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  • Epidemiologist

Epidemiologist

Introduction

As an Epidemiologist, you will be finding ways to tackle new diseases and help prevent it from spreading to lots of people.

Also known as

  • Consultant Epidemiologist

Work Activities

As an Epidemiologist, you will be finding ways to tackle new diseases and help prevent it from spreading to lots of people.

You might work in many different field, or specialise in one particular area. These might include:

  • environmental diseases
  • infectious diseases
  • occupational health
  • children’s health
  • chronic diseases

You will investigate these areas and write specialist reports for the government and the general public.

There are two types of Epidemiologists: Field Epidemiologists and Clinical Epidemiologists.

Field Epidemiologists

The NHS employs Field Epidemiologists.

As a Field Epidemiologist, you could have a role in examining outbreaks of infectious diseases such as meningitis, measles, flu or food poisoning. Or, you could be monitoring the health effects caused by exposure to potentially dangerous things, such as the radio waves produced by mobiles and telephone masts. Your day-to-day work could also include:

  • interviewing people or administering surveys
  • developing ideas and explanations about possible causes
  • using the results of investigations (such as blood, water or airborne samples)
  • informing what needs to be done to control the spread of an infection or minimise harm
  • monitoring the effect of actions taken
  • informing the development of policies associated with infectious diseases or environmental hazards

Clinical Epidemiologists

As a Clinical Epidemiologist, you will be with the patient in the hospital looking for common symptoms of disease. You might take some swab samples and send them to the laboratory.

You will then look at the disease under the microscope and investigate it fully.

You will need to gather the necessary data from your patient. This might include comparing them to healthy patients to identify possible patterns. Once you have collected all the data you need, you will then take this to a Field Epidemiologist, where they will analyse the data.

Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.

Personal Qualities and Skills

To become an Epidemiologist, you will need:

  • excellent mathematical skills
  • to have a passion for helping people
  • awareness and decision-making abilities to choose the right data and statistical methods for each task
  • a logical, methodical approach
  • to be able to pay close attention to detail
  • good communication skills
  • good laboratory skills
  • excellent teamwork skills
  • good written skills

Pay and Opportunities

Pay

NHS employees are paid on a rising scale within defined pay bands, according to their skills and responsibilities. The pay rates given below are approximate.

  • Starting - Band 5: £24,214 - £30,112
  • With experience: Band 6 pay of £30,401 - £37,267

Hours of work

Epidemiologists usually work office hours, Monday to Friday.

Where could I work?

Employers could include:

  • the NHS
  • the government
  • local authorities
  • pharmaceutical companies

Opportunities for Epidemiologists occur with employers and government departments in towns and cities throughout the UK.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, on recruitment and employers' websites, and on Find a Job (www.gov.uk/jobsearch). They are also advertised on NHS Jobs (www.jobs.nhs.uk)

Social media websites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, are a great way to network, find vacancies and get in contact with possible employers. Make sure that your profile presents you in a professional manner that will appeal to potential employers.

Take a look at our General Information Article 'Finding Work Online'.

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes and training

To become an Epidemiologist, you usually need to do a master's degree in a relevant subject.

Useful degrees include:

  • public health
  • toxicology
  • statistics
  • microbiology
  • epidemiology
  • biomedical science
  • mathematics

Training

Once employed you may begin working towards a Field Epidemiology Training Programme (FETP). Details of this are available though NHS Jobs.

This is a two-year course where you will learn about:

  • the investigation of an acute outbreak or incident
  • applied epidemiological study
  • surveillance
  • communication
  • teaching and training

In order to get onto this course, you will need a masters degree in epidemiology or public health, and some experience of working within public health, health protection or applied epidemiology.

Progression

After qualifying and gaining experience you can become a Clinical Scientist where you'll be teaching trainee Epidemiologists.

Work Experience

Previous experience working with statistics or in a health role would be really useful for this career.

Rehabilitation of Offenders Act

This career is an exception to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This means that you must supply information to an employer about any spent or unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings, if they ask you to.

This is different from other careers, where you only have to reveal information on unspent convictions if you are asked to.

Qualifications

For entry to a degree in epidemiology, the usual minimum requirement is:

  • 2/3 A levels, including maths
  • GCSEs at grade C/4 and above in your A level subjects
  • a further 2/3 GCSEs (A*-C or 9-4) where English language is essential at some universities

Alternatives to A levels include:

  • BTEC level 3 qualifications
  • the International Baccalaureate Diploma

However, course requirements vary, so please check college/university websites very carefully.

Some universities accept the Advanced Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to one A level.

Further Information

Field Epidemiology Training Programme (FETP)

Email: fetp@phe.gov.uk

Website: www.gov.uk/guidance/field-epidemiology-training-programme-fetp#areas-of-work-covered-by-the-programme

Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care

Tel: 020 7679 2000

Website: www.ucl.ac.uk/iehc

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

Tel: 08 586 010 00

Email: info@ecdc.europa.eu

Website: ecdc.europa.eu/en/home

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