Diving into a new career path, whether just starting out or switching from another one is not usually an easy task. Whatever your motive is, it is more likely that you will want to choose a career that offers a lot of opportunities and reward. Right from time, the health industry has always been loaded with careers that offer a lot of benefits like juicy salary packages, personal satisfaction, retirement benefits and various opportunities for growth and specialization. Infection control happens to be one of the vibrant career paths in the health sector. Though not very popular in the academia, this discipline allows you to tackle health related infection challenges while earning an attractive pay. It involves such areas like parasitology, microbiology, immunology, and virology, including various management practices that are necessary for formulating and administering preventive measures that are necessary for protecting the public from several diseases and infections. The aim is to prevent the spread of communicable diseases in health systems which may include the development of preventive measures and the education of the members involved. This may involve organizing health campaigns to educate members of the public as well as health staffs.
Infection science is often conceived as a practical branch of epidemiology because of its emphasis on human health and infections. While you may not find it as a degree option in most schools, there are various health careers that have close relation with the discipline and offer opportunities for specialization. Having a degree in such careers can give you a gate pass to begin a career in infection control either working in a hospital laboratory or for the government.
1. Health Care Administration Career
Health Care Administrators are concerned with the health of the population. They are responsible for administering the health programs developed by public health practitioners. This may involve informing the community about practical ways to live healthy and prevent diseases through various teaching programs. They are often required to collaborate with various health care systems to ensure that patients get the best medical attention based on approved practices. Strong management and business skills are two major requirements for anyone working in this field.
While health care administrators play a major role in leading health care systems, their daily task usually varies depending on the organization they are working for. For infection control, they usually hold administrative positions in health organizations, where they are saddled with the responsibility of implementing infection control programs.
Health care administrators usually work in places like hospitals and clinics where they oversee several control facilities in a particular medical area or in general scope. This may involve the supervision of compliance programs and patient safety regulations.
A minimum of BSc in business administration or health care administration is usually required for a career in health care administration.
2. Nursing Career
While nurses are generally employed to care for the sick, only specialized nurses can take up roles in infection control. Just like epidemiologists, nurses may also specialize in study of the spread and control of diseases, viruses, concepts etc. throughout populations or systems. Such nurses initially undergo training in the principles of epidemiology, before being employed as infection control practitioners. They can either work with medical doctors in heath settings or take up a job with the government working in institutions concerned with public health. A common title for their roles is "nurse epidemiologist".
While working in hospitals, infection control nurses are likely to engage in reporting infectious diseases outbreaks or may educate other workers about infection control. A minimum of BSc in nursing from an approved nursing institution is usually required for a career in health care administration.
3. Clinical Microbiology Career
Microbiology is another health career that is concerned with infection control. Professionals in this field are usually referred to as clinical microbiologist and are mainly concerned with infection prevention in health care. This may involve carrying out extensive studies and research in laboratories to discover the diseases caused by micro-organisms and their effects on man and the formulation of procedures and policies that can be applied to diverse infection prevention programs. They serve as important members of infection control teams in hospitals or government institutions.
While clinical microbiologists are mainly responsible for studying micro-biological systems, their daily task usually depend on where they are working. In a typical setting, they may work in hospital laboratories to detect hospital acquired infections, formulate disinfection and sterilization procedures or advice medical practitioners on the use of antibiotics. When working in an infection control team, they are likely to hold executive positions working closely with nurses.
A minimum of Masters or PhD in medicine, microbiology or any other biological science is usually required for a career in clinical microbiology.
4. Infection prevention Career
Infection prevention is another health career with bright prospect for a job in infection control either working in hospital laboratories or for the government. Professionals working in this field are usually concerned with exploring various preventive measures for controlling the spread of communicable disease in hospitals and clinics. They are more likely to focus on ensuring the health of the population (employees, visitors, and patients) within these heath organizations including the control of infectious disease outbreak into the public. They may also engage in educating health care employees in infection control and also do a management review of the various infection policies and measures in place in hospitals or concerning the public. In the event of a disease outbreak, it is the professionals in this area that will be assigned the responsibility of searching out the cause and subsequently come up with solutions to prevent further spread of the disease.
A minimum of BSc in public health, medicine, environmental health or any related discipline is usually required for a career in infection prevention.
5. Epidemiology Career
Epidemiologists are scientists (often medical doctors) who specialize in study of the spread and control of diseases, viruses, concepts etc. throughout populations or systems. Their major duty is to research various conditions and diseases affecting man and come up with ways of preventing them from spreading. Most epidemiologists involved in infection control are usually found working for the government or in private hospitals or laboratories, where they carry out extensive research to discover solutions for the diagnosing and treating various human infections. Apart developing preventive mechanisms, they also find ways of treating these infections when discovered so that they will not escalate. Sometimes they may be engaged in informing the public of about preventive health and control through various education campaigns.
Epidemiologists may also be found in higher institutions where they take up scholastic roles as educators or researchers. Regardless of where they work, research is always their core function. As a result they are always looking for ways to combat various disease elements especially those ones that hold serious potential risk to the human populace. For a career in epidemiology, a Masters degree in Medicine or at least a terminal degree (Ph.D.) in biological science is usually required.
6. Immunology Career
Immunology is also another health career path that has a close relation with infection control. Basically, professionals in this area who are known as immunologist are focused on studying how immune systems develop and functions, including their failures. Since the immune system determines the extent of the body’s resistance to diseases, immunologists are often required to examine ways of promoting this resistance by developing preventive control strategies to combat diseases. Immunologists involved infection control usually focus on discovering the epidemiological aspects of micro-organisms and the vectors responsible for transmitting some of the infectious agents. A minimum of BSc in public health, medicine, microbiology or any related discipline is usually required for a career in infection prevention.
7. Public Heath Career
Practitioners in public health are usually concerned with preserving the health of individuals, families and communities. One of the major ways they accomplish this is by developing healthcare programs that teach the populace various healthy lifestyles and habits.
When it comes to infection control, public health professionals focus on informing people about various infectious diseases and how to protect themselves. Their responsibilities are not only confined to creating awareness, but also in developing anticipatory strategies to handle emergency situations in the event of a disease outbreak or epidemics. Public health professionals are often referred to as health protection practitioner. They also provide expert advice on various disease control measures.
Most public health professionals work for the government, while some work in health care settings in pathology laboratories. A minimum of BSc in public health, medicine, microbiology or any related disciplines is usually required for a career in public health.
Most times, the best way to launch a career in infection control is with a certificate in the discipline. However, it is still possible to find attractive job positions with a Masters or PhD in many biological and medical sciences. The ones described above are some of the major careers that are most concerned with infection control. With a degree in any of them, you will easily get a job in infection control.