Health Educators and Community Health Workers


Quick Facts: Health Educators and Community Health Workers
2017 Median Pay $45,360 per year 
$21.81 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education  
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training  
Number of Jobs, 2016 118,500
Job Outlook, 2016-26 16% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 19,200

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Health Educators and Community Health Workers Career, Salary and Education Information

What Health Educators and Community Health Workers 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.

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Health education & Community Health

Duties of health educators and community health workers

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.

The following are descriptions of duties for health educators, by work setting:

  • In healthcare facilities, health educators may work one-on-one with patients or with their families. They may be called patient navigators because they help consumers understand their health insurance options and direct people to outside resources, such as support groups or home health agencies. They teach patients about their diagnoses and about any necessary treatments or procedures. They lead hospital efforts in developing and administering surveys to identify major health issues and concerns of the surrounding communities and developing programs to meet those needs. Health educators also help organize health screenings, such as blood pressure checks, and classes on topics such as installing a car seat correctly. They also create programs to train medical staff to interact more effectively with patients.

  • In colleges, health educators create programs and materials on topics that affect young adults, such as smoking and alcohol use. They may train students to be peer educators and supervise the students’ delivery of health information in person or through social media. Health educators also advocate for campus wide policies to promote health.

  • In public health departments, health educators administer public health campaigns on topics such as emergency preparedness, immunizations, proper nutrition, or stress management. They develop materials to be used by other public health officials. During emergencies, they may provide safety information to the public and the media. Some health educators work with other professionals to create public policies that support healthy behaviors and environments. They may also oversee grants and grant-funded programs to improve the health of the public. Some participate in statewide and local committees dealing with topics such as aging.

  • In nonprofits, health educators create programs and materials about health issues faced by the community that they serve. They help organizations obtain funding and other resources. They educate policymakers about ways to improve public health and work on securing grant funding for programs to promote health and disease awareness. Many nonprofits focus on a particular disease or audience, so health educators in these organizations limit programs to that specific topic or audience.

  • In private businesses, health educators identify common health problems among employees and create programs to improve health. They work to develop incentives for employees to adopt healthy behaviors, such as losing weight or controlling cholesterol. Health educators recommend changes in the workplace to improve employee health, such as creating smoke-free areas.

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.


Work Environment for Health Educators and Community Health Workers

Community health workers held about 57,500 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of community health workers were as follows:

Individual and family services: 18%

Government: 16%

Religious, grant-making, civic, professional, and similar organizations: 14%

Hospitals; state, local, and private: 10%

Outpatient care centers: 10%

 

Health educators held about 61,000 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of health educators were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private: 23%

Government: 22%

Religious, grant-making, civic, professional, and similar organizations: 9%

Outpatient care centers: 8%

Individual and family services: 7%

health educators and community health workers Schedules

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. Most health educators and community health workers work full time. They may need to work nights and weekends to attend programs or meetings.


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.

Education

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.

Training

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.

Other Experience

Community health workers usually have some knowledge of a specific community, culture, medical condition, or disability. The ability to speak a foreign language may be helpful.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

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.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Health educators collect and analyze data in order to evaluate programs and to determine the needs of the people they serve.

Instructional skills. Health educators and community health workers should be comfortable with public speaking so that they can lead programs, teach classes, and facilitate discussion with clients and families.

Interpersonal skills. Health educators and community health workers interact with many people from a variety of backgrounds. They must be good listeners and be culturally sensitive to respond to the needs of the people they serve.

Problem-solving skills. Health educators and community health workers must think creatively about how to improve the health of the community through health education programs. In addition, they may need to solve problems that arise in planning programs, such as changes to their budget or resistance from the community they are serving.

Writing skills. Health educators and community health workers develop written materials to convey health-related information. Health educators also write proposals to develop programs and apply for funding.


salaries for Health Educators and Community Health Workers

The median annual wage for community health workers was $38,370 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.

In May 2017, the median annual wages for community health workers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private: $46,350

Religious, grant-making, civic, professional, and similar organizations: $41,110

Government: $40,740

Individual and family services: $36,470

Outpatient care centers: $35,370

 

In May 2017, the median annual wages for health educators in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private: $63,510

Government: $55,420

Outpatient care centers: $51,130

Religious, grant-making, civic, professional, and similar organizations: $48,640

Individual and family services: $40,360


Job Outlook for Health Educators and Community Health Workers

Overall employment of health educators and community health workers is projected to grow 16 percent from 2016 to 2026, 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.

Governments, healthcare providers, social services providers want to find ways to improve the quality of care and health outcomes, while reducing costs. This should increase demand for health educators and community health workers because they teach people how to live healthy lives and how to avoid costly diseases and medical procedures.

Job Prospects for health educators and community health workers

Community health workers who have completed a formal education program and those who have experience working with a specific population may have more favorable job prospects. In addition, opportunities may be better for candidates who speak a foreign language and understand the culture of the community that they intend to serve.

Employment projections data for Community Health Workers, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 118,500

Projected Employment, 2026: 137,700

Change, 2016-2026: +16%, +19,200


Careers Related

Dietitians and Nutritionists

Dietitians and nutritionists are experts in the use of food and nutrition to promote health and manage disease. They advise people on what to eat in order to lead a healthy lifestyle or achieve a specific health-related goal.

Epidemiologists

Epidemiologists are public health professionals who investigate patterns and causes of disease and injury in humans. They seek to reduce the risk and occurrence of negative health outcomes through research, community education, and health policy.

High School Teachers

High school teachers help prepare students for life after graduation. They teach academic lessons and various skills that students will need to attend college and to enter the job market.

Marriage and Family Therapists

Marriage and family therapists help people manage and overcome problems with family and other relationships.

Middle School Teachers

Middle school teachers educate students, typically in sixth through eighth grades. They help students build on the fundamentals they learned in elementary school and prepare them for the more difficult curriculum they will face in high school.

Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They may also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.

School and Career Counselors

School counselors help students develop the academic and social skills needed to succeed in school. Career counselors help people choose careers and follow a path to employment.

Social and Human Service Assistants

Social and human service assistants provide client services, including support for families, in a wide variety of fields, such as psychology, rehabilitation, and social work. They assist other workers, such as social workers, and they help clients find benefits or community services.

Social Workers

Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives. Clinical social workers also diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues.

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors advise people who suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, mental health issues, or other mental or behavioral problems. They provide treatment and support to help clients recover from addiction or modify problem behaviors.

OccupationENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION2017 MEDIAN PAY
Dietitians and NutritionistsBachelor's degree$59,410
EpidemiologistsMaster's degree$69,660
High School TeachersBachelor's degree$59,170
Middle School TeachersBachelor's degree$57,720
Postsecondary Teachers$76,000
School and Career CounselorsMaster's degree$55,410
Social and Human Service AssistantsHigh school diploma or equivalent$33,120
Social Workers$47,980
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors$43,300
Marriage and Family TherapistsMaster's degree$48,790

Citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Health Educators and Community Health Workers, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/health-educators.htm