Epidemiologists held about 7,800 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of epidemiologists were as follows:
- State government, excluding education and hospitals - 35%
- Local government, excluding education and hospitals - 19%
- Hospitals; state, local, and private - 16%
- Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private - 10%
- Scientific research and development services - 9%
Work environments vary because of the diverse nature of epidemiological specializations. Epidemiologists typically work in offices and laboratories to study data and prepare reports. They also may work in clinical settings or the field, supporting emergency actions.
Epidemiologists working in the field may need to be active in the community, including traveling to support education efforts or to administer studies and surveys. Because modern science has reduced the prevalence of infectious disease in developed countries, infectious disease epidemiologists often travel to remote areas and developing nations in order to carry out their studies.
Epidemiologists encounter minimal risk when working in laboratories or in the field, because they have received appropriate training and take precautions before interacting with samples or patients.
Epidemiologists who work full time and typically have a standard schedule. Occasionally, epidemiologists may have to work irregular schedules in order to complete fieldwork or attend to duties during public health emergencies.
Employment of epidemiologists is projected to grow 30 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.
About 900 openings for epidemiologists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
The COVID-19 pandemic contributed to increased demand for epidemiologists to identify and mitigate the impact of diseases.
Demand for epidemiologists is expected to increase as enhancements in healthcare technology permit the discovery of new and emerging diseases. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth is expected to result in only about 2,300 new jobs over the decade.
These discoveries require research to understand the diseases and to develop methods for mitigating their adverse health consequences. Many jobs for these workers are in state and local governments, where they are needed to help respond to emergencies and to provide public health services. However, because epidemiological and public health programs largely depend on public funding, budgetary constraints may directly impact employment growth.
Demand for epidemiologists also is expected to increase as more hospitals join programs such as the National Healthcare Safety Network and realize the benefits of strengthened infection control programs.
The median annual wage for epidemiologists was $78,830 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $50,100, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $130,050.
In May 2021, the median annual wages for epidemiologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
- Scientific research and development services - $126,470
- Hospitals; state, local, and private - $83,230
- Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private - $78,410
- Local government, excluding education and hospitals - $74,370
- State government, excluding education and hospitals - $66,840
Epidemiologists who work full time typically have a standard schedule. Occasionally, epidemiologists may have to work irregular schedules in order to complete fieldwork or attend to duties during public health emergencies.