nurse epidemiologist education

What is a Nurse Epidemiologist and How to Become One

While public health professionals and nurses have always been critical assets to society, the COVID-19 pandemic revealed how essential these individuals are in protecting the health and safety of our local and global communities.

At the same time, the pandemic also revealed a nursing shortage and the need for more skilled and trained professionals to respond to these public health emergencies.

Individuals passionate about creating a safer and healthier world and caring for patients should consider a career in public health as a nurse epidemiologist.

This article will explain what a nurse epidemiologist is and the education an individual needs to become one.

What is a Nurse Epidemiologist?

Epidemiology is the branch of medicine that studies and analyzes the distribution, patterns, and determinants of health and disease conditions in a defined population.

Through these studies, epidemiologists shape policy decisions and evidence-based practices by identifying risk factors for disease and targets for preventive healthcare.

Therefore, nurse epidemiologists are licensed nursing professionals who care for and treat patients with infections. They also implement and enforce policies and procedures to prevent diseases from spreading in hospitals and other healthcare settings.

What Does a Nurse Epidemiologist Do?

Nurse epidemiologists are essential in ensuring medical facilities operate at their best and avoid spreading infectious diseases among patients and staff.

In addition to monitoring and reporting on the status of infectious diseases, they also perform studies about the health status of patients and populations—all to reduce the risk of infection and develop protocols for disease prevention control.

Other duties and responsibilities include:

  • Assessing patients to evaluate symptoms related to an infection
  • Caring for and treating patients with infectious diseases
  • Addressing concerns for patients and long-term treatment
  • Identifying potential sources and establishing quarantine protocols for infectious outbreaks within medical facilities
  • Educating staff on correct procedures and protocols

Where Do Nurse Epidemiologists Work?

Individuals in this profession find employment in hospitals, community health centers, and local, state, and federal health departments and agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Universities also hire nurse epidemiologists for teaching and research positions.

Nurse epidemiologists working in medical facilities will likely spend time interacting with patients in treatment rooms and time in their offices researching, planning, and performing other administrative tasks.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, epidemiologists make a median annual salary of $78,830, and registered nurses (RNs) earn a median yearly salary of $77,600, making this a financially fulfilling career. And, with a respective employment growth rate of twenty-six percent and six percent, individuals entering this industry enjoy high levels of job security.

How Are Nursing and Epidemiology Related?

In epidemiology, a nurse fulfills the roles of advocate, caregiver, case finder, counselor, educator, and more. They ensure patients receive the utmost care and reduce infection for everyone, not just those immediately affected. They are the ones establishing outreach programs for individuals needing care services. They are the ones helping patients and populations cope with different health stressors and facilitating positive healthcare outcomes.

The study and prevention of any disease can only be completed with the involvement of nurse epidemiologists, as they are the primary source of contact between patients, healthcare professionals, and healthcare providers.

How To Become a Nurse Epidemiologist

Nurse epidemiologists typically hold a bachelor’s degree in Nursing and a Master’s in Public Health (MPH). Here are the steps students can take to become a nurse epidemiologist.

Step 1: Earn a Nursing Degree

First and foremost, individuals interested in a career as a nurse epidemiologist must first earn their nursing degree from an accredited nursing program.

Candidates can earn their degree through a Bachelor of Science (BSN) in Nursing or RN-to-Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN-to-BSN) program.

Accelerated programs are for individuals with a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing. RN-to-Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs are programs for RNs interested in advancing their careers.

Nursing programs include coursework in biology, physiology, immunology, nursing practice, research, and clinical hours.


Ready to get started? Check out our ASN, ABSN, RN-to-BSN, and MPH Downloadable Guides to discover which program is the best fit for your future!


Step 2: Pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX)

Candidates must sign up and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to be licensed and practice.

Each state has different rules and regulations, so individuals should research and ensure they fulfill all the requirements for the state they want to live and practice in.

Step 3: Gain Work Experience

Before nurses can specialize in an advanced area, such as epidemiology, they must develop and strengthen their skills with real-world clinical experience.

Graduates should apply and find work in entry-level nursing positions to strengthen their analytical thinking, communication, time management, and problem-solving skills. Additionally, nurses should continue to cultivate high levels of empathy for their patients and their patients’ families.

Typically, RNs need two to three years of experience before they can specialize in a specific area.

Step 4: Earn a Master’s Degree

A master’s degree is a requirement for nurse epidemiologist positions, and many candidates enroll in Master’s in Public Health or Master’s of Science in Nursing in Population Health programs.

Master’s in Public Health degree programs immerse and prepare students for complex, local, national, and global issues in public health, from acute and chronic illnesses to lifestyle and health behavioral change.

While every university and program is different, students in these programs often specialize in a concentration like global health, community health, or health policy and management and take courses in:

  • Introduction to Public Health
  • Epidemiology
  • Biostatistics
  • Infectious Disease
  • Emergency Management
  • Public Health Policy

At Goodwin University, our flexible and affordable online Master’s in Public Health and Master’s in Nursing programs prepare graduates for exciting and fulfilling careers as nurse epidemiologists.

Plus, we’ve been awarded $1.5 million for scholarship assistance for Master’s in Public Health enrollments, and students may be eligible for individual scholarships up to $15,000.

Contact us today to see if you qualify and how to get started toward your future as a nurse epidemiologist!