How to Become an Epidemiologist

How to Become an Epidemiologist

1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree (4 Years)

The first step to becoming an epidemiologist is to earn a bachelor's degree in a science-intensive field, like biology, chemistry, biostatistics, or physiology.

Students should aim to maintain a high GPA (3.5+) to remain competitive for admission into graduate or medical schools.

The preparation timeline below provides an example public health curriculum:

Grade Level Example Courses
  • Public Health I
  • Public Health II
  • Biology I & Lab
  • Psychology I
  • Pre-Calculus
  • Humanities Requirements
  • Electives
  • Introduction to Epidemiology
  • Issues in Global Environmental Health
  • Behavior in Public Health
  • International Health Care & the U.S.
  • Environmental Justice Research Methods in Public Health
  • Humanities Requirements
  • Electives
  • Fundamentals of Environmental Health risk Assessment
  • Climate Change and Human Health
  • Biostatistics for Public Health
  • Global Health Illness
  • Medical Sociology
  • Violence
  • Criminology
  • Social Stratification
  • Humanities Requirements
  • Electives
  • Biology I & Lab
  • Outbreak Investigation
  • Infectious Diseases in the Developed World
  • Capstone
  • Health Disparities in Social Context
  • Remaining Requirements & Electives

2. Take the Graduate Requisite Exam (GRE)

With a master's degree or higher being the entry-level qualifications for most epidemiologists, students must prepare themselves for the Graduate Requisite Examination (GRE), a 3 hour and 45 minute, standardized, multiple choice exam covering analytical writing, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning.

The GRE is broken down into six main sections:

Section Section Breakdown
1 Analytical Writing Section
  • 2 writing assignments
  • 60 minutes
  • Tests student's abilities to assess arguments and communicate ideas.
2 Quantitative Reasoning Sections
  • 20 multiple-choice questions
  • 35 minutes per section
  • Tests student's abilities to solve mathematical problems and interpret data.
2 Verbal Reasoning Sections
  • 20 questions per section
  • 30 minutes per section
  • Tests the ability to understand and analyze written material
1 Unscored Section
  • A duplicate of one of the above sections

3. Earn a Master of Public Health Degree (2 Years)

This is a strongly interdisciplinary field, which means that students have to possess quantitative skills, such as biostatistics and computer applications, as well as demonstrate skills which pertain to promoting health awareness, disease prevention and educating the general masses.

An ideal epidemiologist is also required to evaluate the quality of health care. To become an epidemiologist, students must be a part of an accredit program for epidemiology. A list of such programs can be found in the website of the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH).