Job Description

The Epidemiologist job description is to investigate the cause of the diseases and recommend new procedures that would limit the spread and damage caused by a disease. They may be used when there are disease outbreaks such as influenza, food poisoning, or other diseases that affect a large number of people. They are responsible for finding out why certain diseases appear and spread. Epidemiologists are called to action when influenza outbreaks, food poisoning or any other form of disease attacks a community and affects the masses.

The job of the Epidemiologist is to investigate the cause of the diseases and suggest procedures that can be implemented to limit the damage and control the spread of the disease. Rather than working with individual patients, they are concerned with the general population. They count those with these diseases as cases rather than individuals. They work to identify those at the greatest risk.

Epidemiologists are required to carry out thorough fieldwork in order to discover the root causes of illnesses or injuries.

Their job dictates them to find out the risk factors and suggest preventive measures that can be taken by the authorities and local health care facilities. The initial discovery and containment of any outbreak comes from an Epidemiologist.

Also included in the Epidemiologist job description is working to find preventative measures. Once they pass this information on to authorities and health care facilities, they can have a part in educating the public on how to stay safe. Some public health issues that Epidemiologists have a part in include:

  • Environmental exposures involving lead or air pollutants that trigger respiratory issues such as asthma
  • Food-borne illnesses
  • Influenza outbreaks
  • Rises in certain cancers
  • Increases in birth defects

The approach taken and methods used by professionals vary depending on their academic background and their degree of expertise.

Statistical analysis is commonly used by Epidemiologists. They are required to take into account a plethora of medical information including hereditary, environmental, health care and behavioral factors. Techniques used by Epidemiologists are based on biochemistry and molecular biology.

The Epidemiologist job description also involves the study of events that contribute to diseases, such as natural disasters. If a natural disaster affects an area, there’s a good chance health care is affected. There may be a greater chance for disease outbreaks as well. They also stay on alert for bioterrorism threats. Epidemiologists assisted during events such as:

  • The World Trace Center Attack in 2001
  • The Anthrax Release in 2001
  • Hurricane Katrina in 2005
  • Haiti Earthquake in 2010

One method commonly used by Epidemiologists is statistical analysis. They may analyze a sample of data which includes hereditary background, environmental and behavioral factors, and access to health care. Approaches vary depending on the Epidemiologist’s experience and educational background. Usually, they use techniques based on molecular biology and biochemistry.

Epidemiologists also need to understand that what makes up a disease, or the definition, also tends to change over time, making numbers and estimates more difficult to determine. They must remain flexible and prepared for frequent changes.

During your Epidemiologist career, you may specialize in some of the following areas:

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Public Health Preparedness
  • Environmental Health
  • Injury
  • Mental Health



Epidemiologists are tasked with discovering the origin of a disease or agent that's harmful to humans, containing it, and resolving it.

They're charged with investigating the scene of an incident and devising methods for containing its spread, in the case of virus or disease.

Much of their duties revolve around collecting and interpreting data in order to draw the right conclusions.

Sometimes referred to as “Disease Detectives”, the Epidemiologist job responsibilities include searching for the cause of diseases and identifying those at risk. They then determine how to prevent it from spreading or appearing again.

When beginning an investigation, Epidemiologists ask questions such as:

  • Who is sick?
  • What symptoms are appearing?
  • Under what circumstances did they get sick?
  • Where and when could they have been exposed?

After asking these questions, they use statistical analysis to draw up a profile and figure out the best way to solve these problems.

The job responsibilities also include identifying new diseases that the public is at risk for. They notice that many people are showing the same symptoms. Sometimes, these symptoms don’t match any known disease. They have to conduct research to name a new disease. It was through these methods that we identified illnesses such as Legionnaire’s disease and SARS. They’ve also identified what causes them.

Part of the Epidemiologist's job responsibilities is investigating the scene of a natural disaster or accident and putting measures in place to prevent the spread of viruses or diseases that can make people sick.

Many of the Epidemiologist job responsibilities involve collecting and interpreting data. When they’ve done this, they can draw the right conclusions.

Some terms that an Epidemiologist needs to know and consider are:

Incidence: The number of new cases of a disease over a period of time.

Prevalence: Number of existing cases at a given time.

Cost of Illness: The average cost of treatment of the disease.

The Burden of the Disease: Effects of the disease on society beyond medical costs. Can people die from this? Are there any long-term repercussions?


Common Activities On The Job

As of 2018, most Epidemiologists work for state government agencies. Others may work for the federal government, employed by agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Still, others may work for colleges and universities, hospitals, and science laboratories.

