Online Course For Contact Tracers Can Help You Land a Job Now

A contact tracer works from her computer while wearing a mask.
Contact tracer Astrid Zeroual is shown between two computer monitors as she works at Harris County Public Health contact tracing facility Thursday, June 25, 2020, in Houston. Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health developed a free program to fast-track training and recruitment for coronavirus contact tracers. David J. Phillip/AP Photo

A new, free online class could help you land a job as an in-demand contact tracer.

Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health developed a free program to fast-track training and recruitment for coronavirus contact tracers. Some employers are already requiring the completion of the course to qualify for the job – while others are implementing the course as a part of their own training program.

“The COVID-19 crisis has created an unprecedented need for contact tracing across the country, requiring thousands of people to learn key skills quickly,” according to the university’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

The self-paced course, COVID-19 Contact Tracing, is available through Coursera, a popular online-education provider. The class description estimates it will take you about six hours to complete.

According to the syllabus, you’ll learn about:

  • The natural history of the coronavirus, including the infectious period, the presentation of the virus and how it’s transmitted.
  • The utility of contact tracing, common barriers to contact tracing and possible strategies to overcome them.
  • The timeline for public health intervention through contact tracing.
  • Ethical concerns around contact tracing, isolation and quarantine.

The class is instructed by Dr. Emily Gurley, an associate scientist and infectious disease expert in the Bloomberg school epidemiology department. More than 482,000 people have enrolled in her class.

After successfully passing all modules, which include nine small quizzes and one final exam, you will receive a certificate of completion that can — and should — be added to your LinkedIn profile and mentioned on your resume for contact tracer jobs.

Certificates usually cost $49, but Coursera waived the fee for this course until December 31.

To enroll, you first need to create a Coursera account. The registration process takes less than a minute. All you need to do is fill out a form with your first and last name and email address or sync Coursera to your Facebook account. Additional details about your job, industry and experience can be skipped. Once you’re signed in, follow the enrollment prompts on the course page.

More information is required to be eligible for the course certificate. Coursera will need to verify your identity to protect against cheating or fraud. You’ll need to submit a clear photo of your driver’s license, passport or national ID card, plus a headshot that shows your entire face. Coursera says the verification process usually takes 24 hours or less.

Once you get confirmation, you’re all set to begin the course for the professional certificate.

While it is possible to begin the course before being verified for the certificate, we highly suggest opting in for the temporarily free certificate so you can share it with potential employers.

More on Contact Tracer Jobs

Public health experts estimate that 100,000 to 300,000 new contact tracers are needed to safely transition the economy back to normal. Most of the jobs can be done remotely.

Although the popularity of contact tracing has ballooned as states reopen, the practice is longstanding. It includes interviewing (by phone) patients who have contracted COVID-19 and collecting information on where they’ve recently traveled and who they might have come in contact with. Then the tracer reaches out to those people who may have been exposed and recommends testing, treatment or self-isolation.

“Public health officials have long used this tactic to break the chain of transmission of infectious diseases and limit the spread of infections,” Johns Hopkins’ website states.

In the absence of a federal contact tracing initiative, the current system consists of a patchwork of state- and local-level hiring efforts.

As a result, finding contact tracing jobs can be tricky. Some state governments hire them, while in other areas local health departments do the hiring. A state or local health department may partner with a private company, too.

Here are some places that hire or recruit contact tracers:

Unsure if the employer is legit? Always verify the hiring company by looking for employee reviews on websites like Glassdoor or Indeed.

Requirements vary by employer, but several contact tracing job listings reviewed by The Penny Hoarder were entry level. In many cases, a high school diploma and strong communication skills are the basic qualifications. Some listings include completion of Johns Hopkins’ course as a requirement. More senior positions require a background in public health and/or a bachelor’s degree in a health-related field.

Pay also varies based on a number of factors but can range from $12 an hour (for the entry-level positions) to $30 an hour (for the managerial positions).

Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He covers the gig economy, entrepreneurship and unique ways to make money. Read his ​latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.