Working in health is something a lot of people aspire to. However, for many, the idea of working directly with patients and helping them on a one-to-one basis isn’t as appealing as a job in the broader, research-related part of the field.
Some people don’t believe they have a good bedside manner or don’t want to work the antisocial hours that doctors and nurses often have to put up with. Others are a little squeamish and so don’t think they are cut out for hands-on medicine. Others still prefer the idea of helping on a high-level scale, by working on new cures, vaccines, and policies, rather than dealing with individual cases. For these people, public health careers can be a great option.
One field in which people can do well, both financially and in terms of having a rewarding job, is epidemiology. Epidemiology is a field expected to grow in numbers by 6% by 2024 and the current average US salary for people with this specialism exceeds $70k per annum.
What Do Epidemiologists Do?
Epidemiologists are concerned with the study and prevention of epidemics. This means that they study how diseases spread and use models that analyze the risk of an epidemic of a given condition – with a view to setting public health policies and medical protocols to avoid these mass outbreaks.
When many people hear the word ‘epidemic’, they relate this to contagious diseases. While this does fall under the field of what an epidemiology specialist will work on – for instance, analysing at which point an epidemic becomes a significant risk in an area – they can also be concerned with mass occurrences of non-contagious problems, such as obesity, diabetes, or even injury, which can all be things which can be seen as epidemics despite not being communicable diseases.
Where Do Epidemiologists Work?
Epidemiologists work in a number of places. In government, they inform public health policy and help make decisions about the best ways to prevent disease and injury in a given region. In universities and research centers, they are involved in medical research and data analysis. Epidemiologists may also work in other areas of the health industry, such as in pharmaceutical companies.
Why Are Epidemiologists Important?
Any mass spread of a condition can be devastating to public health and put a lot of strain on the healthcare system. Where this is something that public health policies can help to address, for instance, in drives to help combat obesity, epidemiologists usually have a big part to play in looking at the scale and projected future of the problem. When it is something that would cause more of an emergency – for instance, a polio epidemic or an outbreak of the zika virus – epidemiologists work to establish the kind of policies that will prevent this, using their knowledge of epidemics to help devise where and how to implement things like vaccination programs, travel restrictions, and quarantine rules.
If you are interested in a career in epidemiology, the best starting point is to study public health and consider a masters, whether online or at a traditional college, in the field.