Career Facts

Investigate MORE INFO on all professions that sound interesting. Take your time. Don't skip a step.

Job Outlook: 11% (Much faster than average)

  1. Is WHAT YOU DO enjoyable?
  2. Does the WORK ENVIRONMENT feel comfortable?
  3. Are you ok with THE REQUIREMENTS?
  4. Is the PAY ENOUGH?
  5. Is the JOB OUTLOOK positive- more than 7%?
  6. Still interested? WATCH THE VIDEO
  7. RELATED OCCUPATIONS Click here to view similar jobs.
FIND A JOB and more.

What Health Education Specialists and Community Health Workers Do About this section

Health educators
Health educators and community health workers educate people about the availability of healthcare services.

Health education specialists teach people about behaviors that promote wellness. They develop strategies to improve the well-being of individuals and communities. Community health workers advocate for residents’ needs with healthcare providers and social service organizations. They implement wellness strategies by collecting data and discussing health concerns with members of specific populations. Although the two occupations often work together, the responsibilities of health education specialists and community health workers are distinct.

Duties

Health education specialists typically do the following:

  • Assess the health needs of individuals and communities
  • Develop programs, materials, and events to teach people about health topics, such as managing existing 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 healthcare providers
  • 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
  • Provide basic health services such as first aid, diabetic foot checks, and height and weight measurements
  • Collect data to help identify community needs
  • Report findings to health education specialists, healthcare workers, or social service providers
  • Provide informal counseling and social support
  • Conduct outreach programs
  • Make referrals, provide transportation, and address other barriers to healthcare access
  • Advocate for individual and community needs

Health education specialists have different duties depending on where they work.

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

  • In healthcare facilities, health education specialists may work one-on-one with patients or their families. They teach patients about their diagnoses and treatment options. They also lead efforts to develop and administer surveys for identifying health concerns in the community and to develop programs that meet those needs. For example, they may help to organize blood-pressure screenings or classes on proper installation of car seats. Health education specialists also create programs to train medical staff to interact more effectively with patients.

  • In nonprofits, health education specialists create programs and materials about health issues in the community they serve. They help organizations obtain funding, such as through grants for promoting health and disease awareness. They also educate policymakers about ways to improve public health. In nonprofits that focus on a particular disease or audience, health education specialists tailor programs to meet those needs.

  • In public health departments, health education specialists develop public health campaigns on topics such as emergency preparedness, immunizations, or proper nutrition. They also develop materials for use in the community and by public health officials. Some health education specialists collaborate with other workers, such as on statewide or local committees, to create public policies on health and wellness topics. They may also oversee grants and grant-funded programs to improve the public health.

Health education specialists create workplace programs or suggest modifications that focus on wellness. For example, they may develop incentives for employees to adopt healthy behaviors, such as controlling cholesterol, or recommend changes in the workplace to improve employee health, such as creating smoke-free areas.

For information about workers who teach health classes in middle and high schools, see the profiles on middle school teachers and high school teachers.

Community health workers understand the communities they serve, which allows them to act as intermediaries between residents and healthcare and social services providers. They identify health-related issues, collect data, and discuss health concerns within the community. 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 barriers to care and provide referrals for needs such as food, housing, and mental health services.

Community health workers share information with health education specialists and healthcare and social services providers so that programs and care better suit the needs of the community. They also advocate for the wellness needs of community members and conduct outreach to engage residents, assist with healthcare navigation, and improve coordination of care.

Work Environment About this section

Health educators
Health educators often work in hospitals, where they help patients understand and adjust to their diagnosis.

Community health workers held about 64,100 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of community health workers were as follows:

Government 18%
Individual and family services 17
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 12
Hospitals; state, local, and private 9
Outpatient care centers 8

Health education specialists held about 61,100 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of health education specialists were as follows:

Government 24%
Hospitals; state, local, and private 21
Individual and family services 7
Outpatient care centers 7
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 6

Although most health education specialists work in offices, they may spend a lot of time away from their desks to carry out programs or attend meetings.

