The Public Health Laboratory Competencies outline the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary for public health laboratory professionals to deliver core services efficiently and effectively. Part of a two-year project co-sponsored by CDC and APHL, competencies for 15 domain areas were developed by a diverse group of over 170 experts representing state and local public health laboratories, clinical laboratories, academic institutions, laboratory professional organizations, CDC and APHL.

The complete version of the Public Health Laboratory Competencies document was published on May 15, 2015, in CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). For a summary of the core competencies and implementation examples, read the Core Competencies Companion Document.

Why Competencies?

Multiple national professional organizations have endorsed competency development as a means of strengthening the public health workforce. Competencies improve the workforce by providing a framework for developing education and training programs, identifying worker roles and job responsibilities, and assessing individual performance and organizational capacity. In addition, the competencies:

  • Outline the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary for public health laboratory professionals to efficiently and effectively deliver core public health laboratory services 
  • Pave the way for quality improvement and for enhanced personnel management and workforce development:
  • Defining career ladders
  • Articulating staff performance expectations
  • Developing standardized position descriptions (e.g., Biosafety Outreach Officer)
  • Identifying and supporting training needs
  • Providing a guideline for personal professional development
  • Assessing individual staff performance
  • Enhancing organizational capacity

15 Domains

The competencies are divided into fifteen domains, or topic areas, which are broken down into sub-domains with corresponding proficiency tier statements.

Competency Tools

Biosafety Officer Position Description (PD) Template

APHL developed the competency-based Biosafety Officer Position Description Template to assist state and local public laboratories with their recruitment efforts.

Public Health Laboratory Competencies Assessment Toolkit

This APHL toolkit provides guidance and templates to help users develop competency-based position descriptions and staff assessments.

Please check back, as more tools will be added soon.

Competencies Implementation

APHL welcomes examples illustrating laboratory application of the Public Health Laboratory Competencies. Please consider sharing examples with the broader community of Laboratory Competencies users. Questions and examples can be sent to