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CDC Careers: Working at the Pinnacle of Public Health

CDC Careers: Working at the Pinnacle of Public Health

(Source: Creative Commons)

By John Rossheim | Monster Contributing Writer

What’s the best thing about working for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of the world’s top public health organizations?

For Hilda Shepeard, a team leader and senior health communications specialist at CDC headquarters in Atlanta, it’s not the prestige or pay: “There’s an enormous opportunity to really do something meaningful — you’re touching people’s lives.”

Here’s a closer look at what these protectors in public health careers do and how they got where they are.

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Infectious Disease Containment and More

The CDC’s 8,500 employees have plenty to do. The agency’s current priorities include stemming the spread of infectious diseases, such as pandemic influenza, and increasing the nation’s preparedness for bioterrorism, natural disasters and other potential public health emergencies.

Most CDC job opportunities are typically for medical officers, epidemiologists, microbiologists and public health advisors/analysts. Their main activities range from researching health problems and disease-control programs to identifying epidemics, carrying out lab science, and advising state, local and foreign governments on public health matters.

But the CDC isn’t just about detecting and stopping infectious diseases. For example, in response to increasing violence in society, the agency created the Division of Violence Prevention to help curb youth violence, child mistreatment and other forms of abuse.

Also playing key roles in fulfilling the CDC’s mission are business disciplines such as program management, information technology and communications. Says Shepeard of her department: “We develop health communications strategies regarding sexually transmitted diseases to try to influence individual and community behaviors. It doesn’t matter how good the science is; if we don’t communicate it, we haven’t done anything.”

Life at the Pinnacle of Public Health

Even though it’s always stretched for resources, the CDC is an employer of choice for the best and brightest in public and allied health. The CDC is “the tip of the iceberg” of public health careers, says Bernard Turnock, MD, MPH, author of Public Health: Career Choices That Make a Difference. “They have a much higher proportion of highly skilled professionals than do state or local agencies.”

Occasionally the CDC hires the most promising students straight out of graduate school, including those new grads with a master’s in public health. But “for the most part, (the) CDC is hiring skilled professionals,” often from state or local public health agencies, says Raymond Thron, chair of the doctoral program in public health at Walden University.

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