10 Pros and Cons of Being an Epidemiologist

Written By: Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN

Have you ever thought to yourself that you would love to be an investigator, but you would rather not investigate crime scenes. Has public health ever interested you? A career as an epidemiologist may be something that is worth looking into. After all, they are known as the disease detectives. As an epidemiologist, you will investigate what has caused the disease, identify those people at risk for the disease, and determine how to control or stop the spread or prevent this disease from occurring again. So, now that we know what an epidemiologist is by definition, we can now look at the pros and cons of being an epidemiologist. In order to decide if this is a career worth pursuing, you should really be equipped with the knowledge that will help with the decision-making process. So, the only way to start doing this is, is by asking yourself, what are the pros and cons of being an epidemiologist? Don’t worry, I helped you out with answering those questions. Below you will find the top 10 pros and cons of being an epidemiologist.


(The following are the top 10 disadvantages of being an epidemiologist.)

1. Your education will be quite lengthy.

So, if you plan to become an epidemiologist, you better get ready to sit down and buckle up for a lengthy education path. Not only do you need to complete a Bachelor’s degree, but you must also have a master’s degree to enter the profession. This is a minimum of 6 years of school. I should also mention that although a master's degree is the entry-level degree for this profession, many epidemiologists pursue their Ph. D in order to stay competitive in the field.


2. You will need to have a bachelor’s degree in a related field.'

In order to become an epidemiologist, you will first need to have earned a bachelor's degree in a related field of study. What this essentially means is that you will need a degree in biostatistics, health science, or nursing, to name a few. So, if your bachelor's degree is in something not related, it may be time to start thinking about a second bachelor’s degree. This will cost you time and money.

3. You will also need to earn a master's degree.

One of the top disadvantages of being an epidemiologist is that an entry-level epidemiologist will also have to earn a master's degree. Finding a master's degree in epidemiology may be challenging. For this reason, many people will pursue a master's degree in public health with a concentration in epidemiology. Now keep in mind since the entry-level into this career is a master's degree, you will have to continue to dedicate many hours of your time to your education. Let us also not forget that earning this master's degree will cost you a pretty penny as well.

4. You may have to also complete an internship.

Depending on the requirements of the master's program you choose to complete, you may have to complete an internship after your coursework is completed. These internships can take anywhere from a semester to a year to complete.

5. How is your immune system?

As an epidemiologist, you will be coming in contact with all different types of contagious diseases. Being in contact with these infectious diseases will put you at risk of contracting these diseases. I don’t know about you, but this right here makes me a bit nervous.

6. Your entry-level salary looks kind of bleak.

If you are just starting out in the world of epidemiology, then do not expect to be making the big bucks. The average entry-level salary of an epidemiologist is around $52,000 a year. So, if you have bills and school loans to pay, this salary may make it a bit difficult.

7. Your education will not be free.

As stated earlier, you will first need to earn your bachelor's degree. Depending on where you attend, this degree will run you anywhere from $9,687 to $35,087 for the year. Now, you will then need to go on to earn your master's degree. This degree will come with a price tag of around $51,000 if you plan on attending a program such as the one offered by the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Services.

8. There is not a tremendous job growth expected.

From 2019 to 2029, the job growth for the field of epidemiology is expected to grow only 5%. That is not a considerable amount. This projected growth looks even smaller when you compare it to a career such as a nurse practitioner, which is expected to grow 28% by 2028. The below-average job growth makes this one of the biggest disadvantages of being an epidemiologist and makes me wonder if there will be a job out there for you by the time you finish your education.

9. I hope you like math.

If you are not a big fan of math and running statistics, this may be a career you should not consider. Your typical day will involve collecting and analyzing data, implementing research studies, and communicating findings. All of this will involve math to some degree.

10. How are your communication skills?

In order to be an epidemiologist, you are going to have to have some pretty good communication skills. You will be communicating and presenting information with your colleagues and government agencies, to name a few. So, if communication is not your thing, then maybe being an epidemiologist is not either.


