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Episode #43: A “Typical” Work Day of an Epidemiologist



This episode summarizes a discussion from our community, where a member wanted to learn more about the role of an epidemiologist. She has just completed her undergraduate degree in life sciences and is interested in pursuing her master of public health, specifically in epidemiology. She asked for feedback, comments, and feedback from other epidemiologists in the group. This was a popular discussion, and one that I felt everyone could benefit from in the form of this podcast episode. It is so important to have an understanding of the role of epidemiology, even if you’re not an epidemiologist.

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Highlights of this episode include:

A summary of the responses received by other members of the group, and my reaction to their responses

Responses from group that made me proud:

Started with a description of their background, degree earned, specific research interests, and then pointed to helpful resources at APHA. Finally, the recommendation was to get familiar with biostatistics and try to determine what aspect of epidemiology were most interesting to her.

Another good suggestion was to find an epidemiologist in the local state or county health department and try to shadow them for a day to get a feel of a day in the life of an epidemiologist.

Another suggestion was to try to get an entry level disease investigator position to get hands on experience.

Get experience with biostatistics and become familiar with statistical software, or try to get an entry level job in the field and earn income while you gain experience.

My response:

There are several types of epidemiologists and a typical day may look very different depending on the specialty area.

Infectious disease epidemiologist may work in hospitals or health departments, dealing with infection control.

Field epidemiologists will be hands on, dealing with outbreaks in the field and responding to disasters.

Epidemiologists in the pharmaceutical industry may work on any aspect of drug development from background research in the early planning phase, through to the follow up analysis involved in pharmacoviligence and real world analysis.

A cancer epidemiologist focuses on incidence specifically within a specific therapy area, and may spend their entire career conducting in-depth research on one specific type of cancer.

In all of these examples, the day to day functions and flow of work could look dramatically and uniquely different. However, find ways to explore options within epidemiology (either paid, volunteer, or job shadow when possible). Also make sure that you have a strong biostatistics foundation.

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