Studying In the Field
Epidemiology is the study of the incidence, distribution, and determinants of disease in populations, and particularly in humans. Epidemiologists frequently fall under the umbrella of the public health field and are involved in the vital role of learning how to control and prevent disease. Topics of study within epidemiology generally require many math and science courses including biostatistics, immunology, biochemistry, genetics, physiology, toxicology, and more. Another aspect of epidemiology includes topics such as demography (population studies) and policy studies so that you will be prepared to interact with policy in combating disease. Almost all classes will involve laboratory research.
Epidemiology can involve study in a variety of emerging areas today, such as genomics, which allows students to explore how DNA and the sequencing of the human genome is involved in disease and how those diseases could be controlled or prevented. You can also choose to specialize by focusing either on one disease, or on a group of diseases. Many factors are involved in disease as well as the research of diseases and the control and prevention of them among populations. Epidemiology, therefore, tends to be a very multidisciplinary and to allow students some choice as far as the area of the field in which they choose to specialize.
Job Opportunities In the Field
Careers in epidemiology can take students to many places. For example, epidemiologists played a vital role in the SARS outbreak in Asia in 2003 by identifying the patterns of the disease and helping to prevent it from spreading. The majority of epidemiologists work either as researchers or policy analysts. Pharmaceutical companies and university laboratories give epidemiologists resources to study how diseases develop and identify new diseases. If you have an interest in teaching, you could pursue that at a variety of medical, dental, nursing, or veterinary schools.
Another major employer of epidemiologists is the government. Various agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration need good epidemiologists to establish policy and analyze disease risks. While there are certainly other places that epidemiologists might find a niche, these are the main areas that most epidemiologists choose to pursue after earning a degree.
View Graduate Programs in Epidemiology