Bureau of Labor Statistics

Epidemiologists

epidemiologists image
Epidemiologists collect and analyze data, sometimes through interviews, to find the causes of diseases or other health problems.
Quick Facts: Epidemiologists
2020 Median Pay $74,560 per year
$35.84 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Master's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2019 8,000
Job Outlook, 2019-29 5% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2019-29 400

Summary

What Epidemiologists Do

Epidemiologists are public health workers who investigate patterns and causes of disease and injury.

Work Environment

Epidemiologists work in offices and laboratories, usually at health departments for state and local governments, in hospitals, and at colleges and universities.

How to Become an Epidemiologist

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.

Pay

The median annual wage for epidemiologists was $74,560 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

Employment of epidemiologists is projected to grow 5 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations. Demand for epidemiologists in hospitals is expected to increase in those that have strengthened infection-control programs.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for epidemiologists.

Similar Occupations

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

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about epidemiologists by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Epidemiologists Do

Epidemiologists
Epidemiologists monitor infectious diseases, bioterrorism threats, and other problem areas for public health agencies.

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

Duties

Epidemiologists typically do the following:

  • Plan and direct studies of public health problems to find ways to prevent them or to treat them if they arise
  • Collect and analyze information—including data from observations, interviews, surveys, and samples of blood or other bodily fluids—to find the causes of diseases or other health problems
  • Communicate findings to health practitioners, policymakers, and the public
  • Manage programs through planning, monitoring progress, and seeking ways to improve
  • Supervise professional, technical, and clerical personnel
  • Write grant proposals to fund research

Epidemiologists collect and analyze data to investigate health issues. For example, an epidemiologist might study demographic data to determine groups at high risk for a particular disease. They also may research trends in populations of survivors of certain diseases, such as cancer, to identify effective treatments.

Epidemiologists typically work in applied public health or in research. Applied epidemiologists work for state and local governments, often addressing public health problems through 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 may conduct research for health insurance providers or pharmaceutical companies. Those in nonprofit companies often focus on public health advocacy instead of research, which is expected to be unbiased.

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

  • Chronic diseases
  • Environmental health
  • Genetic and molecular epidemiology
  • Infectious diseases
  • Injury
  • Maternal and child health
  • Mental health
  • Public health preparedness and emergency response
  • Veterinary epidemiology

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

Work Environment

Epidemiologists
Field work may require interaction with sick patients, yet safety precautions ensure that the likelihood of exposure to disease is minimal.

Epidemiologists held about 8,000 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of epidemiologists were as follows:

State government, excluding education and hospitals 36%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 18
Hospitals; state, local, and private 15
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 14
Scientific research and development services 8

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.

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

Epidemiologists
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.

Education

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.

Important Qualities

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.

Pay

Epidemiologists

Median annual wages, May 2020

Life scientists

$81,130

Epidemiologists

$74,560

Total, all occupations

$41,950

 

The median annual wage for epidemiologists was $74,560 in May 2020. 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 $49,140, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $126,040.

In May 2020, the median annual wages for epidemiologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Scientific research and development services $99,020
Hospitals; state, local, and private 84,420
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 70,470
State government, excluding education and hospitals 68,500
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 67,700

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

Epidemiologists

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Life scientists

5%

Epidemiologists

5%

Total, all occupations

4%

 

Employment of epidemiologists is projected to grow 5 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations.

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 are largely dependent on public funding, budgetary conditions may directly impact employment growth.

Demand for epidemiologists in hospitals 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.

Job Prospects

About 600 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 projections data for epidemiologists, 2019-29

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Occupational Title

Epidemiologists

SOC Code19-1041
Employment, 20198,000
Projected Employment, 20298,300
Percent Change, 2019-295
Numeric Change, 2019-29400
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of epidemiologists.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2020 MEDIAN PAY
Anthropologists and archeologists Anthropologists and Archeologists

Anthropologists and archeologists study the origin, development, and behavior of humans.

Master's degree $66,130
Economists Economists

Economists collect and analyze data, research trends, and evaluate economic issues for resources, goods, and services.

Master's degree $108,350
Environmental scientists and specialists Environmental Scientists and Specialists

Environmental scientists and specialists use their knowledge of the natural sciences to protect the environment and human health.

Bachelor's degree $73,230
Geographers Geographers

Geographers study the Earth and the distribution of its land, features, and inhabitants.

Bachelor's degree $85,430
Health educators Health Education Specialists and Community Health Workers

Health education specialists develop programs to teach people about conditions affecting well-being. Community health workers promote wellness by helping people adopt healthy behaviors.

See How to Become One $48,140
Medical scientists Medical Scientists

Medical scientists conduct research aimed at improving overall human health.

Doctoral or professional degree $91,510
Microbiologists Microbiologists

Microbiologists study microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, algae, fungi, and some types of parasites.

Bachelor's degree $84,400
Physicians and surgeons Physicians and Surgeons

Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses and address health maintenance.

Doctoral or professional degree This wage is equal to or greater than $208,000 per year.
Political scientists Political Scientists

Political scientists study the origin, development, and operation of political systems.

Master's degree $125,350
Registered nurses Registered Nurses

Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care and educate patients and the public about various health conditions.

Bachelor's degree $75,330
Survey researchers Survey Researchers

Survey researchers design and conduct surveys and analyze data.

Master's degree $59,870
Mathematicians Mathematicians and Statisticians

Mathematicians and statisticians analyze data and apply computational techniques to solve problems.

Master's degree $93,290

Contacts for More Info

For more information about epidemiologists, visit

American College of Epidemiology

Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists

The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America

For more information about epidemiology careers in the federal government, visit

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National Institutes of Health

For public health–related information, visit

American Epidemiological Society

American Public Health Association

Association of State and Territorial Health Officials

National Academy for State Health Policy

Public Health Foundation

CareerOneStop

For a career video on epidemiologists, visit

Epidemiologists

O*NET

Epidemiologists

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Epidemiologists,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/epidemiologists.htm (visited July 09, 2021).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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