The spread of pandemics has taught humankind the most crucial lesson—the need to identify or diagnose diseases in humans and animals in a swift phase. In this context, the role of Epidemiologists has gained importance in society. Epidemiologists direct and plan studies to investigate human and animal diseases and develop preventive measures and treatments for disease.
According to the available statistics, the year 2019 had a demand for 8000 fresh epidemiologists. The Median pay for an epidemiologist in the year 2020 was $74,560 per year. This post explores Careers as Epidemiologists and ways to pursue the study in this discipline. It also highlights epidemiology meaning, areas of epidemiology study, and acquiring qualifications like a certificate in epidemiology.
What is Epidemiologist?
An Epidemiology study investigates how often a particular disease occurs in a group of people and its reasons. Similar to pathology and clinical findings, Epidemiology is an integral part of the initial findings of a disease.
Essential characteristics of an Epidemiology study are:
- It is applied to a group of people and not individuals
- Deals with a particular population having health risk
Works in the following method:
Target Population → Study Population → Study Sample
For instance, a target population is a group of people vulnerable to arthritis. Study Population is a subgroup in the age group 45-55 and belongs to 8 different communities. The study population is the source of a randomly picked sample.
What does an Epidemiologist Do?
An Epidemiologist has various responsibilities. Here are important ones compiled:
- Diagnose various causes and effects of a particular disease and the parasites involved
- Identify the transmission modes of disease and the parasites
- Undertake well laid out plans and investigation of human and animal diseases and come out with preventive measures
- Communicate all findings with physicians and policymakers through brainstorming sessions and formulate the best possible preventive care and curative measures
What are Epidemiology Types?
There are four sections of Epidemiology Types:
- Cross-sectional studies
- Case-control studies
- Cohort studies
- Intervention studies
Cross-sectional studies can identify the occurrence of a particular condition or characteristics in a group or population. It is a descriptive study, but the findings often help determine causative or risk factors associated with the illness. One example is the relationship between cataract and vitamin deficiency was diagnosed with a Cross-sectional study.
Case-control studies can compare a person with symptoms (called a ‘case’) with a ‘control group’ which doesn’t have symptoms of the disease. Further, the conditions to which all ‘cases’ and the ‘control group’ members have exposed are determined. If the requirements differ, then the medical condition/disease reasons are suspected, and further investigations are carried out in this direction.
Cohort studies is a method where a group’s habits or characteristics over a while are studied. For instance, Software Engineers with smoking habits are continuously under monitor for, say, forty years. The findings of the first twenty years revealed that Engineers who were heavy smokers were prone to die from lung cancer. Similarly, the Millenium baby study, the National Health Study of School-going children, and many other cohort studies have been conducted.
Intervention studies are different from the three studies mentioned above. All the studies discussed above are observational. The intervention study conducts a treatment or procedure on a particular random group, and other groups are left untouched. Suppose the characteristics of the intervened group and unattended group are drastically different. In that case, the intervention is the root cause for the differences.
How to Become an Epidemiologist
To pursue a career as an Epidemiologist requires acquiring an essential graduation degree and, for further growth, a post-graduation degree in epidemiology. As an additional qualification, you can also pursue a Master in Public Health/Epidemiology or even a Ph.D. in Epidemiology. But in African countries, Texila American University (TAU) offers a unique Certificate in Epidemiology. This course helps candidates interested in this career quickly grab the opportunity as the course is of 3 months and available at an affordable fee of $300.
Here are the course highlights:
- The certificate course enables you to have a broad knowledge of health and disease.
- It covers the different approaches and methods for knowledge application mastered in controlling the disease through prevention and treatment. thus helping in the preservation of public health
- To upskill you for planning and strategizing methods on evaluating and preventing illness.
- Learn basic calculation tools of epidemiology
- Understand various epidemiology study designs
- You can learn various concepts of variation, confounders, screening, monitoring, evaluation, and surveillance.
- Have the ability to conduct a meta-analysis, EBM, and reviews
- You can comprehend clinical, environmental, and occupational types of epidemiology
The course contains four modules:
- Basics of Epidemiology ( Module-I)
- Epidemiological study designs ( Module-II)
- Screening and Disease Surveillance ( Module-III)
- Newer study designs and applied epidemiology ( Module-IV)
Job Roles Taken by Epidemiologists
In the Career as an Epidemiologist, you can take up various job roles important ones are listed here:
- Role of Community Health Workers: You can play the crucial role of field workers gathering community gathering, analyzing, and researching various illnesses and diseases common to a community.
- Role of Statistician and Surveyors: In this role, you, as an epidemiologist, are assigned to create questionnaires and surveys to collect accurate data.
- Be a Speciality Epidemiologist: Generally speaking, an epidemiologist’s responsibility is not to study an individual case or a patient. You can take up specialized roles to research and find authentic details of certain illnesses to fight and cure people of certain diseases and avoid fatality. Few examples of Specialized Epidemiologists are Infection Control epidemiologists, Disaster epidemiologists, Pharmaceutical epidemiologists, Molecular epidemiologists.
- Academician: If teaching and research is your passion, you can take up academics and be a professor or researcher to disseminate knowledge. As an academician, you will associate with different organizations and teams and help students come up with research papers.
Epidemiologist Salary in Africa
On making a Career as an Epidemiologist in South Africa, you can earn lucrative salaries. According to payscale.com research findings, as an entry-level professional of (1-4 Years), you can make 490,832 Rands. As a mid-career professional (5-9 Years), you can make 696,482 Rands. As an experienced professional ( 10-19 years), you can earn 537,000 Rands.
Which Employment Sectors Prefer Epidemiologists?
If you are certified and looking for a Career as an Epidemiologist, a wide array of options in the following sectors are available:
- Pharma Manufacturing Industries
- Government and Private Hospitals
- Healthcare departments of various Govts
- Global and national disease control departments
- Non-Govt Organizations
Course Materials for Epidemiologists
Various literature and books that are considered the Bible for Epidemiologist students are listed here:
- Epidemiology for Public Health Practice Author, Robert Friis
- Basic Epidemiology, Author, R Beaglehole
- Modern Epidemiology
- Epidemiology in Medical Practice, Authored by David Barker
- Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic, Authored by David Quammen
Advantages of Making a Career as an Epidemiologist
- Dynamic work nature no monotony
- The investigative nature of work provides challenging tasks
- Result-driven work style
Challenges in the Career of an Epidemiologists
- It demands tons of patience and perseverance as a considerable amount of data must be gathered and researched before arriving at conclusions.
- Demands Critical and Analytical Thinking, Proficiency in Mathematics and Statistics, ability to contribute as part of a team, capability to work under time pressure and stressful situations, patience to arrive at conclusive results
- Handling certain epidemics can be stressful as the chances of the disease spreading is rapid. As an epidemiologist, you will have to take quick measures to avoid widespread fatalities in the community.
- Working hours can always get extended and demands high energy levels.
This post has covered epidemiology meaning, types, and study. Certificate in epidemiology offered by the TAU university via a flexible mode of learning in a detailed way. Epidemiologists are in high demand in a wide array of areas like Government and private hospitals, the Pharma industry, Healthcare departments, Disease control departments at both local and global levels, and NGOs. Also, this blog post mentions all the challenges and advantages of making a career in Epidemiology.
Moreover, a career as an epidemiologist is challenging, dynamic, investigative, result-driven. Most importantly, it provides contentment of giving something back to society. A certificate in Epidemiology from TAU has proven to deliver 65% tangible growth prospects, and 22% of people have got salary hikes or promotions after completing this course.