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ASPPH Data Center and George Mason Collaborate on Epidemiology Skills Research

ASPPH Data Center collaborated with Dr. Cara L. Frankenfeld, associate professor and director of graduate programs for the Department of Global and Community Health at George Mason, on a project to analyze PublicHealthJobs.net (now PublicHealthJobs.org) job postings from 2003-2016 on characteristics of jobs that listed epidemiology as one of the job classifications. The work results were recently published in the Annals of Epidemiology. The analysis included a combination of fixed response items and data mining of open-ended job advertisement text.

[Photo: Dr. Cara L. Frankenfeld]

Aspects that were evaluated included job types, job industry, location, degree requirements, and select epidemiology-related skills. In job postings, only general public health and community health were more frequently listed than epidemiology. There were 945 epidemiology postings from 2014-2016, representing 13.6 percent of postings during that time frame. In those recent postings, epidemiology was most frequently co-listed with general public health, biostatistics, community health, and behavioral science. The majority of epidemiology postings were for full-time positions (61 percent). The top regional locations for proportion of postings were South Atlantic, Middle Atlantic, Pacific, and New England, together comprising 67 percent of the postings. Most of the postings were for positions in education/academic/research industry (44 percent), followed by state government (18 percent) and nonprofit/NGO (16 percent). The majority of positions listed a masters-level degree requirement (71 percent). Epidemiology-related skills evaluated included frequency of specific statistical software and specialized areas. SAS maintained as the most frequently mentioned statistical software (25 percent in recent postings), with SPSS remaining stable (9 percent), and Stata (10 percent) and R (2 percent) increasing over time. Common specialized terms mentioned (>10 percent) included research, survey, surveillance, laboratory, and leadership or management. However, these terms were data-mined from open text and may relate to some other aspect of the job than a required skill.

A primary driver of the work is to add information that students and educators can use to help inform graduate training towards workforce preparedness. Other studies have used expert interviews and working groups, and this work provides complementary information to those studies. This work also illustrates how employment sites can be used to identify employer preference in epidemiology hires.

If you are interested in conducting research using ASPPH Data Center resources, please contact Ms. Christine Plepys, director of data analytics, at cplepys@aspph.org.