Epidemiologists

Career, Salary and Education Information

What They Do: Epidemiologists are public health professionals who investigate patterns and causes of disease and injury in humans.

Work Environment: Epidemiologists work in offices and laboratories, usually at health departments for state and local governments, in hospitals, and at colleges and universities. Epidemiologists are also employed in the federal government by agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Some do fieldwork to conduct interviews and collect samples for analyses. Fieldwork may bring epidemiologists into contact with infectious disease, but the risk is minimal because they receive appropriate training and take extensive precautions before interacting with samples or patients.

How to Become One: Epidemiologists need at least a master’s degree from an accredited college or university. Most epidemiologists have a master’s degree in public health (MPH) or a related field, and some have completed a doctoral degree in epidemiology or medicine.

Salary: The median annual wage for epidemiologists is $78,830.

Job Outlook: Employment of epidemiologists is projected to grow 26 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of epidemiologists with similar occupations.

Following is everything you need to know about a career as an epidemiologist with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:

Top 3 Epidemiologist Jobs

  • Senior Epidemiologist (Data Collection) - Strategic & Scientific Affairs/ Real-World Evidence - PPD - Dallas, TX

    SENIOR EPIDEMIOLOGIST (DATA COLLECTION) - STRATEGIC & SCIENTIFIC AFFAIRS/REAL-WORLD EVIDENCE Position Location: North America, office-based or 100% remote. Position Overview: The Senior ...

  • Epidemiologist- County Public Health - UNI Health Care Recruiters - San Diego, CA

    The Epidemiologist will be responsible for a wide variety of disease reporting, identification, detection, and control activities related to COVID-19 cases. This is a Full-Time (temporary) Public ...

  • Epidemiologist - Le CYR Consulting - Houston, TX

    Responsibilities for Epidemiologist * Analyze data and find conclusions * Create a plan of action for potential health crises * Create reports detailing potential threats * Give presentations to ...

See all Epidemiologist jobs

What Epidemiologists Do[About this section] [To Top]

Epidemiologists are public health professionals who investigate patterns and causes of disease and injury in humans. They seek to reduce the risk and occurrence of negative health outcomes through research, community education and health policy.

Duties of Epidemiologists

Epidemiologists typically do the following:

  • Plan and direct studies of public health problems to find ways to prevent and treat them if they arise
  • Collect and analyze data—through observations, interviews, and surveys, and by using samples of blood or other bodily fluids—to find the causes of diseases or other health problems
  • Communicate their findings to health practitioners, policymakers, and the public
  • Manage public health programs by planning programs, monitoring their progress, analyzing data, and seeking ways to improve the programs in order to improve public health outcomes
  • Supervise professional, technical, and clerical personnel

Epidemiologists collect and analyze data to investigate health issues. For example, an epidemiologist might collect and analyze demographic data to determine who is at the highest risk for a particular disease. They also may research and investigate the trends in populations of survivors of certain diseases, such as cancer, so that effective treatments can be identified and repeated across the population.

Epidemiologists typically work in applied public health or in research. Applied epidemiologists work for state and local governments, addressing public health problems directly. They often are involved with education outreach and survey efforts in communities. Research epidemiologists typically work for universities or in affiliation with federal agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Epidemiologists who work in private industry commonly conduct research for health insurance companies or pharmaceutical companies. Those in nonprofit companies often do public health advocacy work. Epidemiologists involved in research are rarely advocates, because scientific research is expected to be unbiased.

Epidemiologists typically specialize in one or more of the following public health areas:

  • Infectious diseases
  • Chronic diseases
  • Maternal and child health
  • Public health preparedness and emergency response
  • Environmental health
  • Injury
  • Occupational health
  • Oral health
  • Substance abuse
  • Mental health

For more information on occupations that concentrate on the biological workings of disease or the effects of disease on individuals, see the profiles for biochemists and biophysicists, medical scientists, microbiologists, and physicians and surgeons.

Work Environment for Epidemiologists[About this section] [To Top]

Epidemiologists held about 8,600 jobs. The largest employers of epidemiologists are as follows:

State government, excluding education and hospitals 36%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 22%
Hospitals; state, local, and private 14%
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 8%
Scientific research and development services 6%

Work environments vary because of the diverse nature of epidemiological specializations. Epidemiologists typically work in offices and laboratories to study data and prepare reports. They also may work in clinical settings or the field, supporting emergency actions.

