As the economy creaks open, public health experts are estimating that state governments need at least 100,000 workers to track new coronavirus cases.
Some states have already started hiring en masse — creating thousands of remote contact tracer jobs that pay, in some cases, up to $30 an hour.
Comprehensive, nationwide contact tracing is “a vital part of safely reopening the economy,” a cadre of health officials wrote in an open letter to Congressional leadership.
“We estimate the necessary contact tracing workforce needs to be expanded by 180,000 until such time as a safe, effective vaccine is on the market,” the letter stated.
Other estimates ranged from 100,000 to 300,000 needed to fill this new workforce. Here’s what we know about contact tracer jobs and how to get them.
Contact Tracer Responsibilities and Requirements
The goals of contact tracing are to find patient zero, the first person who was infected with coronavirus in a certain area, and identify people they’ve been in contact with in order to stop further spread of the disease.
Day-to-day responsibilities can be done remotely.
Tracers interview people who have tested positive for COVID-19, typically over the phone. They gather contact information of all their acquaintances in a given area, likely state-wide but possibly county-wide. Then they call all of those people to establish who may have been infected and refer them for testing or self-isolation for 14 days.
Tracers track all this information in computer databases run by local health agencies.
Here are general guidelines on what it takes to become a coronavirus tracer, based on several current applications across different states.
- A high school diploma or equivalent
- Strong communication skills
- Proficiency with computers
- Some customer-service and data-entry experience
- A bachelor’s degree
- A background in public health
- Call center experience
- Second language skills
Part-time and full-time positions are available. Tracing jobs are temporary and are expected to last about six months.
Entry-level positions pay between $15 and $22 an hour. Senior positions with more managerial and training responsibilities may pay up to $30. Senior roles are more likely to require a bachelor’s degree and public health experience.
Where to Find Contact Tracer Jobs
Contact tracing programs may be run out of a local health agency or a state-wide agency, meaning tracers could be employed by the county or the state. Of the states that are currently hiring, many are relying on recruitment agencies to find and vet candidates.
The recruitment companies funnel tracer applicants to the appropriate health department for training. Several recruiters have posted nationwide listings.
- Applied Memetics: A federal recruitment contractor, Applied Memetics has launched a nationwide effort to recruit for several different positions related to coronavirus contact tracing.
- Contrace: Contrace is a D.C.-based recruitment organization launched to find and vet contact tracers. It accepts applicants from all 50 states.
- Government Jobs: As its name implies, Government Jobs is a job board that partners with state governments. Several state agencies are listing their tracer openings on the site.
Positions may also be listed on various state government websites.
When searching job boards, try variants of the title if you’re not seeing any results: case investigator, case coordinator or coronavirus tracer.
Which States Are Hiring the Most Contact Tracers?
In lieu of a federal initiative, state governments are taking a patchwork approach to hiring. Some states have no plans to hire at all, while others are ramping up big time.
These five states currently have the largest recruitment initiatives:
- California – 17,000 tracers
- New York – 16,425 tracers
- Illinois – 3,810 tracers
- Michigan – 3,400 tracers
- Texas – 2,850 tracers
The numbers are based on a survey by NPR.
According to the survey, Florida, Montana, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wyoming do not plan to hire any new contact tracers.