According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 7,800 epidemiologists currently work in the United States. The bureau projects this number will rise to more than 10,000 by 2030, thanks to lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and increasing demand for identifying and understanding how illnesses and viruses operate.
Becoming an epidemiologist includes earning both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree, though support roles are open to those who complete four years of study. Graduates of epidemiology master's programs work in public and private settings alike, with many finding work with local, state, and federal governments. Others decide to work in research positions for pharmaceutical companies or universities, while others decide to teach the next generation of epidemiologists at colleges.
On this page, interested students can learn more about the variety of careers available to those who study epidemiology, both at the baccalaureate and graduate degree levels. Students can also read more about average salaries and projected job growth for these professions. Those looking for information on what an epidemiology degree entails can learn more about the specifics, as well as review answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.Click Here to See the Best Colleges in the US
Columbia University in the City of New York offers 3 Epidemiology degree programs. It's a very large, private not-for-profit, four-year university in a large city. In 2020, 228 Epidemiology students graduated with students earning 141 Master's degrees, 76 Certificates, and 11 Doctoral degrees.
Time to complete: These programs typically require four years of full-time study by first-time college students or six years of part-time study. Some schools may provide an accelerated bachelor's degree in epidemiology that students can finish in as few as three years.
Required credits: Most programs require students to complete at least 120 credits.
Sample courses: Epidemiology of chronic diseases, evidence-based writing for public health, healthcare delivery in the United States, fundamentals of injury epidemiology, health information technology management and policy, environmental health science, and community organizing for health promotion.
Online availability: Some schools may provide an online bachelor's degree in epidemiology, but many of these programs include a field practice component to help learners build real-world skills in clinical or research facilities prior to graduating. Others require laboratory components to be done in person. Because of this, most degrees cannot be done fully online.
Time to complete: Students can choose from either an M.S. in epidemiology, which prepares them for more research and clinical roles, or an M.P.H. in epidemiology, which prepares them for more community-based positions. Both usually require two years of full-time study or three years of part-time study.
Required credits: Most programs consist of between 40-5 credits, depending on whether students decide to pursue a concentration within the degree and whether or not they write a thesis as part of graduation requirements.
Sample courses: Population and health determinants, public health policy and politics, chronic disease epidemiology, infectious disease epidemiology, statistical analysis of multi-level and longitudinal data, theory and conceptual frameworks in public health, and public health economics.
Online availability: Many schools offer online master's degrees in epidemiology, making it a flexible degree for learners already working full-time jobs with less time to travel to campus multiple times per week. Because many of these programs are online, students also have the opportunity to gain entrance to schools across the country to gain a better education than may be available to them locally.
After earning a degree in epidemiology, some potential career paths include:
Career Outlook: +30% (2020-2030)
Job Responsibilities: Epidemiologists use their expertise to track diseases and injuries to better understand their causes and any underlying patterns. They oversee and participate in research projects focused on collecting data via blood and fluid samples, surveys, interviews, and observations to look for causation. They then communicate what they find to other public health professionals, including healthcare workers and to the public via public health agencies. Those in managerial positions also oversee other research and laboratory staff along with research budgets.
Required Education: Master's degree
Career Outlook: +17% (2020-2030)
Job Responsibilities: These professionals work in nonprofits and government agencies alike and spend their days teaching community members how to improve their health. In addition to developing and managing programs that cover important health topics, these specialists also evaluate their programs for effectiveness and look for ways to reach larger audiences. When working directly with community members, they advocate for greater access to needed health programs and help connect them with appropriate information and services.
Required Education: Bachelor's degree
Career Outlook: +5% (2020-2030)
Job Responsibilities: Microbiologists often spend their days in labs, working with microorganisms to better understand how they survive, grow, and interact with other parts of their environments. They commonly work with organisms such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi, which can often be the root cause of health concerns. Aside from designing and overseeing research projects, they also perform experiments to better understand how to effectively assess and treat illnesses caused by harmful microorganisms.
Required Education: Bachelor's degree
Career Outlook: +8% (2020-2030)
Job Responsibilities: Environmental scientists and specialists use their knowledge of natural sciences to protect both environmental areas and human health. They often collect data to conduct research projects, analyzing samples to identify threats to human health before developing protocols to address the issue in an environmentally-safe way. They commonly address issues such as water contamination or land pollution, and report to governmental agencies and the public on both their findings and what is being done to address the issue.
Required Education: Bachelor's degree
To work as an epidemiologist, practitioners need at least a master's degree in epidemiology. This can be either an M.S. or M.P.H. qualification.
Epidemiologists are not required to go to medical school, though some may choose to if they want to continue their studies and put epidemiological principles to work in patient care.
Earning a degree in epidemiology is worth it and also provides a great salary. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that epidemiologists earned median annual wages of $74,560 in 2020. The BLS also reports that jobs for these professionals will grow by 30% between 2020-2030.
Many colleges offer epidemiology degrees, though they are more common at the master's level than the bachelor's level. Looking for schools with public health departments offers a great starting point.
|School||Average Tuition||Student Teacher Ratio||Enrolled Students|
|Columbia University in the City of New York New York, NY||19 : 1||30,135|
|University of California-San Diego La Jolla, CA||27 : 1||39,576|
|University of California-Davis Davis, CA||22 : 1||39,074|
|Tufts University Medford, MA||15 : 1||12,219|
|University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA||18 : 1||26,552|