California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Epidemiologists 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
TaskSkill 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
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

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 2020 for Epidemiologists in California is $94,443 annually, or $45.40 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2020Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2020 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas


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

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 TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Local Government46.3%
State Government27.3%
Colleges and Universities7.1%
Scientific Research and Development Svc5.1%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

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 and CalJOBSSM at

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
  • Hospitals
  • 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.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Epidemiologists with links to more information.

Biological Science Teachers, PostsecondaryProfile
Conservation ScientistsProfile
Environmental Science Teachers, PostsecondaryProfile
Health Specialties Teachers, PostsecondaryProfile
Medical and Clinical Laboratory TechnologistsGuide
Medical Scientists, Except EpidemiologistsGuide

Other Sources

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.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification19-1041
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)ISR