but longer hours are not uncommon. Researchers may work odd hours in laboratories or other locations, depending on the nature of their research. On occasion, Epidemiologists may be required to travel to meetings and hearings for medical investigations.
Many Epidemiologists work independently in private industry, universities, or government laboratories. Some Epidemiologists may work directly with individual patients or larger groups as they administer drugs and monitor patients during clinical trials. Epidemiologists who rely on grant money for research project funding may be under pressure to meet deadlines and to conform to rigid grantwriting specifications when preparing proposals to seek new or extended funding.
Epidemiologists usually are not exposed to unsafe or unhealthy conditions; however, they must follow strict safety procedures to avoid contamination when working with dangerous organisms or toxic substances.
Epidemiologists who work in the public sector may be members of a union such as the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Workers (AFSCMW).
Will This Job Fit Me?
The job of Epidemiologist may appeal to those who enjoy working with ideas. Epidemiologists do an extensive amount of thinking, searching for facts, and figuring out problems. It requires personal characteristics such as integrity, attention to detail, persistence, and initiative.
What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?
The median wage in 2015 for Epidemiologists in California was $73,634 annually, or $35.40 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.
Epidemiologists typically receive benefit packages including health and life insurance, annual vacation and sick leave, and retirement plans. Independent consultants will need to pay for their own insurance and retirement plans.
What is the Job Outlook?
An increasing focus on monitoring patients at hospitals and health care centers to ensure positive patient outcomes may contribute to job growth for Epidemiologists. In addition, a heightened awareness of bioterrorism and rare, but infectious diseases such as West Nile Virus or severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) should spur demand for these workers. As hospitals enhance their infection control programs, many may seek to boost the quality and quantity of their staff.
Projections of Employment
Annual Job Openings
How Do I Qualify?
Education, Training, and Other Requirements
Epidemiologists typically need at least a master’s degree in public health, but some work requires a Ph.D. or medical degree. Students planning careers as Epidemiologists should have a bachelor’s degree in a biological science. In addition to required courses in chemistry and biology, undergraduates should study allied disciplines, such as mathematics, engineering, physics, and computer science. Epidemiologists who work in hospitals and health care centers often must have a medical degree with specific training in infectious diseases. Epidemiologists who administer drugs in clinical trials must be licensed physicians.
Once a student is prepared for graduate studies, he or she can choose a concentration within epidemiology. For example, those interested in studying environmental epidemiology may focus on environmental coursework, such as water pollution, air pollution, pesticide use, toxicology, and molecular biology. Other concentrations include occupational epidemiology, infection processes, and outbreak investigation.
Early Career Planning
High school students interested in a career as an Epidemiologist should take advanced courses in science and mathematics. Courses in computer science, English, and foreign language will also be a benefit.
Licensing and Certification
A physician's license is required for Epidemiologists who administer drugs to patients during clinical trials. Licensing requirements include graduation from an accredited medical school, passing the United States Medical Licensing Examination and completing one year of postgraduate medical education. For those planning to practice in California, a state medical license will be required.
Certification can be an advantage for those seeking advancement in this rapidly evolving field. The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) offers certification in infection prevention and control, and applied epidemiology. The certification is made by the APIC's Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology (CBIC). In order to become certified as an Infection Control Professional (ICP), applicants must pass an examination. Initial IPC certification is five years; recertification includes passage of an exam every five years. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.
Where Can I Find Training?
There are two ways to search for training information:
Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.
Where Would I Work?
The largest industries employing Epidemiologists are as follows:
|Industry Title||Percent of Total Employment for Occupation in California|
|Local Government ||28.7%|
|State Government ||18.6%|
|Scientific Research and Development Svc ||13.5%|
|General Medical and Surgical Hospitals ||8.2%|
|Grantmaking and Giving Services ||3.6%|
Finding a Job
Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. College placement offices, company recruiting events, job fairs, and online job search sites are also good places to look. Career associations sometimes offer job openings on their websites. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.
To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).
Yellow Page Headings
You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Epidemiologists.
- Government Offices
- Infectious Diseases
- Research Scientists
Find Possible Employers
To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:
- Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
- Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
- Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
- Contact the employer for possible employment.
Where Could This Job Lead?
Advancement among Epidemiologists usually takes the form of greater independence in their work, larger budgets, or tenure in university positions. Others may choose to move into managerial positions. Those who pursue management careers spend more time preparing budgets and schedules.
Below is a list of occupations related to Epidemiologists with links to more information.
|Biological Science Teachers, Postsecondary||Profile|
|Environmental Science Teachers, Postsecondary||Profile|
|Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary||Profile|
|Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists||Guide|
|Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists||Guide|
These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.
For the Career Professional
The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.