By Clare Schinzel
During the past couple of years, COVID-19 has thrown society for a loop: social distancing, masks, and vigilant protocols have been seamlessly implanted in our lives to keep ourselves and the people around us safe. However, with the ample amount of guidelines we have to juggle every day, it's hard to remember to thank the diligent people who work to make our days safer.
COVID-19 was just one example of a public health crisis that was partially held in check because of the work of epidemiologists. Epidemiology is the study of the origin and control of diseases and other significant health issues. Epidemiologists often coordinate with local and federal government officials to determine how to best approach disease outbreaks and containment. Because of the increase in health crises––such as RSV, the flu, and COVID-19––epidemiology has seen an uptake in both popularity and job openings.
But just because there are more openings, doesn’t mean that entrance into the field has gotten any easier. If a student is interested in a career in epidemiology, it is an important first step to building a foundation in the sciences and math. Ecology, biology, and statistics are staple high school classes that will help a student prepare for the workload in college.
After high school, students are expected to further their studies and develop their minds by joining an undergraduate program. Because epidemiology blends statistics and science, majors in biology, ecology, or public health are the most common among students. Once in college, candidates should expect to take more in-depth versions of the classes they took in high school science and math programs: high-level statistics, molecular and organic chemistry, and other classes that develop the critical thinking skills required for this profession.
After obtaining a bachelor's degree, entrance into a graduate program is strongly encouraged to continue building a scientific mindset. And while in undergraduate and graduate programs, research opportunities are strongly encouraged for promising students. Experience can often be the best teacher, so getting to dip your toes into the pool before venturing out for an official job can be a big edge in the job-seeking environment. Working in a research laboratory can also build connections and help with recommendations for future jobs. Students can also advance towards a doctorate, but it isn't required to pave a healthy career path. However, it would be another feature that might include a heftier salary and higher positions.
Hopefully, after studying in college, candidates for an epidemiology career have developed the necessary skills for the field: employers overwhelmingly look for strengths in data analysis, statistics, critical thinking, and other skills that can sometimes be difficult to learn without the proper experience.
After successfully obtaining a job, epidemiologists can expect a base salary of around $69,583. While it doesn’t compete much with other STEM careers, epidemiologists are lucky enough to get to use the analysis skills they developed in school for practical use and to ultimately help people and the public as a whole, which can be more rewarding than any dollar amount.
“Epidemiologist Salary in United States.” Www.indeed.com, www.indeed.com/career/epidemiologist/salaries.
Gaines, Kathleen. “How to Become an Epidemiologist.” Nurse.org, 22 Jan. 2022, nurse.org/healthcare/how-to-become-epidemiologist/.
“How to Become an Epidemiologist | Guide 2020.” Public Health Degrees, www.publichealthdegrees.org/careers/epidemiologist/.
“How to Become an Epidemiologist in 2022: Step by Step Guide.” Www.zippia.com, 9 Sept. 2022, www.zippia.com/epidemiologist-jobs/how-to-become-an-epidemiologist/#education-step.