There are a wide range of epidemiologist jobs available in a variety of settings. Epidemiologists may be employed by a university, research facility or hospital. Various local, state and federal agencies offer epidemiologist jobs as well. Epidemiologists study the health of the population, rather than the health of individuals. They are typically classified as either research epidemiologists or clinical epidemiologists.
Research epidemiologists are often employed by private research firms, colleges and medical schools. They perform research with the goal of controlling, or eliminating infectious diseases. Some epidemiologists focus their research on particular areas of the body, such as seeking treatment for infections in the brain, while others focus on a particular disease, such as AIDS.
Clinical epidemiologists work in hospitals. They may be practicing physicians who have received specialized training, or work only as epidemiologists. The job of a clinical epidemiologist is to train the hospital staff to effectively control infectious disease, and provide planning and solutions in the case of an outbreak. Another requirement of this position is the development of official guidelines to deal with routine treatment and control of disease in the hospital. Epidemiologists who work in the hospital setting often earn certification from the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, and are recognized as infection control professionals.
There are a variety of ways to receive training as an epidemiologist. Epidemiologist jobs require at least a Masters degree in public health. Many epidemiologists continue on to receive a PhD, or M.D. degree.
Continuing education opens up more career opportunities. For instance, many universities require their professors to have a PhD. Epidemiologists performing clinical trials must be licensed physicians in order to administer drugs. Without this license, the epidemiologist is required to work under the supervision of a licensed physician.
The duties required in different epidemiologist jobs differ according to the place of employment. An epidemiologist employed in a small town or city's health department will have a wide range of duties. He or she may provide health education, design programs aimed at specific populations, such as reducing teenage pregnancy or helping people stop smoking, develop policies for the health department to ensure the public's safety, and be ready to assume responsibility in the case of an outbreak of infectious disease. Epidemiologists in these positions are responsible for managing annual influenza vaccination schedules, and ensuring that children starting school are properly vaccinated.
Epidemiologist jobs in large research facilities are very different. The researcher may spend years, or an entire career, looking for an effective treatment for just one type of disease. This work is highly specialized, and epidemiologists often develop different specialties through years of research and study. It can be years before results are seen from this type of research, but it is a rewarding career.