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Workforce: Competencies

CSTE and CDC developed the Competencies for Applied Epidemiologists in Governmental Public Health Agencies (Applied Epidemiology Competencies, or AECs) to improve the practice of epidemiology within the public health system. The goal of the AECs is to improve the practice of epidemiology among public health agencies by creating a comprehensive list of competencies that defines the discipline of applied epidemiology and describes what skills four different levels of practicing epidemiologists working in government public health agencies should have to accomplish required tasks.

The AECs were developed within the framework of the Core Competencies for Public Health Professionals and result from 2 years of collaboration by an expert panel representing local, state, and federal public health agencies and schools and graduate programs of public health. Epidemiologists at all levels of public health practice from throughout the country and from academia provided substantial input into the AECs. The 3 target audiences for use of the AECs are:
  • Practitioners: to assess current skills, create career development plans, and plan specific training
  • Employers: to create career ladders for employees, develop position descriptions and job qualifications, develop training plans for employees, determine compensation, and assess epidemiologic capacity of the organization
  • Educators: to design programs that train the next generation of epidemiologists to meet the needs of public health agencies, incorporate critical elements of epidemiologic practice into existing coursework, and provide continuing education to the current workforce
The document defines competencies for four tiers of practicing epidemiologists categorized on the basis of level of responsibility, experience, and education: entry-level or basic, mid-level, supervisory, and senior scientist/researcher. The expert panel intended that all persons practicing applied epidemiology gain minimal competency in all of the defined skill domains within the tier that most closely matches their level of responsibility. However, every applied epidemiologist is not expected to be equally competent in all areas. Different public health programs that use applied epidemiology may emphasize different competency areas, and a government agency’s responsibilities, needs, and resources may require persons in individual epidemiologic positions to focus on particular competencies.

CDC and CSTE encourage individual epidemiologists, public health agencies, and academic centers to use the competencies and to move with us toward a common goal of improving epidemiologic practice. Information about the competencies, including tools and documentation to support their use, is also published on the CDC website.

AECs Toolkit
A toolkit was released to help epidemiologists and other public health practitioners understand and incorporate the AECs into everyday practice. The toolkit includes:
For more information about the Applied Epidemiology Competencies, please contact Amanda Masters. Click here to view other workforce activities.
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