There are approximately 7,600 epidemiologists working in the United States; a majority are employed by government agencies. Epidemiologists work for state public health services, local communities, and counties. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) employs many epidemiologists, too. Different branches of the CDC focus on different diseases or public health practices. Epidemiologists with the CDC may conduct research, help states exchange information about disease control and prevention, and help make recommendations for public health policies.
Most environmental epidemiologists work for the federal government or in state public health departments. The biggest federal employer is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, primarily the CDC, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
Some epidemiologists work for universities, where they teach and do research. Others work for the World Health Organization and The AIDS Institute. Hospitals also employ epidemiologists, usually to research chronic or infectious diseases. Others work in the pharmaceutical industry and at scientific research and development firms.
After receiving at least a bachelor's degree, you would be eligible to start a graduate program in epidemiology. Many graduate students in these programs, however, have a medical degree. Typical programs last four years, but there are some two-year degree programs. During graduate school, you should start contacting employers about jobs. Use the resources of your college's career services center to improve your resume and interviewing skills, learn about recruiting visits, and identify job leads. Professional associations also provide job-search resources, including job listings at their Web sites.
Advancement in the field of epidemiology depends on your interest and where you are working. An epidemiologist teaching at a university could advance from assistant professor to full professor. Epidemiologists working for a state's head epidemiologist could move on to become the state epidemiologist there or in another state. Some epidemiologists might want to advance to international work.
Tips for Entry
Read the American Journal of Infection Control (http://www.apic.org/Professional-Practice/AJIC) and The Journal of Infectious Diseases (https://academic.oup.com/jid/issue) to learn more about epidemiology.
Join the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology to access member-only online networking opportunities, a members-only mentoring program, certification, publications, continuing education, and other resources.
Visit the following Web sites for job listings:
Visit https://jobs.cdc.gov to learn more about careers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a major employer of epidemiologists.