Education and Training Requirements

High School

Classes such as biology, health, chemistry, English, physics, and math (including statistics) are recommended. Social studies and geography also are relevant. In addition, take the opportunity to develop your computer and data analytics skills because epidemiology increasingly makes use of the latest information technology.

Postsecondary Training

A four-year bachelor of science degree is the minimum requirement to enter a graduate program in epidemiology. You will need at least a master's degree in public health with an emphasis in epidemiology to work as an epidemiologist. Typical classes in a master of science degree program in epidemiology and clinical research include: 

  • Design and Conduct of Clinical and Epidemiologic Studies
  • Advanced Epidemiologic and Clinical Research Methods
  • Design and Conduct of Clinical Trials 
  • Introduction to Probability and Statistics for Epidemiology
  • Intermediate Biostatistics: Analysis of Discrete Data
  • Intermediate Biostatistics: Regression, Prediction, Survival Analysis
  • Epidemiology Research Seminar Research Conduct
  • Responsible Conduct of Research.

Some employers require epidemiologists to have a Ph.D. or a medical degree. For example, epidemiologists who work at health care facilities and hospitals often must have a medical degree and training in infectious diseases. Epidemiologists also need to complete some postdoctoral training such as a fellowship.


Several colleges offer post-master's degree certificates in epidemiology, health informatics, or public health inrformatics. The University of Illinois at Chicago, for example, offers a post-master's certificate in health informatics. Check with your graduate program to see if certificates are offered at your school. 

Other Education or Training

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology offers online and in-person classes, seminars, and workshops for those who want to learn about the latest developments in epidemiology and keep their skills up to date. Recent classes included Outbreak Investigation, Preventing Legionnaires Disease, and Infection Prevention for Ambulatory Care Centers During Disasters. The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, Infectious Diseases Society of America, American Public Health Association, Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, and state-level associations also provide continuing education opportunities. Contact these organizations for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

The Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology, a subgroup of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, offers certification to epidemiology professionals. Applicants for the certified in infection control (CIC) credential must have a postsecondary degree (an associate’s degree or higher OR a three-year diploma RN degree is required), have had sufficient experience (ideally, at least two years) in infection prevention and control, and pass an examination. The board also offers the associate-infection prevention and control credential for those who do not meet the requirements for the CIC credential. No job-specific or educational requirements are needed to apply, but applicants must pass a multiple-choice examination. Contact the board for more information.

All physicians in the United States must be licensed to practice. Some states have reciprocity agreements with other states so that a physician licensed in one state may be automatically licensed in another without being required to pass another examination.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

A master's degree, and often a Ph.D., are needed to become an epidemiologist (and some epidemiologists have medical degrees). Some postdoctoral training, such as a fellowship, is also required for many positions.

Epidemiologists need to be good scientists and statisticians. They also need to be skilled with computers and like helping people. Curiosity, determination, persistence, and drive will help in research. Strong oral and written communication skills are important because epidemiologists must communicate their finding to colleagues, government officials, and the general public. Other important traits include critical-thinking skills, a detail-oriented personality, and a willingness to continue to learn throughout your career.