Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to site content
CDC Home

Appendix A

Public Health Laboratory Proficiency Tier Definitions

Proficiency tier



A beginner worker is one who can demonstrate an elementary level of performance. Beginners might have gained enough classroom or on-the-job training to note (or to have pointed out to them by a mentor) recurring principles and themes but might not yet be able to apply them consistently. The beginner worker might have sufficient subject matter knowledge, but has limited experiential knowledge needed to perform a task, behavior, or function without frequent guidance or oversight.


A competent professional is one who has been in the same or similar job and who begins to see their actions within the context of the laboratory's long-range goals and plans. The competent laboratory scientist is developing knowledge and experience to recognize a situation in terms of an overall picture or in terms of which aspects are most salient or most important. The competent worker has the necessary ability to cope with and address many contingencies of laboratory operations, as this person has a feeling of adequacy and is able to perform a task, behavior, or function with a high degree of independence.


A proficient laboratory professional understands situations as a whole and perceives their meaning in terms of the laboratory's mission and long-term goals. The proficient person learns from experience what typical events to expect in a given situation and how plans need to be modified in response to these events. The proficient laboratory scientist uses established principles to manage the many contingencies of laboratory operations and has developed sufficient mastery to integrate or design a new task, behavior, or function.


The expert laboratory scientist, with substantial experience and knowledge, has an intuitive grasp of situations and focuses on the root of the problem. The expert operates from a deep understanding of the total situation and integrates systems thinking, collaborative relationships, and the resources at their disposal to achieve the laboratory's mission. The expert laboratory scientist has acquired mastery to design new strategies, policies, tasks, behaviors, and functions that support quality operations.

Sources: Benner, P. From novice to expert: promoting excellence and power in clinical nursing practice. Menlo Park, CA: Addison-Wesley; 1984. Dreyfus SE, Dreyfus HL. A five-stage model of the mental activities involved in directed skill acquisition. Berkeley, CA: University of California–Berkeley; 1980.

* Definitions were developed by two CDC/APHL Steering Committee members by adopting Dreyfus's Model of Skill Acquisition and modifying Benner's Stages of Clinical Competence. Tiers do not correspond directly to grade levels or job titles.

Use of trade names and commercial sources is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

References to non-CDC sites on the Internet are provided as a service to MMWR readers and do not constitute or imply endorsement of these organizations or their programs by CDC or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. CDC is not responsible for the content of pages found at these sites. URL addresses listed in MMWR were current as of the date of publication.

All MMWR HTML versions of articles are electronic conversions from typeset documents. This conversion might result in character translation or format errors in the HTML version. Users are referred to the electronic PDF version ( and/or the original MMWR paper copy for printable versions of official text, figures, and tables. An original paper copy of this issue can be obtained from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), Washington, DC 20402-9371; telephone: (202) 512-1800. Contact GPO for current prices.

**Questions or messages regarding errors in formatting should be addressed to The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Road Atlanta, GA 30329-4027, USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348 - Contact CDC–INFO
A-Z Index
  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. E
  6. F
  7. G
  8. H
  9. I
  10. J
  11. K
  12. L
  13. M
  14. N
  15. O
  16. P
  17. Q
  18. R
  19. S
  20. T
  21. U
  22. V
  23. W
  24. X
  25. Y
  26. Z
  27. #