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Join the fight against Zika and other infectious diseases in one of these jobs

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Join the fight against Zika and other infectious diseases in one of these jobs

The Zika virus outbreak around South America is dominating the headlines. Not so long ago, it was Ebola. But though these two viruses have most recently captured the world’s attention, they aren’t the only infectious diseases harming human health.

Malaria, dengue and measles still kill in large numbers; and there’s Crohn’s, ulcers and many types of cancer, all of which are thought to be caused by infections, says Stephen C. Schimpff, a professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a board certified physician in infectious diseases.

In fact, infectious diseases rank as the leading cause of death worldwide among children and they’re near the top of the list for adults, according to the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Join the fight to control or eradicate these killers in the following jobs.

Infection control specialist

Hospitals and clinics, which continually fight against resistant bacteria, have infection prevention specialists who are charged with ensuring that the facility is following appropriate standards and reporting patients with communicable diseases to local health departments.

These specialists don’t often see patients, but they quietly play a vital role in keeping them safe.

“These individuals are crucial components of hospital infection control which may involve recognizing hospital-acquired infections, outbreaks and protecting patients,” says Amesh A. Adalja, a board-certified infectious disease physician at the University of Pittsburgh.

What the job requires: These positions usually require a degree in nursing, microbiology or public health, depending on the job, as well as certification in infection control.

What it pays: The median salary for an infection control coordinator is $75,191, according to

See all available infection prevention jobs.

Research associate

People in these positions research infectious diseases. Wet labs, which take a microbiological look at agents of infectious disease, are often located at universities. And though the lead researchers tend to have advanced degrees, these labs may also employ people in support positions—research associates—that require less education, Adalja says. There are other types of research in the public health sector that don’t occur in a lab, such as tracking foodborne illness, public health threats and vaccine rates in different communities, he adds. These are often performed by epidemiologists, and usually require a master’s degree.

What the job requires: Post-graduate degree for higher-level positions, advanced degree for lower level positions.

What it pays: Median pay for epidemiologists was in 2014 was $67,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

See all available research associate jobs.

Pharmaceutical researcher

“Big pharma” works with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and hospitals and clinics in fighting the biggest threat to Americans from infectious diseases: antibiotic-resistant bacteria, Adalja says.

Pharmaceutical companies continually research and develop vaccines and antibiotics. Some institutes and nongovernmental organizations, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, also are active in pharmaceutical research.

What the job requires: Leading pharmaceutical researchers will be at the doctoral level, while other positions, such as those at the assistant level, are available for people with bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

What it pays: Median pay for medical scientists was nearly $80,000 in 2014, according to BLS.

See all available pharmaceutical research jobs.

Public health administrators

If you’re looking for a little more travel and fieldwork, some NGOs and other nonprofit organizations rise to action when outbreaks occur, delivering medicine, food and water to those in affected areas as well as educating people about prevention methods.  

Additionally, states and counties have health departments in charge of tracking outbreaks, monitoring medical facilities for compliance with infection control standards and keeping the public informed about possible outbreaks.

What the job requires: Some public health administrator positions will require nursing or other types of medical degrees, but there are also jobs in this area for those with education and experience in public policy or communications.

What it pays: Median pay for public health administrators in 2014 was $42,000, according to BLS.

See all available public health jobs.

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