Epidemiologists need at least a master’s degree from an accredited postsecondary institution. Most have a master’s degree in epidemiology or a related field. Some epidemiologists have a Ph.D.
Epidemiologists need at least a master’s degree from an accredited postsecondary institution. Most have a master’s degree in public health, with an emphasis in epidemiology or a related field. Advanced epidemiologists—including those in colleges and universities—have a Ph.D. in their chosen field.
Coursework in epidemiology includes public health, biology, and biostatistics. Classes emphasize statistical methods, causal analysis, and survey design. Advanced courses emphasize multiple regression, medical informatics, review of previous biomedical research, and practical applications of data.
A number of epidemiologists have a professional background (for example, a medical degree) with a dual degree in epidemiology. In medical school, students spend most of the first 2 years in laboratories and classrooms, taking courses such as anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, psychology, microbiology, pathology, medical ethics, and laws governing medicine. They also learn to take medical histories, examine patients, and diagnose illnesses.
Communication skills. Epidemiologists must use their expertise and experience to determine how they can disseminate their findings to the public properly.
Critical-thinking skills. Epidemiologists analyze their findings to determine how best to respond to a public health problem or a more grave health-related emergency.
Detail oriented. Epidemiologists must be precise and accurate in moving from observation and interview to conclusions.
Math and statistical skills. Epidemiologists work with both qualitative methods (observations and interviews) and quantitative methods (surveys and analysis of biological data) in their work.
Speaking skills. Epidemiologists must communicate complex findings so that public policy officials and the public can understand the magnitude of a health problem.
Writing skills. Written communication is critical for helping decision makers and the public understand the conclusions and recommendations that epidemiologists make.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition