Epidemiology Investigator

Public healthcare is focused not only on treating conditions that affect community health, but also in preventing major outbreaks within the population.  Although preventive measures are applicable, it is also necessary to understand the nature and spread of disease.  Epidemiology investigators are integral to this process, and offer a fascinating career track for many individuals.

Although many public sectors are facing a challenging job market, public health is seeing considerable growth in openings.  This field offers not only stability, but also many chances for advancement as concerns about community wellness become a national focus.  If you would like to engage in a job that is challenging and has many rewards, than working as an epidemiology investigator could be an ideal opportunity.

What Is An Epidemiology Investigator?

Epidemiology investigators will perform assessments in populations where there is chronic disease and specific infection trends.  They gather biological samples and study population demographics to determine predisposition to infections, social means of spreading illness, and other factors that affect contagion. 

Epidemiology investigators will also look into environmental concerns that could be influencing community health.  They may also need to interact with the population to gather narrative evidence, along with the collection of biological.  Information and samples will be analyzed to develop a theory for cause and create an intervention for treatment and to halt spread. 

An epidemiology investigator would be required to perform the following:

  •   Collect biological and environmental samples.
  •   Observe public social trends that can contribute to contagion.
  •   Analyze samples and isolate microbes.
  •   Create a data base to organize the collected information.
  •   Assist in formulating theories as to cause and spread of disease, as well as solutions for prevention.
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As part of the job of an epidemiology investigator, the following personal skills will also be important:

  •   Analytical evaluation:  You will be required to extrapolate outcomes from the information that you have collected.  This may include identifying vectors, environmental issues, and habits that perpetuate contagion.
  •   Lab techniques:  You will need to be able to function efficiently within a lab environment, which includes practical knowledge of equipment and procedures that are used to isolate and culture microbes. 
  •   Organizational skills:  The information that you collect will need to be recorded and stored.  This will require that you are accurate and detail oriented in your practices. 
  •   Cooperation:  You will be working with the public and with other scientists, which will mean that you must share information and knowledge, and also act in support of alternative findings and theories. 
  •   Problem solving skills:  You will need to be able to apply the information you have gathered into the formulation of viable interventions.

Nature Of The Work

Epidemiology investigators will be primarily engaged in field and lab work.  You may be required to travel to a number of destinations in order to conduct your research, and this will put you in contact with varied populations and living conditions.  Within these populations, you will be engaged not only in collecting samples, but also in interacting with individuals to expand knowledge about how certain illnesses spread.  Field work will require both patience and observation, as well as fortitude.

Lab work may be conducted at the onsite location, or may be at a central facility.  Analyzing samples and charting data will be another large part of this job.  At the central facility, you will also be engaged in generating reports that are based on your findings and communicating theories to healthcare professionals and the public.  Interactions for the sake of education are one aspect of the outcome of this work, while providing possible solutions is another.  

Education And Training

Epidemiology investigators can gain entry level positions with an undergraduate degree.  The background education should include biology, chemistry, pathology, and epidemiology.  Further courses and experience in lab techniques and statistical analysis are also a benefit.  Phlebotomy training and certification may also be necessary for some positions.

Continuing education courses will be necessary during employment.  This ensures that you are up to date on new practices in the lab and current developments in microbiology and disease identification.  Some employers will schedule staff members for this training on the job, although you may need to pursue these credits independently.

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Concerns about the spread of disease have become a major focus for public health in a number of communities.  This includes both rural and urban settings, and health departments are vastly expanding their investigative teams to evaluate possible threats.  The potential for an entry level job as an epidemiology investigator are higher than average, and it is expected that entry and advanced level positions in this field will increase by nearly 23% between 2012 and 2022.  Entry level positions can start pay around $40,000 per year, but many positions pay closer to $75,000, and advancement may bring wages closer to $90,000.

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