Guide to the CDC Jobs for Public Health Graduates

Master’s in public health (MPH) students and graduates considering their career paths may be interested in working for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In this guide, you’ll find an overview of the CDC, what CDC jobs are available for public health graduates, the qualifications required and a look at the application process. 

What Is the CDC?

Since 1946, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been a U.S. government agency that is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. More than 1,700 scientists work at CDC headquarters in Atlanta and more than 200 laboratories, including sites in Cincinnati; Spokane, Washington; Fort Collins, Colorado; Anchorage, Alaska and San Juan, Puerto Rico. 

If you’re wondering “what does the CDC do,” the agency’s primary mission is to keep America safe from health, safety and security threats, both foreign and domestic. Regardless of the origin, the CDC fights disease and supports communities and citizens to do the same.

The CDC’s staff of public health experts conducts research and works with both healthcare institutions and the public to prevent and control diseases.

Positions at the CDC include research scientists, microbiologists and epidemiologists, workforce relations specialists, public health advisers, psychologists, epidemic intelligence service officers and others. There are numerous opportunities for those with a master’s in public health (MPH), including administration and program management positions.

Qualifications for CDC Public Health Jobs 

The CDC offers a wide variety of career options related to public health. Some positions may require an MD, a PhD in science, a PharmD or other terminal science degrees. There are also public health jobs at the CDC for those holding a master’s degree in public health. In addition, the CDC values prior work experience as well as volunteer opportunities in National Service programs and other organizations. Regardless of the position, there are some basic requirements for employment:

  • U.S. citizenship for many positions
  • Financial disclosure
  • Degree from an accredited institution
  • Specialized relevant experience
  • College transcripts
  • Probationary period may be required for certain positions

Common CDC Public Health Jobs 

There are many different departments at the CDC engaged in research and educational activities. We compiled a list of public health jobs at the CDC that public health graduates may consider for their careers. Some positions are based in the United States while others may require you to live in international locations or involve foreign travel.

Public Health Analyst

In this position, the public health analyst works alone or on a team to analyze, evaluate and advise on public health programs and strategies. The analyst position often works as part of the Office of Financial Resources of the CDC to evaluate the effectiveness of public health programs and establish standards, policies, strategies and goals. 

In addition to education, specialized experience directly related to the position is necessary. If you’re interested in specific topics, it may make sense to explore them in public health short courses. Higher level positions as a public health analyst for policy and issues management could involve serving as an associate director of a program, providing advice on the development and direction of the program’s activities. At this level, you would directly affect budgeting and fiscal resources and participate in planning short and long-range goals to carry out the department’s mission.

Statistician (Health)

The CDC is the nation’s primary source of statistics that guide public health policy development. Using this information, the CDC monitors trends in healthcare, documents populations’ health status and supports research to evaluate the impact of policies and programs. 

A CDC health statistician identifies and evaluates research designs for studies or surveillance efforts and advises on sources for secondary research. Other public health professionals and researchers consult on study designs, sampling plans and data analysis techniques. The statistician may serve as a contributing author or lead author in writing research reports and fact sheets.

Epidemiologist

A CDC epidemiologist identifies and analyzes public health issues and their impact on public policies and scientific studies. In this position, you work closely with scientists and statisticians to develop procedures and methods for generating scientifically accurate data for joint analysis and publications. The data will help shape appropriate methods to identify and improve the prevention of diseases. Some positions at the CDC focus on a specific area, such as bacterial diseases. 

A bachelor’s degree or higher is required to work as an epidemiologist at the CDC. A supervisory epidemiologist has additional education and practical experience to coordinate the work of other scientists and agencies.

Health Scientist (Informatics)

Known as data detectives, the CDC’s informatics positions use their data science, computer science and information technology skills to help solve public health problems.

The CDC relies on public health informatics to communicate public health research and practices using technology. The scientists must be familiar with hardware, software and communication technology as well as health data standards. At the same time, the data must be secured to protect individuals and group privacy throughout the process. 

A health scientist works with teams involved in researching and developing public health information systems and may contribute to the CDC’s emergency response activities.

Public Health Adviser

The mission of the public health adviser at the CDC is to make a real difference in the health and well-being of people in the United States and around the world. A public health adviser may perform technical work or management and operations work supporting an international partner of the CDC or in the United States. 

A public health adviser oversees programs, analyzes and interprets collected data and follows regulatory guidance for research. Depending on the role, the advisor may provide high-level advice to agencies and organizations for improving public health communications, systems and strategies. Peace Corps volunteers may be considered to fill vacant positions.

Tips on Starting a Career at the CDC

Your career track to starting CDC public health jobs likely begins with understanding the requirements for the job and the requirements for federal service. There are several options to get acquainted with working for the CDC, including internships and fellowships in various departments.

Research the Career Paths

If you’re still in school or considering a career change, learn about the career paths for public health jobs at the CDC in advance. You’ll want to see if you would be interested in specific positions and know what knowledge, skills and abilities you will need to perform the job duties successfully.

For example, an epidemiologist is one of the typical public health jobs at the CDC. Epidemiologists play a critical role in public health as they research causes of disease and patterns to prevent future adverse outcomes. If that’s a possible career path for you after earning your master’s in public health, learn more about how to become an epidemiologist.

A biostatistician at the CDC blends interests in health care, research and statistics to support public health programs and policies. If you’re intrigued by this role at the CDC, learn more about how to become a biostatistician.

Gain the Right Degree

Public health jobs at the CDC may require different degrees. There are a range of requirements, from MDs and PhDs to MPH as well as finance, administration and information technology. Many of the public health roles at the CDC require advanced degrees so it is crucial to learn about the degree requirements as you plan your career path.

Online MPH programs may allow you to get your education while gaining experience on the job. The CDC requires degrees to be from accredited programs so it’s important to research a school before you enroll. 

Start With an Internship at the CDC

Whether you’re sure about your career track or would like to explore public health jobs, the CDC offers a range of internships, fellowships, volunteer opportunities and training classes to help you learn more. Public health students have plenty of opportunities to intern at the CDC, so look into an MPH internship in areas of interest such as infectious diseases or epidemiology and surveillance. There are short-term and long-term opportunities with both paid and unpaid positions. Fellowships of one to two years are designed to help students at any level accelerate their careers in protecting the public’s health.

FAQs on CDC Jobs

If you still have questions about CDC public health jobs, this FAQ section may be helpful. We’ll give quick answers to common questions. Or you may also check into what other careers you can do with a public health degree.

Is the CDC a government agency?

The CDC is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Its headquarters is in Atlanta with more than 1,700 employees working at more than 200 locations including Cincinnati; Spokane, Washington; Fort Collins, Colorado; Anchorage, Alaska; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

What public health jobs are at the CDC?

There are numerous jobs at the CDC for those interested in public health, ranging from analysts to health informatics specialists to epidemiologists. Potential applicants should take a look at some of the most common public health jobs at the CDC in the list above.

How hard is it to get a job at the CDC?

Many of the jobs have specific degree requirements, some of which are advanced degrees that take years to complete. Each position also has a list of knowledge, skills and abilities that must be demonstrated during the application process. Whether a job is hard or easy to obtain depends on the applicant, the hiring manager and other factors. 

How can I get a job at the CDC?

Start by researching positions and prepare in advance to meet the degree requirements and qualifications as well as how to apply for a job with the federal government. Understand how your education, work experience and volunteer activities can help you build an attractive application package. 

Last updated September 2021

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