What is an Epidemiologist?

The field of epidemiology plays an important role in public health and safety. Epidemiologists are trained to investigate and analyze the causes of disease and what effects disease can have on populations.

Epidemiologists are experts in tracing diseases to their origin, and diligently work to prevent them from growing into a pandemic. They report their findings to public policy officials and to the general public.

What does an Epidemiologist do?

Epidemiologists collect and analyze data to investigate health issues. For example, an epidemiologist might collect and analyze demographic data to determine who is at the highest risk for a particular disease.

An epidemiologist looking through a microscope.

Epidemiologists analyze their findings to determine how best to respond to a public health problem or a graver health-related emergency.

They typically do the following:

  • Plan and direct studies of public health problems to find ways to prevent and to treat the problems
  • Collect and analyze data—including using observations, interviews, surveys, and samples of blood or other bodily fluids—to find the causes of diseases or other health problems
  • Communicate their findings to health practitioners, policymakers, and the public
  • Manage public health programs by planning programs, monitoring progress, analyzing data, and seeking ways to improve them, among other activities
  • Supervise professional, technical, and clerical personnel

Epidemiologists need to be precise and accurate in moving from observation and interview to conclusions. They work with both qualitative methods (observations and interviews) and quantitative methods (surveys and analysis of biological data) in their work.

The most common problem both types of epidemiologists work on is infectious diseases, but they examine other public health issues as well. Typically, epidemiologists study one or more of the following public health areas:

  • Infectious diseases
  • Bioterrorism/emergency response
  • Maternal and child health
  • Chronic diseases
  • Environmental health
  • Injury
  • Occupational health
  • Substance abuse
  • Oral health

Are you suited to be an epidemiologist?

Epidemiologists have distinct personalities. They tend to be investigative individuals, which means they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive. They are curious, methodical, rational, analytical, and logical. Some of them are also social, meaning they’re kind, generous, cooperative, patient, caring, helpful, empathetic, tactful, and friendly.

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What is the workplace of an Epidemiologist like?

A typical day for an epidemiologist involves collecting and analyzing data, implementing research studies, and communicating findings.

Epidemiologists spend most of their time in a safe lab or office setting. They have minimal risk when they work in laboratories or in the field, as they take extensive precautions before interacting with samples or patients.

Epidemiologists work for federal, state, and local governments, health departments, pharmaceutical companies, laboratories, hospitals, universities, or in life science research and development. Some do fieldwork to conduct interviews and collect samples for analyses.

Epidemiologists who work in private industry commonly work for health insurance companies or pharmaceutical companies. Those in non-profit companies often do public advocacy work. Research epidemiologists typically work for universities, and applied epidemiologists work with governments, addressing health crises directly.

Epidemiologists are also known as:
Research Epidemiologist Applied Epidemiologist Chronic Disease Epidemiologist Environmental Epidemiologist Molecular Epidemiologist Enteric Epimediologist Travel Epidemiologist Disaster Epidemiologist