Health educators teach people about behaviors that promote wellness. Community health workers collect data and discuss health concerns with members of specific populations or communities.
What they do
Health educators teach people about behaviors that promote wellness. They develop and implement strategies to improve the health of individuals and communities. Community health workers provide a link between the community and healthcare professionals. They develop and implement strategies to improve the health of individuals and communities. They collect data and discuss health concerns with members of specific populations or communities. Although the two occupations often work together, responsibilities of health educators and community health workers are distinct.
Health educators typically do the following:
- Assess the health needs of the people and communities they serve
- Develop programs, materials, and events to teach people about health topics
- Teach people how to manage existing health conditions
- Evaluate the effectiveness of programs and educational materials
- Help people find health services or information
- Provide training programs for community health workers or other health professionals
- Supervise staff who implement health education programs
- Collect and analyze data to learn about a particular community and improve programs and services
- Advocate for improved health resources and policies that promote health
Community health workers typically do the following:
- Discuss health concerns with community members
- Educate people about the importance and availability of healthcare services, such as cancer screenings
- Collect data
- Report findings to health educators and other healthcare providers
- Provide informal counseling and social support
- Conduct outreach programs
- Facilitate access to the healthcare services
- Advocate for individual and community needs
Health educators, also known as health education specialists, have different duties depending on their work setting. Most work in healthcare facilities, colleges, public health departments, nonprofits, and private businesses. People who teach health classes in middle and high schools are considered teachers. For more information, see the profiles on middle school teachers and high school teachers.
Community health workers have an in-depth knowledge of the communities they serve. Within their community, they identify health-related issues, collect data, and discuss health concerns with the people they serve. For example, they may help eligible residents of a neighborhood enroll in programs such as Medicaid or Medicare and explain the benefits that these programs offer. Community health workers address any barriers to care and provide referrals for such needs as food, housing, education, and mental health services.
Community health workers share information with health educators and healthcare providers so that health educators can create new programs or adjust existing programs or events to better suit the needs of the community. Community health workers also advocate for the health needs of community members. In addition, they conduct outreach to engage community residents, assist residents with health system navigation, and to improve care coordination.
Although most health educators work in offices, they may spend a lot of time away from the office to carry out programs or attend meetings.
Community health workers may spend much of their time in the field, communicating with community members, holding events, and collecting data.
How to become a Health Educator and Community Health Worker
Health educators need at least bachelor’s degree. Some employers require the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential.
Community health workers need at least a high school diploma and must complete a brief period of on-the-job training. Some states have certification programs for community health workers.
Health educators need at least a bachelor’s degree in health education or health promotion. Students learn theories and methods of health behavior and health education and gain the knowledge and skills they will need to develop health education materials and programs. Most programs include an internship.
Some health educator positions require candidates to have a master’s or doctoral degree. Graduate programs are commonly in community health education, school health education, public health education, or health promotion. A variety of undergraduate majors may be acceptable for entry to a master’s degree program.
Community health workers need at least a high school diploma, although some jobs may require some postsecondary education. Education programs may lead to a 1-year certificate or a 2-year associate’s degree and cover topics such as wellness, ethics, and cultural awareness.
Community health workers typically complete a brief period of on-the-job training. Training often covers core competencies, such as communication or outreach skills, and information about the specific health topics that they will be focusing on. For example, community health workers who work with Alzheimer’s patients may learn about how to communicate effectively with patients dealing with dementia.
Some employers require health educators to obtain the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential, which is offered by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc.
Candidates must pass an exam that is aimed at entry-level health educators who have completed at least a bachelor’s degree. To maintain their certification, they must complete 75 hours of continuing education every 5 years. There is also the Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES) credential for health educators with advanced education and experience.
Most states do not require community health workers to obtain certification, however, voluntary certification exists or is being considered or developed in a number of states. Requirements vary but may include completing an approved training program. For more information, contact your state’s board of health, nursing, or human services.
The median annual wage for community health workers was $40,360 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,660, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $68,350.
Overall employment of health educators and community health workers is projected to grow 13 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Growth will be driven by efforts to improve health outcomes and to reduce healthcare costs by teaching people healthy behaviors and explaining how to use available healthcare services.
Similar Job Titles
Certified Diabetes Educator, Clinical Instructor, Community Health Consultant, Education Coordinator, Health Education Coordinator, Health Education Specialist, Health Promotion Specialist, Public Health Educator, Public Information Officer, Apprise Counselor, Assistant Director of Nutrition and Wellness Programs, Chief Program Officer, Community Health Outreach Worker, Community Health Program Coordinator, Community Health Program Representative (Community Health Program Rep), Community Health Promoter, Community Nutrition Educator, HIV CTS Specialist (Human Immunodeficiency Virus Counseling and Testing Services Specialist)
Training and Development Specialist, Child/Family/School Social Worker, Social and Human Service Assistant, Secondary School Teacher (except Special and Career/Technical Education), Patient Representative
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Association of Critical-Care Nurses
- American Association of Diabetes Educators
- American College Health Association
- American Diabetes Association
- American School Health Association
- Association of periOperative Registered Nurses
- Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
- Emergency Nurses Association
- American Psychological Association
- American Public Health Association
- Association on Higher Education and Disability
- Wellness Council of America
Magazines and Publications
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To community health workers and educators, your health is their business. They build healthy communities by educating and advocating for individuals and groups to meet their wellness needs. Community health professionals improve access to health information and care; they perform basic diagnostic procedures, attend community meetings, refer people to health services, collect information on the wellness concerns of the local community, and teach programs to address health issues. They work for hospitals, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, doctors’ offices, private businesses, and colleges. They may conduct research and develop educational programs on themes such as proper nutrition, immunizations, HIV/AIDs, stress management, or emergency preparedness. Community health workers and educators often work full time, and often travel locally to distribute materials and attend community meetings. Key qualities for these workers include communication skills, compassion, patience, and dependability. Job requirements vary, especially for the relatively new field of community health work. A related bachelor’s degree, or a Certified Health Education Specialist credential may be helpful; some health educator positions require a graduate degree.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOne Stop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org