Epidemiologists protect the public health by researching and designing ways to prevent and control the spread of disease. They earn slightly less than the average salary for other medical scientists, in part because funding typically comes from the government and because epidemiology positions don’t always require a doctorate degree. The average annual salary was over £39,000 in 2007.
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Epidemiologists are scientists who study the causes and distribution of diseases. They use statistical models and other research techniques to improve public health. Epidemiologists work for state, federal and local governments, in academic institutions and in private industry. Epidemiologists play an important role in reducing the spread of AIDS, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases as well as uncovering environmental causes of cancer, birth defects and heart disease.
There are two types of epidemiologists: clinical and research. Clinical epidemiologists work in hospitals or outpatient settings as consultants to medical staff. They serve as infection-control specialists and develop guidelines for preventing and containing outbreaks in communicable diseases like the flu.
Research epidemiologists work in medical schools, schools of public health, government agencies such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or industries such as pharmaceutical research. Epidemiologists investigate health concerns including infectious diseases like malaria as well as environmental sources of disease like second-hand smoke or toxic chemicals in groundwater.
Epidemiologists do not always have a doctorate degree, unlike most other medical scientists. A master’s degree in public health is required, with solid coursework in biostatistics. Clinical epidemiologists often also have a medical degree.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook reports that in May 2007, the median annual salary for epidemiologists was £39,006. Half of all epidemiologists earned between £31,323 and £48,678. State and local government agencies, in which most epidemiologists are employed, reported the lowest mean salaries--less than £39,000. Scientific and technical consulting industries reported mean salaries for epidemiologists of more than £65,000.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest concentrations of people working in epidemiology are in the following metropolitan areas: Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Washington; Baltimore-Towson, Maryland.; Greater Hartford, Connecticut.; Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, Oregon/Washington; and Durham, North Carolina. Salaries are highest in Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, California; Kansas City, Missouri/Kansas; Durham, North Carolina; New York-White Plains-Wayne, New York/New Jersey; and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, California.
The demand for epidemiologists is expected to be greater than average in the future, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job prospects will grow as scientists look for ways to conquer cancer, health problems related to pollution, and international travel and bioterrorism threats. Growth in biotechnology industries will also fuel demand. However, research epidemiologists may face increased competition for grant funding, particularly if government budgets are sharply reduced.
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