What is the CDC?
By Staff Writer

We hear about the CDC in the news all the time, but what is the CDC? Although many individuals have heard about the federal agency, they may not understand exactly what does the CDC do. The CDC is a shortened version of the Centers for Disease Control and is part of the government’s Department of Health and Human Services.

What is the CDC?

The simplest way to answer, “What is the CDC?” is to understand the agency’s mission statement. The CDC was created to protect American citizens from health threats located inside and outside of the U.S. At the CDC headquarters, healthcare officials research and analyze public health issues such as infectious and non-infectious diseases. The CDC is responsible for working with state and local agencies to monitor health threats and implement measures to prevent outbreaks. The CDC is also responsible for educating the public on health issues and maintaining medical statistics.

The CDC has numerous departments with different responsibilities and a deputy to oversee operations within the office. Departments include Public Health Service and Implementation Science, Public Health Science and Surveillance, Non-Infectious Diseases, and Infectious Diseases. There are also offices that are responsible for healthcare policy reform and public communications on health concerns. Another question may be “What does the CDC do before making health recommendations to the public?” At the CDC headquarters, scientific research is compiled to make the best decisions on how the public can stay safe from medical risks.

What is the History of the CDC?

The history of the CDC begins in the 1940s. The original headquarters was a single floor of an office building in Atlanta, Georgia with only 400 staff members in employ. The CDC began as a federal initiative to prevent the spread of malaria in the United States. Atlanta was chosen as the original site for the CDC because malaria was a more serious issue in mosquito-ridden states like Georgia. In 1946, the CDC launched with its original name of Communicable Disease Center. In the 1950s, the CDC would start to make efforts to control the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and then later, tuberculosis in the 1960s. In 1980, the CDC would officially become known as the Centers for Disease Control.

Over the last seven decades since its formation, the CDC has expanded the number of services provided to the American public. Today, the CDC mission statement is simple: protect Americans 24/7 from health and security threats nationally and internationally. The CDC’s goal is to protect citizens from health threats and save lives in the process. The CDC has programs dedicated to the study and prevention of workplace hazards, chronic diseases, reduction in injuries, disability awareness, bioterrorism, and environmental health. A part of the history of the CDC is the agency being instrumental in combating serious health threats such as West Nile virus, Zika virus, pandemic flu, and swine flu.

Who Works for the CDC?

CDC careers have increased exponentially since their founding in 1946. The CDC reports that the agency has more than 12,000 employees in close to 150 different types of occupations. A CDC employee may work in the United States or be employed in any of the 120 countries with field workers. Job titles for CDC careers include epidemiologist, health scientist, public health officer, program officer, public health advisor, health analysts, and research associates. CDC salary figures vary drastically based on position within the federal agency. On average, a CDC employee will make $67,530 yearly. Chief program officers make the highest CDC salary of $120,404 while dialysis technicians make the lowest with an average of $31,313.

The CDC has central departments that are broken down into smaller branches with employees following a chain of command that leads up to the program director for each office. The organization of the CDC allows for plenty of advancement opportunities within the department or reassignment to another branch of the agency. CDC careers are mostly healthcare-related, but the large support staff is needed to help the agency run. The CDC also employs research assistants, receptionists, copywriters, information technology officers, and many more non-medical professionals.

What Does the CDC Do?

The CDC has a number of responsibilities to the community. Although the CDC’s goal is to protect the health of American citizens, many individuals are unsure of what they do to achieve this goal. For one, CDC research initiatives are constantly ongoing. CDC research projects will look at the various ways that the agency can protect the public from health problems. Research projects change annually and may last several years. For instance, in 2017 the CDC began a three-year research project to improve emergency preparedness responses for public health hazards. The agency is also responsible for maintaining an extensive CDC database with all official recommendations and guidelines for the prevention of diseases and injuries.

The CDC database will also include current statistics on health topics and diseases. As an example, the CDC compiles the total number of cancer patients by state. Making sure citizens have access to CDC updates is a crucial part of what the agency must do. The CDC has evolved in the way that they get communications out to the public. The CDC puts together media releases that can be accessed online and offline. CDC research has shown that the majority of Americans get their news from digital devices, so the agency now has mobile alerts and social media postings for updates.

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How Do I Get a Job with the CDC?

CDC is always looking to hire qualified and highly motivated individuals. More than 80% of CDC careers require a bachelor degree or higher. In addition, top paying jobs at the CDC, especially health-related professions, need a master’s degree or higher. Approximately half of all CDC employees have a master or doctoral degree. Before graduation, individuals can apply for entry-level jobs.

The CDC has its own job search database with filters by location and category. Online applications are accepted with selected job candidates contacted by the CDC for interviews and orientation events. For college graduates who have difficulty finding an entry-level job, CDC internships are a possibility. By gaining on hand experience, workers are prepared for jobs at public health agencies. CDC fellowships are also available and last between one and two years. CDC fellowships are available for bachelor, master, and doctoral students. Unlike most CDC internships, fellowships are paid positions.

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