How Do I Become an Epidemiologist?
To pursue a career in epidemiology, you must first establish a knowledge base in organic chemistry and microbiology. Microbiologists are much sought after in the industry of epidemiology. The first step towards resolving issues caused by microorganisms is to understand what they are and how they operate fully.
Whether you’re starting your career in the United States, Europe, Asia, or other parts of the world, becoming a certified epidemiologist breaks down into five basic steps.
Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in a related field.
Most institutions for higher learning do not offer undergraduate programs specifically for epidemiology. Because of this, the first step on the track toward becoming an epidemiologist requires obtaining a degree in a related field of study. Some of the most popular undergraduate degree options for prospective epidemiologists include biostatistics, health science, nursing, biology, chemistry, and public health.
Gain real-world work experience.
Like many careers in public health, prospective epidemiologists are required to have some real-world experience in a medical or laboratory setting. Many of the most competitive master’s programs will require some form of work experience to set you apart from the crowd. At this stage, it’s essential to take time to determine the type of position you’re seeking before you search for relevant work experience to ensure that it aligns with your preferred career path in epidemiology.
Complete a Master’s Degree or higher.
Even most entry-level epidemiology careers require a master’s degree from an accredited institution. The majority of people in this stage will pursue a Master of Science or a Master of Public Health with a concentration in epidemiology. This is true for students in the United States, Canada, Europe, and China.
Ideally, these higher learning programs will contain community health, environmental health, biostatistics, and research methodology coursework. These areas will help prepare prospective epidemiologists for the data analysis and testing required in the industry.
Many master’s programs also require that students complete a research project to show that they can effectively put the skills they’ve learned in their coursework into practice.
Earn Certifications in Epidemiology
While there are no formally required exams to become an epidemiologist, there are various certifications that a person can pursue to legitimize their skillset in the eyes of potential employers. In the United States, the Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology has a certification available for professionals.
In the United Kingdom, If you’ve earned a degree in life sciences (e.g., biomedical sciences, biology, microbiology, or biochemistry) and want to work in a clinical setting, you can apply for a place on the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP) specializing in infection science.
To become an epidemiologist in China, students must first achieve a Master’s Degree in epidemiology. There are many opportunities for field study training programs to add further legitimacy to their skillset.
Start Your Career as an Epidemiologist
Obtaining a Master of Public Health or related Master’s Degree is typically enough to get started in an entry-level job in epidemiology. While many epidemiologists go on to work for government agencies, others may decide to concentrate on local issues and work for non-profits, local clinics, private research facilities, or university labs.