Epidemiologists typically need at least a master’s degree to enter the occupation.
Epidemiologists typically need at least a master’s degree to enter the occupation. 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.
Epidemiologists typically need at least a master’s degree. The degree may be in a range of fields or specializations, although a master’s degree in public health with an emphasis in epidemiology is common. 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 public health, biological and physical sciences, and math and statistics. Courses include comparative healthcare systems, medical informatics, and survey and study design.
Master’s degree programs in public health, as well as other programs that are specific to epidemiology, may require students to complete an internship or practicum that typically ranges in length from a semester to a year. Internships and other training opportunities are available at federal agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Some epidemiologists have degrees in both epidemiology and medicine. These scientists often focus on clinical work. In medical school, students spend most of their first 2 years in laboratories and classrooms, taking courses such as anatomy, microbiology, and pathology. Medical students also learn to take medical histories, examine patients, and diagnose illnesses.
Communication skills. Epidemiologists use speaking and writing skills to inform officials and the public, such as for community outreach activities to explain health risks. They also must be able to convey information effectively to other health workers.
Critical-thinking skills. Epidemiologists must be able to consider a variety of resources in responding to a public health problem or health-related emergency.
Detail oriented. Epidemiologists must be precise and accurate in moving from observation and interview to conclusions.
Leadership skills. Epidemiologists may direct staff in research or in investigating a disease. They also may need to assign work and evaluate staff performances.
Math and statistical skills. Epidemiologists may need to analyze data when reviewing results from studies and surveys. Skill in using large databases and statistical computer programs is critical.