Epidemiologist Career Plan

Epidemiologists are experts in population-level health. There are multiple paths to becoming an epidemiologist, but all require high levels of education. Here are some tips to get you started.

Become an Epidemiologist

Epidemiology Resources

  1. Get a good academic foundation during your high school years. Take advanced level math courses and science courses – including statistics, if a course is available. Also work on your written and oral communication skills and become computer savvy. Foreign language can be helpful as you may find yourself corresponding with people from many nations.

  2. Do some career exploration. Contact organizations like the Area Health Education Center to ask about health career fairs and opportunities for observation. Consider participating in the epidemiology competition through HOSA. You may also want to take a look at Vital Signs, a web publication of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (You’ll get a sense of how many areas of people’s lives are affected by epidemiological data.)

  3. Select an appropriate undergraduate degree. You will need to go to graduate school eventually, so look ahead to see what majors your favored schools prefer. Some prefer students with backgrounds in health science, biological science, or statistics. Some also look favorably on behavioral science programs that take a quantitative approach. Within the perimeters, pick something you enjoy.

  4. Make yourself a competitive candidate. Aim for a GPA well above 3.00. You’ll want to score well on the GRE (or, in some cases, the GMAT). Also look into undergraduate research or internship opportunities.

  5. Apply to graduate programs. You can choose a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology or a Master of Science in Epidemiology. The emphasis may be slightly different. You have a choice of concentrations, including maternal and child health and global health. There can be quite a few steps, including writing a personal statement and gathering references. Many epidemiology programs use a centralized application service, the School of Public Health Application System, or SOPHAS.

  6. Continue to excel in graduate school. Internships may lead to permanent positions later.

  7. It’s time to find a position. Your school will likely have a placement office. Also look on the sites of national health service organizations.

Personal traits: O*Net notes social and investigative as desirable traits. The University of Pittsburg lists quantitative and communicative abilities as necessary for program success.