Epidemiologists investigate and track the patterns and causes of disease in order to reduce or remove the risk to public health. These professionals often work in conjunction with civic authorities, as well as social and commercial entities, to educate the population about particular threats to public health. These threats are either general, or they affect specific segments of the population such as children or the elderly.

  • National Average Salary

  • Top Paying States

    • $96,120 Massachusetts
    • $81,830 California
    • $79,620 Nevada
  • Number Employed

  • States with Highest Employment

    • 700 California
    • 420 Massachusetts
    • 310 Texas

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Getting Started

Working in Epidemiology & Research


Epidemiologists need a master’s degree – typically a Master of Public Health, to work in their chosen career field; some of these professionals have doctorates. Licensure of epidemiologists is voluntary and is offered by the Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology.

Those who plan to teach or lead research teams require a Ph.D. in their chosen fields. Many such degree programs require students to complete an internship or practicum in order to graduate.

Work Experience

In addition to the extensive education requirements for becoming an epidemiologist, formal or informal training does not end with a degree. Epidemiological education extends to a young professional’s postgraduate work-life in the form of multi-year fellowships. These fellowships act as the preliminary work experience (under the guidance of seasoned mentors), and as the final bridge from a world that is largely academic to one that is practical.


Unlike other careers in health, epidemiology does not require certification. However, for those who wish to further their education and better their chances of employment, there are two boards that offer certification exams: The Certification Board for Infection Control and Epidemiology (CBIC), and the Association for Professional in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC). Some epidemiologists, such as those in clinical and academic roles, may also receive certification and licensing by organizations like the American Medical Association (AMA).


Database Administrator

Database administrators manage information for companies by identifying the best ways to organize, store and present data according to user needs. Career opportunities are growing as health care institutions manage increasingly large amounts of data and businesses face security threats from cyber attacks. Most database administrators begin their careers with a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field, although certain positions may require an MBA with an information technology specification.

Main Responsibilities

  • Keep data secure by managing access, backup strategies, privileges and information migration
  • Install and configure database management software, translate database design, diagnose database performance issues, and train users on new database software and systems
  • Evaluate new tools and technologies, analyze user needs and present findings to management

Additional Requirements

In addition to strong technical skills and good organizational capabilities, communication skills and the ability to work both in a team environment and independently are essential. Other key attributes include excellent multi-tasking and problem-solving skills and acute attention to detail.

Vaccine Researcher

These scientists work very closely with other emergency management workers to analyze disease, trial test vaccines, then distribute vaccines to the public. A number of government, nonprofit, and academic organizations employ vaccine researchers both domestic work and duties abroad.

Main Responsibilities

  • Creation and deployment of trial vaccination studies
  • Analyze safety of new and current vaccines
  • Propose safe distribution models of vaccines to at risk populations

Additional Requirements

Generally, these scientist roles require a master’s or Ph.D. in vaccine research or development. Some researchers may also decide to earn a medical degree so that they can work directly with patients.

Disease Ecologist

This subspecialty of epidemiology studies the nexus of the behavior of hosts – human or animal populations – with the biology of the diseases that affect them. This hybrid specialty calls on the skills and expertise of ecology, medicine, genetics, immunology and epidemiology in order to better understand the relationships between host and pathogen.

Main Responsibilities

  • Identify and study patterns of disease within particular populations.
  • Study the evolution of disease and treatment such as the way a particular pathogen develops a resistance to drugs over the course of time.
  • Examine how changes in the environment – human made and naturally occurring – impact the progression or regression of disease.

Additional Requirements

Individuals who are interested in this career path complete separate fellowships in the area of disease ecology in order to acquire the added skills and specialized knowledge necessary to work in this field.


  • CDC Summer Graduate Environmental Health Internship

    This program is designed for graduate students interested in or currently studying environmental health and related fields. Interns will use the skills and knowledge learned in the classroom for practical study and improvement of the environment in connection to human health.

    Eligibility: Applicants must be either US citizens or permanent residents that are current full-time graduate students, with a minimum 3.0 GPA.

    Terms of Service: Must have proof of health insurance, pass criminal and background checks, and must agree to pay all related income taxes.

    Deadline: TBD

  • World Health Organization Internship Program

    The World Health Organization seeks to empower future public health leaders through its internship program. The program provides participants with a unique perspective of the technical and administrative workings of the WHO.

    Eligibility: The program is open to enrolled graduate students as well as undergraduates who have completed at least 3 years of coursework. Applicants must be at least 20 years of age and must be fluent in the language of the office you are applying to.

    Terms of Service: These are all unpaid internships and participants are responsible for their own living expenses, including travel to and from the location of their internship.

    Deadline: Varies

  • NIH Summer Interns

    This program provides opportunities for high school to graduate students. Interns work on research projects in biochemical, molecular and other biological sciences.

    Eligibility: US citizens or permanent residents who are high school, undergraduate, or graduate students in good standing with an interest in pursuing biomedical studies.

    Terms of Service: Student interns work full-time for 8 continuous weeks between May and September. Specific schedules are determined by the intern and their assigned mentor.

    Deadline: TBD

  • Health Communications Internship Program

    Participants in this National Cancer Institute internship will help distribute information intended to increase public awareness of new cancer treatments and other issues of relevance to cancer patients and their families.

    Eligibility: This internship is open to graduate students who have recently completed a graduate degree. Applicants must have a GPA of at least 2.75, be US citizens or permanent residents and have a background in science.

    Terms of Service: Interns will be asked to work a regular 40 hour week (8:30 am – 5:00 pm) at an NCI host office. Participants are assigned a mentor that will guide and supervise their day to day work and overall experience.

    Deadline: TBD

  • Graduate Student Epidemiology Program

    This is a data-based program that is designed to assist local and state health agencies with data driven and related projects. Students have the opportunity to work with data or analytic issues.

    Eligibility: Applicants must be graduate or doctoral students, who are US citizens or permanent residents and enrolled in an accredited public health program.

    Terms of Service: This is a 12 week summer program for which participants must complete a final report upon completion of their project.

    Deadline: February 1