How to Become a Nurse Epidemiologist

For many people, the health field is more of a calling for a career than a standard job. The opportunity to earn a fantastic salary while potentially helping other people to overcome various problems is something that can’t be achieved with many different jobs, but the health field is sure to offer satisfaction in regards to salary. With that in mind, it’s important to see that becoming a nurse is one of the most popular solutions for people in search of a long-term job. A nurse epidemiologist is an individual who takes a career in the world of nursing another step further, by focusing on how diseases are spread so this can be prevented.

What Is a Nurse Epidemiologist?

In simple terms, nurse epidemiologists are health professionals who work in hospital settings and strive to provide exceptional patient care while limiting the risk of the spread of disease or infection for visitors, staff members, and patients alike. They are responsible for conducting epidemiological investigations, as well as reviewing patients who may have the potential for infection. They are also responsible for monitoring patient care behavior to ensure that no risks are taken that might lead to the transmission of infectious diseases.

These professionals may also work alongside other departments to create a number of relevant procedures and policies. As with a range of other medical professionals, there is some risk of exposure to infectious disease when an epidemiologist works with ill patients. In most cases, these nurses will work according to a full-time schedule, and the hours are frequently more than forty a week, and can included extensive days of work.

Nurse epidemiologists will thrive best in this position if they have a range of key skills including:

  • compassion
  • patience
  • ability to multi-task
  • critical thinking
  • emotional stability
  • knowledge of measures for infection control
  • experience with various nursing equipment

Education Required to Become a Nurse Epidemiologist

In order to become a nurse epidemiologist, you will need to begin by earning your bachelor’s degree through an accredited nursing program. Many employers of these particular professionals will expect their employees to hold a bachelor’s degree at least. Nursing programs often include coursework that cover various areas involved in health such as biology, chemistry, anatomy, behavioral sciences, psychology, and nutrition. Alongside lectures within a classroom, hands-on experience in a clinical setting will be required for nurse epidemiologists to thrive.

Additionally, once you have received your bachelor’s degree you will need to get the right licensure and certification. Every state requires their nurses to be licensed, and employers of nurse epidemiologists will prefer all applicants who hold registered nursing licensure. Once you have graduated from an accredited program, you will need to pass the national council licensure exam for registered nurse. Often, this exam takes several hours to complete and covers various topics including infection control and safety measures.

The Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology (CBIC) also gives nurses the chance to become certified in control of infection. Though it’s voluntary to get this certification, it will generally cause employers to take more notice of you if you decide to obtain the certificate. Applicants for this specific credential must be able to hold a current certification or license within a healthcare profession. Though there isn’t any set amount of prior experience required for a certification to be obtained, the body will recommend having at least two years of full time experience.

Additionally, you will need to take extra steps to maintain your accreditation. The governing body for this accreditation will not accept any continuing credits for education, and you must take a new exam every five years. The CBIC will allow all candidates for re-certification to take either a more-challenging at home exam, or a proctored exam.

Although it is not required for you to have an advanced degree if you want to become a nurse epidemiologist, nurses that have experience and certifications alongside a more advanced degree are generally more likely to have a greater competitive edge in the job market. In order to be eligible for a master’s degree program in public health or epidemiology, a bachelor’s degree is necessary.

Experience Is Necessary for Nurse Epidemiologists

To become a successful nurse epidemiologist, you will also need to gain a lot of professional experience before you can choose which field to specialize in. Most of the time, registered nurses will start their path as staff nurses within clinics or community health centers. The duties for these individuals might include taking information about patient histories, administering treatments and medications, maintaining accurate charts, and observing patients. Additionally, they may be required to teach families and patients about illness and injury management steps that should be taken.

Employers will also often a nurse epidemiologist to have various amounts of experience preventing and controlling infection in clinical or hospital settings. Nurses may need to consider attending infection control committee meetings, or searching for opportunities in infection control.

Training is also important to the role of a nurse epidemiologist, but it’s worth noting that there are a lot of different personal traits that can make you more applicable for the position. If you want to become an epidemiologist, having strong characteristics in the area of communication and detail-oriented planning can help a great deal.

What Jobs Can You Get as a Nurse Epidemiologist

After you have successfully gotten your bachelor’s degree, licensure and certification as a nurse epidemiologist, you should find that you can begin successfully applying for different positions within a range of health environments. You could apply for positions in health centers and hospitals, or you could work for local or state-based departments such as the CDC. Some universities and schools will also hire epidemiologists for research and teaching positions.

If you like the idea of being able to identify various areas of risk in healthcare and you also want to care for patients at the same time, you might consider alternative career paths as a health educator or working as a doctor in a hospital. Keep in mind that your experience in epidemiology could be useful for a career as a doctor, and many of the doctors who actually work in emergency rooms will need to have a lot of knowledge about how to deal with infections and deal with a variety of injuries and illnesses too.

Additionally, if you continue your education in nurse epidemiology, you might find that you are able to get a position in an academic setting, teaching other people about infection and other behaviors that are responsible for enhancing wellness in a community.


The position of a nurse epidemiologist is very appealing to people who simply want to make a difference to the world around them and also want to enjoy a challenging and lucrative career. The median annual wage for 2015 for people within the nurse epidemiologist sector was approximately $69,450. Additionally, it’s worth noting that employment for epidemiologists is projected to grow at a rate of around 6% from 2014 to 2024.