Epidemiologist



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Epidemiologist


Description

Epidemiology is a fairly new discipline. Epidemiologists are health researchers who look at the health of a population by gathering and analyzing statistics to identify the cause of ill health in the population and how to prevent it. For example, it was epidemiological research that first proved smoking was associated with an increased risk of cancer and many other diseases.

Epidemiologists look at medical, social, environmental and economic factors when determining the causes of problems. There are many different areas that epidemiologists can study. For example, environmental epidemiologists study connections between environmental exposure and disease such as, the link between radon gas and lung cancer.

Public health epidemiologists work with issues ranging from alcohol and drug abuse, to communicable diseases and mental health. While infectious disease epidemiologists deal with the factors causing disease in the population.

Epidemiologists spend most of their time researching statistics and 'crunching' numbers to conduct statistical analysis of their data. They must have an interest in and knowledge of a wide range of topics, as everything from environmental to social factors influences their work.
 
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  Interests and Skills  
Epidemiologists are hard working individuals with excellent research and organizational skills. They must be logical, enjoy analyzing data and be good with numbers to interpret statistical data. They must also have good writing skills to write detailed reports and papers on their research. An inquisitive mind is also an asset to those working in this field, as epidemiologists need to know a little about a broad range of topics.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Research data
  • Analyze data and record relevant information into a database
  • Share data with other workers and obtain relevant data from other workers
  • Read reports, articles and other statistical information
  • Consult with people on the phone or in person regarding their research
  • Write reports, papers and articles
  • The only thing typical about the day of an epidemiologist is that it will involve some kind of research. Epidemiologists generally work eight to 10 hours a day or 40 to 50 hours per week. Although they do have some interaction with others, most of an epidemiologist's time is spent in offices researching and writing reports on their findings.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Epidemiologists are employed by public health, government and environmental agencies, hospitals and some private research organizations. Those who have specialized and can teach epidemiology are employed at universities.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Trained epidemiologists with experience may move into directors of supervisory positions at agencies such as public health agencies. There are also opportunities for epidemiologists to move into other related health fields in areas such as research and surveying.
 

  Educational Paths  
Most epidemiologists start out in medicine, nursing or a related health field and then go on to study epidemiology or health statistics at the graduate level. Many epidemiologists specialize in one area of research; for example, communicable diseases or alcoholism. To become an epidemiologist an individual must have at least a master's degree in epidemiology or health statistics. Although it is not required some epidemiologists go on to complete PhDs.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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