Nurse Epidemiologist Career Facts
Nurse epidemiologists study how infectious diseases spread through communities, and they devise guidelines for hospitals and government agencies to help prevent the spread of infection. Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for this career, job opportunities and the job outlook for the nursing field.
What Is a Nurse Epidemiologist?
A nurse epidemiologist is an important figure in a hospital or other medical setting. Not only do these nurses attend patients, but they are able to locate and quarantine potential infection sites. They are equipped to oversee public health programs, perform health care planning, improve public health, and investigate human or animal diseases. A nurse epidemiologist might be found working for the Centers for Disease Control as they study preventive methods in the spread of infectious diseases. They are the ones who monitor and report on the status of infectious diseases, as well as performing studies about the health status of patients and populations. Take a look at this chart to learn about entering this field.
|Degree Required||Master's or doctoral degree|
|Fields of Study||Nursing, public health|
|Key Responsibilities||Examine patients, consult with other medical professionals, identify infection control areas|
|Licensure Requirements||Licensure as a Registered Nurse|
|Job Growth (2018-2028)||5% growth (for all epidemiologists)*|
|Median Salary (2018)||$69,660 (for all epidemiologists)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
What Education Do I Need to Become a Nurse Epidemiologist?
Nurse epidemiologists typically hold a bachelor's degree in nursing and a master's or doctoral degree in public health. If you'd like to pursue a career as a nurse epidemiologist, you could enroll in a program to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Required coursework typically includes biology, physiology, immunology, nursing practice, research, psychology and nutrition. You should also expect to complete a number of practicum or clinical training requirements.
Some universities offer accelerated programs to students who hold bachelor's degrees in other fields. These programs allow you to transfer course credit from your previous degree, thereby reducing the amount of coursework you must complete to receive your nursing degree.
After completing your BSN degree, you could enroll in a master's degree program in public health. You should expect to complete coursework in epidemiology, biostatistics, health services management, behavioral sciences, environmental health, research methods and ethics. Additionally, some programs might require you to complete a practicum project under the direction of a faculty advisor.
A number of universities offer dual Master of Science in Nursing/Master of Public Health (MSN/MPH) degrees. These degree programs are designed for nurses who wish to pursue public health careers.
What Would My Job Duties Be?
Nurse epidemiologists study the manner in which diseases spread through communities and in hospitals. As a nurse epidemiologist at a hospital, you might be responsible for educating hospital personnel about preventing the spread of disease, conducting research on how to reduce the risk of infection and developing protocols for disease prevention control. If you work for a federal agency such as the CDC, you might work on projects where you study how a particular infectious disease spreads through the community. Identifying how the disease spreads allows you to devise measures for controlling outbreaks.
What Jobs Could I Apply For?
As a nurse epidemiologist, you can apply for positions in hospitals and community health centers. You could also work for state or local health departments and federal agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Universities also hire nurse epidemiologists for teaching and research positions.
What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?
If you like the idea of being able to identify areas of health risk yet also care for patients, you might like the idea of becoming a doctor in a hospital or working as a health educator. Doctors who work in emergency rooms typically have a wide range of knowledge about how to treat a variety of injuries. They might examine patients, order tests and bloodwork, diagnose patients, and work with specialists; they need to have both a bachelor's and doctoral degree. Health educators teach groups of people specific behaviors that enhance wellness. A health educator needs at least a bachelor's degree, and often also needs certification as a Certified Health Education Specialist.