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.

Working With International Sites: Testing For Enteric and Tuberculosis

Darwin Operario Career LPPublic Health Thank You Day, celebrated November 20th, recognizes the work of public health professionals. To shed some light on the type of work public health professionals do, we interviewed Dr. Darwin Operario, a senior scientist at the University of Virginia. His job responsibilities can be summed up in 3 words: Develop, Validate, and Deploy.

Working in Public Health at the State Level

toney in work 2 LPSome scientists go to graduate school because they want to help others by finding a treatment, a vaccine, or a cure for a disease or condition.  Besides a general interest in biomedicine, I wanted to find a cure for Type I diabetes.  But then we hear about another field, public health.  Who are public health professionals and what do they do?  What can you do to get into a public health career?  Which of the following jobs: epidemiologists, health educators, restaurant inspectors, social workers, community planners, and or public policy makers—are considered public health jobs? Would you need a particular degree to work in any of these areas?  The American Public Health Association notes that “public health promotes the health of people and the communities where they live, learn, work and play.” Public health professionals assure that the conditions in which people reside in are healthy. Public health also works to “track disease outbreaks, prevent injuries and shed light on why some of us are more likely to suffer from poor health than others.”