(The following are the top 10 advantages of being an epidemiologist.)

1. Your income rises quite well with experience.

Although the entry-level salary for an epidemiologist is around $52,000 per year, one of the top pros of being an epidemiologist is you will almost double that salary with experience. Those who have been working in this career for 20 or more years are making somewhere around $96,800 per year or more. That is a considerable growth in your salary that may make the entry-level salary worth sticking out.

2. Your salary will differ based on the state you are working in.

So, hear me out on this one. The salary you could be making as an epidemiologist will vary substantially based on what state you are working in. I know what you are thinking; well, what if I do not live or work in one of these states? Well, there is always the option of commuting, or worst-case scenario, you can relocate. For example, in Charleston, West Virginia, you would be making around $58,000 compared to New York, where you would be making approximately $122,201. See what I mean?

3. There are so many different career settings.

An epidemiologist can work in many different settings. The ability to have versatility in your job settings makes this one of the advantages of being an epidemiologist. You may find yourself working in hospitals, for the state or local government, or for Universities, to name a few. You could be working in an office, in a lab, or in the field. So if an office type of job does not feel right to you, well then there are so many other areas to choose from that may interest you.

4. There are different types of an epidemiologist to choose from

Just like with other careers, such as a Nurse practitioner, there are many different disciplines within the career that an epidemiologist can pursue. One option you can choose to pursue is an Infection Control Epidemiologist working in a hospital to create policies and procedures to limit infections in the healthcare setting. Maybe pursuing a career as a Veterinary Epidemiologist is something that appeals to you. As a Veterinary Epidemiologist, you will be studying patterns of disease spread in animal species. There are other types of epidemiologists out there; these are just examples of two you can choose from.

5. You will have job security.

Think about it, as long as there are living beings, there will always be morbidity, mortality, and disease. This simple fact is why you will always have a job if you pursue a career in epidemiology. Once you have secured a job, you will always have security in that job, making it one of the advantages of being an epidemiologist.

6. You will be improving the lives of many people.

An epidemiologist will identify health disparities within populations. Identifying these health disparities will lead to interventions to control these identified disparities. By controlling these identified disparities, you are helping to shape a better life for so many populations.

7. You will have a well-respected career.

The road to becoming an epidemiologist is long and, at times, can be a difficult one. In order to pursue this career, you must be disciplined, well organized, and highly educated. Those who have successfully completed the requirements for the job are seen as experts in their field. One of the biggest pros of being an epidemiologist is that you have chosen a career that is well-respected and that strives to do good for society.

8. You could end up traveling to some pretty cool places.

If you work as an epidemiologist that deals with diseases, you may find yourself hopping on a plane to places that many people will never travel to in their lives. You will be traveling to essentially where these hot spots are. That is a pretty cool stamp to put in your passport book.

9. You can complete your degree online.

If sitting in a classroom is something that is not very appealing to you, you will be able to complete your coursework online for this degree, depending on the program. Online study can offer you the flexibility you may need in your life. So, if your excuse was that you just cannot manage the rigid schedule of classroom learning, well this may solve the problem.

10. You have the possibility of working remotely.

Not all career settings will allow for their employees to work from home. These institutions require that you physically be at your place of employment. Fortunately, some employers will hire epidemiologists to work from home making this one of the advantages of being an epidemiologist. For somebody that is highly self-motivated, this may be a phenomenal opportunity. You can find positions available for all types of an epidemiologist.

The Bottomline

So, what are the pros and cons of being an epidemiologist? Well, above you have been presented with the answer to this question, what you have to decide now is if the pros will outweigh the cons. These top 10 pros and cons of being an epidemiologist that I presented to you will definitely help you decide if this is something worth investing your time into. The decision is yours and yours alone. Remember, choosing a career has many positive and negative consequences, kind of like everything in life.

Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN
Jennifer Schlette is a registered nurse in pediatric critical care in New York City. She is the former Director of Undergraduate Nursing at a college located in New York. After obtaining her BSN from the College of Mount Saint Vincent, she went on to complete her MSN.