Contact Tracer: Job Description, Pay, and How to Become One

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Explore what a contact tracer does, the skills and training needed to become one, salary, and opportunities for contact tracing professionals.

[Featured Image]:  A female contact tracer, wearing a blue vest, a yellow patterned top and a face covering.  She is standing in front of a building with a white wall.

Working as a contact tracer can be a rewarding career for those who enjoy interacting with the public and helping a community eradicate contagious diseases. Contact tracing became a familiar term during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has existed since the 1920s, and opportunities aren’t limited to global viruses. 

Contact tracers are essential to public health, as they work during contagious disease outbreaks to identify those who may have been exposed to an infection or virus. The contract tracer notifies anyone who has had contact with an infected person and works to mitigate the further spread of the disease. COVID tracking resulted in the hiring of tens of thousands of contact tracers. 

This article explains more about the role and how to earn a certificate and work in contact tracing.

What is contract tracing? 

Contract tracing aims to identify people exposed to a communicable disease and notify those who may have been in close contact with the infected. Contract tracing helps contain the spread of infectious diseases by quarantining those who are ill and those who may have been exposed to a sick person.

Contract tracers deploy when transmissible diseases such as measles, tuberculosis, hepatitis, sexually transmitted diseases, and HIV are found in a community. 

What does a contact tracer do?

You’ll contact someone with confirmed communicable diseases as a contact tracer. You will ask questions to determine where the person recently travelled, who they had contact with, and if they had been in any public settings, such as schools, work, or large gatherings.

You’ll note anyone the person may have been in close contact with, so those people can be notified and advised on what to do next.

Responsibilities of a contact tracer 

As a contact tracer, you’ll be responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of the patient and anyone exposed to the patient. You’ll communicate with patients and medical professionals and sometimes make follow-up calls to check on patients and provide referrals if needed.

A contact tracer keeps patient records of symptoms and living arrangements and notes any underlying medical conditions. You may also research social media accounts, GPS data, and other databases to determine where a person has been.

Key skills

Most contact tracing positions don’t require a specialized background, but it is helpful to have an interest in public health. Here are some of the core skills you'll need as a contact tracer:

  • Strong communication and persuasion

  • Empathy and good listening skills

  • Persistence

  • Organizational skills

  • Critical thinking  

You’ll work with a diverse population and should be comfortable speaking with patients who may be scared, confused, or aggressive. You’ll also need to be comfortable contacting those who may have been exposed to a communicable disease and ready to answer questions.

An essential part of the job is ensuring patients understand the importance of self-quarantining and have the resources needed to get through the quarantine period. Some people might be reluctant to follow quarantine orders because they fear losing their income or their living arrangements make it difficult or impossible to stay away from others in their household.

Much of the job will involve making telephone calls or contacting patients by email, and you may have large volumes of calls each day. Most contact tracers work from home and input the information into a database. You may be required to sit for long periods.


According to Glassdoor, the average annual salary for a contact tracer in Canada is $49,624 as of April 2024 [1].  The average salary for a COVID-19 Contact Tracer is slightly less at $40,000 [2].

Where they work

Many contact tracers work for government departments or private companies that loan out contact tracers to government health departments. 

Many public health departments have applications on their websites, and you can contact them to see if they have any current openings. 

Check with your local temporary employment agencies too. Some public health departments may hire contact tracers temporarily through an agency.

Becoming a contact tracer 

You can take various courses to become a contact tracer. John Hopkins University offers a COVID-19 Contact Tracing online course on Coursera to earn a sharable certificate in contact tracing. You can work at your own pace and learn all you need to begin a new career helping others.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) also offers free training for contact tracers. Some colleges, universities, and private health organizations also offer contact tracer courses. 

Aligning values: Meaningful work for a good cause 

In times of disease outbreak, it’s crucial to contain the spread as quickly and efficiently as possible. Your job as a contract tracer helps slow the spread of diseases.

As a contact tracer, you’ll play an essential role in collecting data to support the medical community and your community.  Public health departments always look for volunteers if you can’t commit to a full-time position.

Although COVID is at the forefront of the need for contact tracers, it is not the only transmissible disease that needs monitoring, so this can become a long-term career. 

Next steps

When you’re ready to take the next step to become a contact tracer, contact your government health departments to see if they have openings. Many allow you to apply on their websites. 

To learn more about epidemics, Penn State offers its Epidemics - the Dynamics of Infectious Diseases course on infectious diseases. Also, the University of Florida offers a course on COVID-19 should you want to learn more about the disease, how it spreads, and how to stop it.

If you have the opportunity, you might want to talk with a contact tracer to gain information about their experience.

As a contact tracer, you’ll be helping your community control the spread of infectious diseases and working in a rewarding career. 

Article sources


Glassdoor. “Contact Tracer Salaries,,14.htm." Accessed April 15, 2024.

Keep reading

Updated on
Written by:

Editorial Team

Coursera’s editorial team is comprised of highly experienced professional editors, writers, and fact...

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.