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Epidemiology Career & Certificate

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epidemiology career

How would you like a job where every day brings a new and challenging medical mystery?

Half a hundred elementary school children are suddenly affected by cramps and nausea…600 people in a single community are stricken with tuberculosis…A woman is attacked by flesh-eating bacteria…

No, it’s not the X-files. These are real-life cases that epidemiologist Dr. Kathy Gensheimer has encountered—and solved—in the course of her public health career, which was profiled by Tom Weber in the Bangor Daily News.

Weber quotes Gensheimer as saying, "Public health really grew on me. Instead of having an individual as a patient, I had a whole community as my patient. The idea was to do the most I could to help the greatest number of people, and it was exciting to intervene to help stop unnecessary illness and unnecessary death."

Stopping unnecessary illness, as Gensheimer puts it, could be seen as the key element that differentiates the public health model from the medical health model. Medical health focuses on reversing or curing disease after it has occurred, while public health is interested in preventing the causes and conditions.

Public health has five core concentration areas, of which epidemiology is one. An epidemiologist works to investigate the causes of food poisoning, influenza and other outbreaks, and to halt their spread. In addition, epidemiologists do ongoing fieldwork to explore the causes of disease or injury, understand the risks, and identify most at-risk population segments. Their jobs have much in common with detective work, and they are often dubbed “disease detectives.”

What Makes An Epidemiology Career So Appealing?

Epidemiologists...

  • Oversee public health programs, including statistical analysis, health care planning, surveillance systems, and public health improvement.
  • Investigate diseases or parasites to determine cause and risk factors, progress, life cycle, or mode of transmission.
  • Plan and direct studies to investigate human or animal disease, preventive methods, and treatments for disease.
  • Plan, administer and evaluate health safety standards and programs to improve public health, conferring with health department, industry personnel, physicians and others.
  • Provide expertise in the design, management and evaluation of study protocols and health status questionnaires, sample selection and analysis.

Could A Career In Epidemiology Be Right For You?

View this short Epidemiology Career Video that offers insights into the many different career paths embodied in this exciting, critical health profession. Epidemiology can be an intense field, as you’ll be working with controversial topics and facing public scrutiny. For example, the elementary school children that Gersheimer investigated turned out to be suffering from an overdose of sodium fluoride. You may recall reading heated debates about the pros and cons of sodium flouride water treatment in the news. Could you handle the challenges implicit in working in a controversial area like that? Could you cope with the responsibility of publicly reporting your research on worldwide epidemics like swine flu, avian flu and mad cow disease? Would you enjoy a job in which your decisions affected the health of hundreds or even millions of people?

If you think you could handle the challenges of a career in epidemiology, the next thing to do is look into getting the proper training and certifications. The first step towards pursuing a career in epidemiology requires a bachelor’s degree, preferably with a background in any of the health sciences, biology, or nursing. After graduating from college, the next step is to earn a master`s degree in public health at an accredited school of public health.

Health professionals from diverse backgrounds such as policy makers, physicians, Nurses, clinical research professionals, microbiologists, and health educators who are interested in epidemiology also have the option of earning a professional Certificate in Epidemiology & Biostatistics which provides research-oriented training in the theory and tools of core public health disciplines without the need to obtain a Master’s in Public Health degree.

Epidemiology is an interdisciplinary field, meaning that it crosses traditional disciplinary boundaries and involves diverse fields of study. You will study quantitative skills such as biostatistics and computer applications. You’ll also learn a vast array of methods to foster health promotion and disease prevention and to evaluate the quality of health care.

Online Public Health Degree Programs Can Get You There Faster

Like many students who want to pursue a public health career, you may be weighing the benefits of an online degree. An online public health degree or epidemiology certificate program will enable you to earn your degree faster so you can get out there and make a difference in the real world. You’ll also save money and enjoy the convenience of studying from home, while applying your new understanding and insights to the community in which you live.

Never before has disease prevention and health promotion been more important. As world events develop, with the added threat of bio-terrorism and other emerging public health issues, those who can apply knowledge gained through research to real-world problems are in great demand across all sectors: healthcare, pharmaceuticals, governmental & non-governmental agencies, business and academia.

Remember smallpox? One of the most deadly and fast-spreading diseases in history, it was wiped off the face of the earth by epidemiologists by 1980. If you decide to pursue a career in epidemiology, you could be playing a role in the next revolutionary landmark in disease prevention. Mystery, excitement and controversy: they’re all in a day’s work for an epidemiologist.


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