They may divide their time between office or laboratory work, and working out in the field. In other cases, an Epidemiologist may spend the majority of their time in the office. Those in specialized areas may work predominantly in the field.

Those who work for state governments may have greater involvement in community education programs, traveling to different events to report their findings and educate the public. In other cases, Epidemiologists may travel to remote areas and study there. They could be called on following natural disasters in less developed countries.

Most of the time, they work a standard work schedule. Those who complete fieldwork or are working on special projects may work overtime or irregular schedules, especially during public emergencies.

During your Epidemiologist career, some duties you'll need to complete are:

• Data Analysis

As an Epidemiologist, you’ll take many different samples and testing them. You’ll conduct interviews, observations and surveys to find the causes of diseases and other health problems. You’ll be responsible for planning studies of public health issues to find the causes and preventions.

• Investigation and Research

You’ll study and learn about different diseases. You’ll look at the histories of outbreaks and identify patterns. You’ll also study preventative measures and treatments for diseases. You’ll identify and analyze various public health issues depending on your specialization.

• Supervision

You may be responsible for supervising technical and clerical personnel. You’ll have to direct your organization and lead a team, helping them to stay on task. You may need to conduct department meetings. Also, one of the responsibilities of supervision involves encouraging and reprimanding those beneath you.

• Education

Since you’ll be doing research on the spread and possible spread of diseases, you may need to take part in community education programs. This means you’ll have an active part in your community and in those nearby. You’ll have to plan programs and travel to different events to educate the public to stay safe.

Epidemiologists may also be responsible for teaching new medical and laboratory procedures to doctors, residents, students, and laboratory technicians.

• Management



As a Epidemiologist, we've listed some of the vital skills that you will use on a daily basis.


Math and Science

You’ll need to take lots of courses in math and science for your Epidemiologist career. Particularly courses in biology. Specifically, you’ll need courses in human biology, laboratory methods, parasitology, toxicology, immunology, and pathology, just to name a few.


Must effectively communicate with your co-workers to ensure the best care and the proper procedures. Must be able to communicate in high-stress environments. You’ll need to effectively communicate with co-workers and subordinates. Since you’re all working with such sensitive topics in the public health sector, it’s important that you’re all on the same page.

Active Listening

Offering your full attention to an individual person or group in order to fully understand problems and their nature. You’ll need to not only communicate effectively, but you need to know how to listen. You’ll need to give your full attention to those who are offering feedback or asking questions.

Critical Thinking

Must use logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems. You’ll need to use critical thinking skills to weigh pros and cons to possible solutions. You’ll need to analyze each scenario to make the best decisions.

Judgment and Decision Making

Needs to be able to act autonomously and make difficult decisions that would benefit the patient or make corrections. Must consider all benefits and repercussions of potential actions and choose the appropriate one. You’ll need to be able to make difficult decisions in high pressure situations. You should be able to consider all those affected and make the right decisions for everyone.

Complex Problem Solving

Must be able to identify complex problems and develop and evaluate corrective options and implement solutions. Tying in with critical thinking skills, you’ll be responsible for solving complex problems. You’ll need to identify these problems, evaluate and implement solutions.

Stress Management

Must be able to endure intense situations and handle pressure that comes with extreme situations you may encounter. So many lives will be in your hands during your Epidemiologist career. You’ll deal with many different personalities and work in high-pressure situations. You must have good stress management skills.


Must be trustworthy because you have people's lives in your hands and what you do could help or hurt them. They are entrusted with a great responsibility and must live up to it. You must be trustworthy because you’ll be giving advice and presentations regarding public health. You’ll have a great responsibility in conducting your research and giving people advice on their lives. You must be trustworthy and responsible.


Gauging how people react and read their body language to decipher their feelings and predict their actions. They must be able to determine if people could be a risk to themselves or others and to distinguish truths from lies. You’ll be working with many different personality types in high-pressure situations. At times you may have very little time to assess your situation. You need to understand people and body language to know how they are reacting to your information. Based on reactions, you may need to change your approach or solution altogether.


Working Conditions


Epidemiologists divide their work hours between the office and the investigation fields. They typically work for health departments, hospitals, colleges, and universities and are required to work hectic and long hours when there is an outbreak.

The stressful work continues till the outbreak is contained and a temporary/permanent cure is found.Their field work may bring them in contact with infectious diseases or pathogens, but it is a rare case for one to become ill.

As of 2012, 52% of epidemiologists worked for state and local governments, with the rest finding employment with hospitals, colleges and universities, life science search and development centers, consulting services, and pharmaceutical companies.

If you're interested in learning more about How To Become an Epidemiologist, you should take a look at our Epidemiologist Career Path, and also check out the Salary Trend Insights for Epidemiologists.




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