Average Salary:

$63,600 according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics

Training in Alabama:

University of Alabama – Birmingham: School of Public Health

“As a medical epidemiologist working at a state health department, I have investigated acute disease outbreaks; reviewed and analyzed data from reported, notifiable disease cases; and planned and implemented intervention measures to reduce the occurrence of preventable communicable diseases.”
Career Interview:
Briefly describe your career as an epidemiologist.
As a medical epidemiologist working at a state health department, I have investigated acute disease outbreaks; reviewed and analyzed data from reported, notifiable disease cases; and planned and implemented intervention measures to reduce the occurrence of preventable communicable diseases. More recently, I am now in a managerial position that lets me review and oversee the work of other staff, including epidemiologists.

What type of environment do you work in.
I work in the central office of the Alabama Department of Public Health, which oversees the statewide system of county health departments.

Describe a typical workday.
My typical work day reflects more my managerial responsibilities than my training as an epidemiologist. I meet with staff who share current issues of concern in their respective programs. Often this entails discussion of analysis of data that might shed light on the current concern. I frequently review written reports and proposed applications to funding agencies for the department to be awarded funds to conduct programs.

What type of education and experience is required for a career as an epidemiologist?
Epidemiologists should have graduate degree training in epidemiology or a closely related field. Some persons with baccalaureate degrees might be successful in entry-level epidemiologist positions, but graduate training is usually required.

What is your educational background?
I am a medical doctor with a masters in public health degree in epidemiology.

Why did you choose this career?
After training in clinical medicine, I was attracted to working at the level of affecting the health of populations (as opposed to individual patients). I first worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer assigned to the Mississippi State Department of Health. This experience confirmed my interest in medical epidemiology, and I subsequently studied for my masters degree and began work at the Alabama Department of Public Health.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of your job?
I get excited by the discovery of information that is derived from creative analysis of epidemiologic data. It is gratifying when this information can be translated into an intervention or policy decision that improves the health and safety of persons.

Do you have any suggestions or words of wisdom for high school students interested in a career in your field?
High school students who like math and are also interested in health-related fields should consider exploring epidemiology further. Some colleges and universities offer introductory courses in public health and epidemiology, which might assist the student in making career decisions.

Are there any other career opportunities in your field you think students should be aware of?
The field of public health is broad and encompasses many different disciplines. Employees at the Alabama Department of Public Health include nurses, social workers, engineers, microbiologists, administrators, accountants, environmentalists, and epidemiologists, to name a few.
Dr. Charles Woernle, MD, MPH
State Epidemiologist