What is Global Health Epidemiology?

Global health epidemiology is one of the most popular concentrations among public health students. This field combines quantitative training with an international focus on infectious disease patterns. If you’re looking for career stability and the chance to make a difference, keep reading to learn more about global epidemiology.

What is Epidemiology?

Epidemiology studies the distribution of diseases. It is a scientific and mathematical discipline that determines who gets sick in what areas of the world. For example, an epidemiologist may try to study if certain ethnic groups in Sierra Leone are more likely to become infected with Ebola or if malaria is more deadly for youth or adults. If you work in global epidemiology, you may collect data yourself, but it’s more likely that you’ll study information gathered by other sources. You’ll need to learn common statistics programs like SAS, SPSS and R, and you’ll need a strong understanding of mathematical principles, particularly statistics.

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What’s Unique about Global Epidemiology?

Epidemiologists do the same type of work no matter where they are or who they work for. The difference is which populations and diseases they study. In the United States, you’ll likely study chronic illnesses like diabetes or cardiovascular disease. On a global level, you’ll find more interest in acute infections like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and Ebola. You can investigate chronic diseases, especially in middle-income countries like China or India, but your main focus will be on infectious illnesses.

Is Global Epidemiology a Good Career Path?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual median wage for epidemiologists was $69, 450 in 2015. Wages are lower than the median in government roles, but you’ll enjoy greater job security and benefits working for a government agency like USAID or the CDC. Because epidemiologists need math skills, there aren’t many people going into this field, making it easy for you to find work. You may need to start at a local government or private company before finding work as a global health epidemiologist.

What Degree Do You Need for Global Health Epi?

Some public health fields are easy to enter with just a bachelor’s of science in public health (BSPH). Global health is not one of those fields. You will need either a master’s of public health (MPH) or master’s of science in epidemiology (MS-EPI or MS) to find work as a global epidemiologist. That’s because so many public health students are passionate about international health issues that only those with the highest levels of education can find work in the field. An MPH program will prepare you for program administration and evaluation in a non-profit or governmental role and provides some opportunity for hands-on data collection and management. The MS degree is more focused towards statistical analysis and research design, although some smaller organizations may need you to run studies yourself. Either option is a strong choice for finding a job in global epidemiology.

You can enter an MPH or MS-EPI program with any undergraduate degree, and you can find online degrees you can complete remotely. If you’re interested in global health epidemiology, reach out to a university that offers this program and see when you can start classes.