What does an epidemiologist do?

Epidemiologists investigate the patterns of disease and other health-related problems. They research diseases’ causes and frequencies, as well as the common characteristics of people most likely to fall victim. They use this information to devise or refine solutions to control or prevent diseases.

What might an epidemiologist do in a workday?


  • conduct research among large populations to determine disease trends.
  • develop and test theories regarding the causes and spread of disease.
  • investigate and identify risk factors for disease.
  • determine strategies to combat the spread of, occurrence of, or mortality from disease.
  • compare the effectiveness of various methods for combating diseases.
  • conduct public health surveillance to monitor the distribution of diseases.


Among the many subspecialties within epidemiology are:

  • cancer epidemiology
  • environmental/occupational epidemiology
  • neuroepidemiology
  • psychiatric or psychoneuroepidemiology
  • cardiovascular epidemiology
  • genetic epidemiology
  • communicable disease epidemiology
  • veterinary epidemiology
  • social epidemiology
  • behavioral epidemiology
  • pharmacoepidemiology

How much does an epidemiologist earn?

  • $40,000 - $100,000

How do I become an epidemiologist?

Those interested in becoming an epidemiologist should have a strong interest and background in math, science and English.

Future epidemiologists need to attend a university school of public health and earn either a Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) or Master of Science (M.S.) degree or Ph.D. in Epidemiology. Some epidemiologists also choose to earn a medical degree. Once a degree is earned, continuing education, and certification programs are offered by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).

Where else can I learn about becoming an epidemiologist?

American Public Health Association
800 I Street N.W. / Washington, DC 20001
tel:  (202) 777-2742 (APHA) / web:  www.apha.org

Society for Epidemiologic Research
P.O. Box 990 / Clearfield, UT 84089
tel:  (801) 525-0231 / web:  www.epiresearch.org

Virginia Public Health Association
2415 Westwood Avenue / Richmond, VA 23230
tel:  (804) 767-7230 / web:  www.vapha.org

Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists
2872 Woodcock Boulevard, Suite 303 / Atlanta, GA 30341
tel:  (770) 458-3811 / web:  www.cste.org

Educational Institutions in Virginia for Epidemiologists: