Contact Tracers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

You will need at least a high school diploma (or equivalent) to work as a contact tracer, although some employers require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree. Since oral and written communication skills are extremely important in this career, take as many English, speech, and writing classes as possible. Knowing a foreign language will also come in handy because many contacts may not speak English fluently. The ability to use technology is extremely important for contact tracers, so take as many computer science classes as you can. Other useful courses include health, anatomy and physiology, biology, chemistry, mathematics, data science, psychology, and social studies.  

Postsecondary Education

You do not need a college degree for many contact tracing positions, but some employers (such as The CDC Foundation) require candidates to have a bachelor’s degree. Some contact tracers have degrees in public health, epidemiology, biology, and other health care fields, while others have liberal arts degrees or degrees in computer science or data analytics. “It is helpful to have a public health or health care background," explained David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors,” in an interview with CNN about contact tracing. But "no matter what your background, you can be trained to do this work.”

Once hired, contact tracers in public health departments traditionally receive at least a year of on-the-job training. In times of pandemic (such as the COVID-19 pandemic), training programs were shortened to a matter of days or even hours and combined with several days of job shadowing an experienced contact tracer.


Some colleges and universities offer certificates in public health, epidemiology, health informatics, public health informatics, and related fields. If you don’t have a health care background, it would be useful to earn a certificate in one or more of these areas. Contact schools in your area to learn what types of programs are available.

The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and the National Coalition of STD Directors offer a free online course, Making Contact: A Training for COVID-19 Contact Tracers. Those who complete the course receive a certificate of completion. Visit for more information.  

Other Education or Training

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology offers online and in-person classes, seminars, and workshops for those who want to learn about the latest developments in epidemiology and keep their skills up to date. Recent classes included Outbreak Investigation and Healthcare Preparedness for SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19. The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, American Public Health Association, Infectious Diseases Society of America, Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, and state-level associations also provide continuing education opportunities. Contact these organizations to learn more.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

No certification or licensing is available for contact tracers.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

A minimum of a high school diploma is required for this position. Most employers do not require any previous experience in public health.  

Contact tracers need excellent interpersonal and communication (including listening) skills because most of their workday is spent talking with a culturally diverse group of individuals on the phone, via e-mail, through videoconferencing technology, or through other means. They also need to demonstrate tact and empathy because they will need to convey bad news to people (i.e., that they could be infected and that they will have to quarantine themselves). Contact tracers must have strong investigative and analytical skills in order to effectively gather and assess information provided by contacts to understand the extent of their movements while infected. Other important traits include a positive attitude, a strong work ethic, the ability to work quickly, excellent organizational skills, sound judgment, and the ability to handle confidential information with discretion and professionalism. Proficiency with technology is also important. Tracers must be able to use client resource management, word processing, spreadsheet development and management, and database management software.