What is an Epidemiologist?

EpidemiologistEpidemiologists are health care scientists who study disease patterns within large groups. That is, they study disease outbreaks and developments in order to treat current public health problems and prevent future outbreaks. Read more to learn how and why epidemiologists are so important to public health and well-being.

What Exactly is Epidemiology?

Epidemiology is the scientific study of collective disease patterns. That is, the goal of epidemiology is to research, analyzing and understand diseases that affect populations. Epidemiology is considered to be the foundation of the field of public health. Epidemiology data and research are used by scientists, health care professionals and government officials to prevent diseases. Epidemiology can actually be broken down into different branches, such as disease screening, transmission and surveillance.

What Do Epidemiologists Do?

Epidemiologists study past and current public health problems in order to find effective solutions. They accomplish through collecting data from various sources, such as surveys, bio samples or even face-to-face interviews. They analyze the data in order to find patterns and correlations that can isolate causes, reduce diseases and solve major public health problems. Part of this involves collaboration and communication with other scientists, government officials and the public.

What are the Epidemiology Specializations?

Epidemiologists specialize in a variety of different areas. For example, many epidemiologists focus on how to understand and eliminate infectious diseases. Certain epidemiologists specialize in child or maternal health. Other epidemiologists spend their time researching chronic health conditions and diseases. Some work on developing proper bioterrorism and emergency response procedures and increasing public awareness about these issues. Finally, there are those that study occupational and environmental health.

Where Do Epidemiologists Work?

Applied epidemiologists normally work in the public health departments of local and state governments. Their primary task is to educate the community and participate in community outreach programs. Many epidemiologists also work in private research companies performing health or pharmaceutical research. There are some epidemiologists who work for non-profit organizations advocating for vulnerable groups, such as the poor, elderly or mentally ill. In the end, epidemiologists will either spend most of their time in an office or out in the field.

What Education is Needed to Become an Epidemiologist?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, epidemiologist must have a master’s degree in public health. However, epidemiologist may also specialize in a certain field or obtain dual degrees. For example, many epidemiologist study medicine and obtain a health care degree. They might specialize on a certain disease or public health issue. During school they will study biochemistry, psychology, pathology and medical diagnoses. However, all epidemiologist students will take many courses about public health, biology, and research statistics. In fact, epidemiologist must have excellent math skills.

What Skills are Needed to Become an Epidemiologist?

Epidemiologists must have excellent critical and creative thinking skills because they must often respond to critical situations or public health emergencies. Because of this, epidemiologist must also have strong oral and written skills. Keep in mind that while epidemiologists typically work in the background, they will be the center of media attention during a disease outbreak. Therefore, they must have solid PR and diplomacy skills. Finally, epidemiologists must be comfortable with technology, especially databases and software programs.

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Overall, an epidemiologist is a health care professional that focuses on disease patterns and causes. These disease detectives play a critical role in keeping the public safe. Working as an epidemiologist is a rewarding career that combines investigative, health care and statistical analysis skills and knowledge.