Competencies for Public Health Professionals

Overview

Competencies are the knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors that contribute to individual and organizational performance. In public health, successful mastery of competencies is vital to developing a strong workforce that can support community and program needs. Public health agencies and organizations can use competencies to

  • Develop job descriptions
  • Assess knowledge and skills that contribute to job performance
  • Identify critical gaps in training
  • Create career paths
  • Inform workforce development plans
  • Support efforts to meet accreditation standards
Core Competencies for Public Health Professionals

The Core Competencies for Public Health Professionals (Core Competencies) are a framework for workforce development planning and action. The Core Competencies are defined as “a consensus set of knowledge and skills for the broad practice of public health, defined by the 10 Essential Public Health Services.” They can serve as a starting point for public health professionals and organizations working to better understand and meet workforce development needs, improve performance, prepare for accreditation, and enhance the health of the communities they serve.

The Core Competencies have a long history in supporting workforce efforts in public health practice and academic settings. They were initially developed in 1991 by the Council on Linkages Between Academia and Public Health Practice (Council on Linkages), a collaborative of national public health practice-based and academic organizations. The current version​ of the Core Competencies was adopted by the Council on Linkages on October 21, 2021, following a yearlong review and revision process.

The Healthy People Public Health Infrastructure Topic Area—coordinated by CDC’s Center for State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial Support and the Health Resources and Services Administration—includes objectives focused on use of the Core Competencies by state, local, territorial, and tribal health departments. These objectives were included in Healthy People 2020 and have been retained as Public Health Infrastructure core objectives in Healthy People 2030.

Use of the Core Competencies

CDC TRAIN logo

Competency sets are often used by learning management systems and training platforms to help users identify offerings that meet their needs. TRAIN is a learning management platform supported by the Public Health Foundation and used by CDC via CDC TRAIN and other public health agencies and organizations. TRAIN users can find trainings based on a specific tier or domain of the Core Competencies and other select competencies sets using the “Competencies and Capabilities” feature.

Public health agencies and organizations use the Core Competencies to better understand, assess, and meet their education, training, and other workforce development needs. Some of these uses include

  • Identifying and meeting training gaps
  • Assessing workforce development needs
  • Determining competency strengths and areas for improvement in organizational and individual performance evaluations
  • Developing quality trainings
  • Identifying mentoring and coaching opportunities
  • Writing job and position descriptions
  • Addressing workforce-related national accreditation standards (see Domain 8 of Public Health Accreditation Board Standards & Measures)

The Public Health Foundation’s website provides many tools that can be adapted and includes examples of how organizations use the Core Competencies.

Select Public Health Workforce Competency Frameworks

Public health organizations use a variety of discipline-specific competency frameworks in addition to the Core Competencies. The list below is not exhaustive but includes many competency models that support and advance public health workforce efforts.