Epidemiologists working in the field may need to be active in the community, including traveling to support education efforts or to administer studies and surveys. Because modern science has reduced the prevalence of infectious disease in developed countries, infectious disease epidemiologists often travel to remote areas and developing nations in order to carry out their studies.

Epidemiologists encounter minimal risk when working in laboratories or in the field, because they have received appropriate training and take precautions before interacting with samples or patients.

Epidemiologist Work Schedules

Epidemiologists who work full time and typically have a standard schedule. Occasionally, epidemiologists may have to work irregular schedules in order to complete fieldwork or attend to duties during public health emergencies.

How to Become an Epidemiologist[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Epidemiologists near you!

Epidemiologists need at least a master's degree from an accredited college or university. Most epidemiologists have a master's degree in public health (MPH) or a related field, and some have completed a doctoral degree in epidemiology or medicine.

Education for Epidemiologists

Epidemiologists typically need at least a master's degree from an accredited college or university. A master's degree in public health with an emphasis in epidemiology is most common, but epidemiologists can earn degrees in a wide range of related fields and specializations. Epidemiologists who direct research projects—including those who work as postsecondary teachers in colleges and universities—often have a Ph.D. or medical degree in their chosen field.

Coursework in epidemiology includes classes in public health, biological and physical sciences, and math and statistics. Classes emphasize statistical methods, causal analysis, and survey design. Advanced courses emphasize multiple regression, medical informatics, reviews of previous biomedical research, comparisons of healthcare systems, and practical applications of data.

Many master's degree programs in public health, as well as other programs that are specific to epidemiology, require students to complete an internship or practicum that typically ranges in length from a semester to a year.

Some epidemiologists have both a degree in epidemiology and a medical degree. These scientists often work in clinical capacities. In medical school, students spend most of their first 2 years in laboratories and classrooms, taking courses such as anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, psychology, microbiology, and pathology. Medical students also have the option to choose electives such as medical ethics and medical laws. They also learn to take medical histories, examine patients, and diagnose illnesses.

Important Qualities for Epidemiologists

Communication skills. Epidemiologists must use their speaking and writing skills to inform the public and community leaders about public health risks. Clear communication is required for an epidemiologist to work effectively with other health professionals.

Critical-thinking skills. Epidemiologists analyze data to determine how best to respond to a public health problem or an urgent health-related emergency.

Detail oriented. Epidemiologists must be precise and accurate in moving from observation and interview to conclusions.

Math and statistical skills. Epidemiologists may need advanced math and statistical skills to design and administer studies and surveys. Skill in using large databases and statistical computer programs may also be important.

Teaching skills. Epidemiologists may be involved in community outreach activities that educate the public about health risks and healthy living.

Epidemiologist Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for epidemiologists is $78,830. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $50,100, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $130,050.

The median annual wages for epidemiologists in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Scientific research and development services $126,470
Hospitals; state, local, and private $83,230
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private $78,410
Local government, excluding education and hospitals $74,370
State government, excluding education and hospitals $66,840

Epidemiologists who work full time typically have a standard schedule. Occasionally, epidemiologists may have to work irregular schedules in order to complete fieldwork or attend to duties during public health emergencies.

Job Outlook for Epidemiologists[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of epidemiologists is projected to grow 26 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 800 openings for epidemiologists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment of Epidemiologists

The COVID-19 pandemic contributed to increased demand for epidemiologists to identify and mitigate the impact of diseases. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 2,200 new jobs over the projections decade.

Demand for epidemiologists is expected to increase as enhancements in healthcare technology permit the discovery of new and emerging diseases. These discoveries require research to understand the diseases and to develop methods for mitigating their adverse health consequences.

Many jobs for these workers are in state and local governments, where they are needed to help respond to emergencies and to provide public health services. However, because epidemiological and public health programs largely depend on public funding, budgetary constraints may directly impact employment growth.

Demand for epidemiologists also is expected to increase as more hospitals join programs such as the National Healthcare Safety Network and realize the benefits of strengthened infection control programs.

Employment projections data for Epidemiologists, 2021-31
Occupational Title Employment, 2021 Projected Employment, 2031 Change, 2021-31
Percent Numeric
Epidemiologists 8,600 10,900 26 2,200


A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.


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