The Who, What, Where of Careers:
Public Health


Interested in bringing career speakers to your university??? Learn more about Careers in Microbial Sciences!

What does this person do?  

  • Performs clinical diagnostic testing on patients to identify agents
  • Tests animal and environmental samples to identify agents
  • Communicates scientific information to government officials, epidemiologists, clinicians, and to the public
  • Conducts disease surveillance and transmits the data to local, state, federal and international agencies
  • Investigates infectious disease outbreaks and determines the modes of disease transmission
  • Analyzes public health threats and provide information for effective responses
  • Performs research and development for diagnostic test methods not available in clinical labs
  • Develops policies, guidelines, and regulations related to public health and best laboratory practices
  • Provides training and continuing education to clinical labs and medical providers

Where does this person work?   

  • Local, State, or Federal Government Public Health Laboratories

Education and Experience Requirements:

*Note - Some states have specific requirements such as licensure. Also, requirements may vary depending on the level of Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) testing being performed.


Education and Experience

Laboratory Aide/Assistant

  • High school diploma

Laboratory Technician or equivalent

  • Associate’s Degree
  • Completion of an accredited MLT program (optional)
  • ASCP certification (optional)

Public Health Laboratory Scientist (Entry, Intermediate, Senior, Lead)

  • BS or MS in the biological sciences/health-related sciences, or MPH
  • Years of experience reflects position (Entry:0-1, Intermediate:1-3, Senior:5-7, Lead:10+)
  • Completion of an accredited MT program (optional)
  • ASCP certification (optional)

Public Health Laboratory Director

  • PhD (in some cases an MS with several years of experience) in Microbiology/Molecular Biology/Clinical Laboratory Science/Biological Science
  • If overseeing clinical testing you will need to comply with CLIA guidelines, which are:
    • MD, PhD, or MD/PhD in Microbiology/Molecular Biology/Clinical Laboratory Science/Biological Science
    • Certified by: ABMM (American Board of Medical Microbiology) or ABB (American Association of Bioanalysis)
  • Directors that oversee diagnostics and/or environmental testing laboratories need to meet federal and state qualifications for experience, education, and licensure


What to Consider before Entering the Profession:

  • You will need to know the basics of infectious disease agents, transmission and diagnostics, and be prepared for a very steep learning curve when a new disease arises.
  • Training in epidemiology principles and concepts is important
  • The work load becomes high and fast-paced during times of an outbreak and emergencies. 


Want to learn more? Check out the additional resources.

Infectious Disease and Science and Technology Advisor


Meet Kendra Chittenden, an advisor for USAID who helps develop and implement infectious disease prevention and control programs in developing countries. Learn about her path and what she likes about her job.

Download this article, which was originally published in the Cultures magazine.

Discovering my True Passion: A Career in Public Health

Working on the front line by protecting the nation’s health is what public health laboratories are all about, and the Montana Public Health Laboratory (MTPHL) professionals take this message to heart. Whether performing molecular testing on NP swabs for pertussis or influenza, confirming the presence of HIV antibodies, or detecting anthrax in environmental cultures, laboratory professionals serve as valuable resources for safeguarding the health of our citizens. I feel fortunate to count myself in this group.