Community health workers spend much of their time in the field, communicating with community members, holding events, and collecting data.

Work Schedules

Most health education specialists and community health workers are employed full time. They may need to work nights and weekends to attend programs or meetings.

How to Become a Health Education Specialist or Community Health Worker About this section

Health educators
Health educators need at least a bachelor’s degree.

Health education specialists typically need at least bachelor’s degree. Some employers require or prefer that health education specialists be certified.

Community health workers typically 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 education specialists typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in health education or health promotion. Employers may accept a variety of other majors, including business, social science, and healthcare and related fields. Students may gain additional knowledge and skills through an internship.

Some health education specialist positions require candidates to have a master’s or doctoral degree. Graduate program fields of degree may include community health education, school health education, public health education, or health promotion. Applicants to these master’s degree programs generally do not need a specific undergraduate major.

Community health workers typically need at least a high school diploma, although 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 communication, outreach, and information about the health topics of focus. For example, community health workers who work with Alzheimer’s patients may learn about how to communicate effectively with patients who have dementia.

Other Experience

Community health workers usually understand the specific community, culture, medical condition, or disability with which they work. The ability to speak a foreign language may be helpful.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Employers may require or prefer that health education specialists obtain certification, such as the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential offered by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc or the Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES) credential offered by the Certification Board for Diabetes Care and Education.

Some states offer certification for community health workers, which 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 education specialists collect and evaluate data to determine the needs of the people they serve.

Communication skills. Health education specialists and community health workers must be able to clearly convey information in health-related materials and in written proposals for programs and funding.

Instructional skills. Health education specialists and community health workers lead programs, teach classes, and facilitate discussion with clients and families.

Interpersonal skills. Health education specialists and community health workers interact with many people from a variety of backgrounds. They must be good listeners and be empathetic in responding to the needs of the people they serve.

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

Pay About this section

Health Education Specialists and Community Health Workers

Median annual wages, May 2021

Health education specialists

$60,600

Health education specialists and community health workers

$48,860

Counselors, social workers, and other community and social service specialists

$48,400

Community health workers

$46,590

Total, all occupations

$45,760

 

The median annual wage for community health workers was $46,590 in May 2021. 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 $30,440, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $70,720.

The median annual wage for health education specialists was $60,600 in May 2021. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,020, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $102,480.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for community health workers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private $49,240
Government 47,400
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 46,910
Outpatient care centers 39,600
Individual and family services 38,700

In May 2021, the median annual wages for health education specialists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private $76,450
Government 60,670
Outpatient care centers 54,060
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 49,300
Individual and family services 47,040

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

Job Outlook About this section

Health Education Specialists and Community Health Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2020-30

Community health workers

21%

Health education specialists and community health workers

17%

Counselors, social workers, and other community and social service specialists

14%

Health education specialists

12%

Total, all occupations

8%

 

Overall employment of health education specialists and community health workers is projected to grow 17 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 16,100 openings for health education specialists and community health workers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

An emphasis on promoting healthy behaviors, particularly based on experiences from the COVID-19 pandemic, is expected to increase demand for these workers over the decade.

Governments, healthcare providers, and 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 education specialists and community health workers to teach people about health and wellness, which in turn can help to prevent costly diseases and medical procedures.

Employment projections data for health education specialists and community health workers, 2020-30
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2020 Projected Employment, 2030 Change, 2020-30 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Health education specialists and community health workers

125,200 146,200 17 21,100

Health education specialists

21-1091 61,100 68,700 12 7,600 Get data

Community health workers

21-1094 64,100 77,600 21 13,500 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about health education specialists and community health workers, visit

Society for Public Health Education

American Public Health Association

National Association of Community Health Workers

For more information about credentials for health education specialists, visit

Certification Board for Diabetes Care and Education

National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc.

CareerOneStop

For career videos on health education specialists and community health workers, visit

Community health workers

Health education specialists

O*NET

Community Health Workers

Health Education Specialists

Video