Health Educators and Community Health Workers

Summary

health educators image
Health educators and community health workers teach people about behaviors that promote wellness.
Quick Facts: Health Educators and Community Health Workers
2015 Median Pay $43,840 per year
$21.08 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education See How to Become One
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training See How to Become One
Number of Jobs, 2014 115,700
Job Outlook, 2014-24 13% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 15,600

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 collect data and discuss health concerns with members of specific populations or communities.

Work Environment

Health educators and community health workers work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, nonprofit organizations, government, doctors’ offices, private businesses, and colleges. They generally work full time.

How to Become a Health Educator or Community Health Worker

Health educators need a bachelor’s degree. Many employers require the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential. Requirements for community health workers vary, although they typically have 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.

Pay

The median annual wage for health educators and community health workers was $43,840 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of health educators and community health workers is projected to grow 13 percent from 2014 to 2024, 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 habits and behaviors and explaining how to use available healthcare services.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for health educators and community health workers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of health educators and community health workers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about health educators and community health workers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Health Educators 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 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, health educators, and other healthcare and social service 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.

Duties

Health educators typically do the following:

  • Assess the health needs of the people and communities they serve
  • Develop programs 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

The duties of health educators, also known as health education specialists, vary with their work settings. Most work in healthcare facilities, colleges, public health departments, nonprofits, and private businesses. Those 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.

In healthcare facilities, health educators may work one-on-one with patients or with their families. They teach patients about their diagnoses and about any necessary treatments or procedures. They may be called patient navigators because they help consumers find out about their health insurance options and direct people to outside resources, such as support groups or home health agencies. 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 health classes on topics such as installing a car seat correctly. They also create programs to train medical staff to interact more effectively with patients. For example, they may teach doctors how to explain complicated procedures to patients in simple language.

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 campuswide 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 (including community health organizations), 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 may 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. For example, a health educator may design a program to teach people with diabetes how to better manage their condition or a program for teen mothers on how to care for their newborns.

In private businesses, health educators identify common health problems among employees and create programs to improve health. They work with management 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 About this section

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

Health educators held about 61,400 jobs in 2014. Community health workers held about 54,300 jobs in 2014.

The industries that employed the most health educators in 2014 were as follows:

Government 22%
Hospitals; state, local, and private 21
Ambulatory health care services 16
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 10
Social assistance 10

The industries that employed the most community health workers in 2014 were as follows:  

Individual and family services 21%
Ambulatory health care services 19
State and local government, excluding education and hospitals 16
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 15
Hospitals; state, local, and private 8

Although most health educators work in an office, 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.

Work Schedules

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 or Community Health Worker About this section

Health educators
Health educators need a bachelor’s degree.

Health educators need a bachelor’s degree. Some employers may require the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential. Community health workers typically have 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 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 typically have a high school diploma, although some jobs may require 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, among others.

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, population, 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. To obtain certification, 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 become certified, 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.

Pay About this section

Health Educators and Community Health Workers

Median annual wages, May 2015

Health educators

$51,960

Health educators and community health workers

$43,840

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

$42,030

Community health workers

$36,300

Total, all occupations

$36,200

 

The median annual wage for health educators was $51,960 in May 2015. 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 $30,250, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $92,950.

The median annual wage for community health workers was $36,300 in May 2015. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $22,570, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $62,880.

In May 2015, the median annual wages for health educators in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private $61,610
Government 54,050
Ambulatory health care services 50,300
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 47,360
Social assistance 39,390

In May 2015, the median annual wages for community health workers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private $43,530
State and local government, excluding education and hospitals 39,240
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 38,190
Ambulatory health care services 34,740
Individual and family services 33,740

Most health educators 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 Educators and Community Health Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Community health workers

15%

Health educators and community health workers

13%

Health educators

12%

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

12%

Total, all occupations

7%

 

Employment of health educators and community health workers is projected to grow 13 percent from 2014 to 2024, 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 habits and behaviors and explaining how to use available healthcare services.

Insurance companies, employers, and governments are trying to find ways to improve the quality of care and health outcomes, while reducing costs. They hire health educators and community health workers to teach people about how to live healthy lives, obtain screenings, and how to avoid costly diseases and medical procedures. They explain how lifestyle changes can reduce the probability of contracting illnesses such as lung cancer, HIV, heart disease, and skin cancer. Health educators and community health workers also help people understand how to manage their condition and avoid unnecessary trips to the emergency room. Health educators and community health workers help people understand how their actions affect their health.

For many illnesses, such as breast cancer and testicular cancer, finding the disease early, greatly increases the likelihood that treatment will be successful. Therefore, it is important for people to know how to identify potential health problems and when to seek medical help. The need to get this information to the public is expected to increase demand for health educators and community health workers.

The number of individuals who have access to health insurance is expected to continue to increase because of federal health insurance reform. Health educators and community health workers would be needed to show patients how to get access to healthcare services, such as preventive screenings. In addition, health educators and community health workers might take part in state and local programs designed to treat and prevent conditions such as diabetes and obesity.

Job Prospects

Community health workers who have completed a formal education program and those who have experience working with a specific population may have favorable job prospects. In addition, opportunities may be better for candidates who speak a foreign language.

Employment projections data for health educators and community health workers, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Health educators and community health workers

115,700 131,300 13 15,600

Health educators

21-1091 61,400 68,900 12 7,500 [XLSX]

Community health workers

21-1094 54,300 62,400 15 8,100 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of health educators and community health workers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2015 MEDIAN PAY Help
Dietitians and nutritionists

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.

Bachelor's degree $57,910
Epidemiologists

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.

Master's degree $69,450
High school teachers

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.

Bachelor's degree $57,200
Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists

Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists help people manage and overcome mental and emotional disorders and problems with family and other relationships. They listen to clients and ask questions to help the clients understand their problems and develop strategies to improve their lives.

Master's degree $43,190
Middle school teachers

Middle School Teachers

Middle school teachers educate students, typically in sixth through eighth grades. Middle school teachers 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.

Bachelor's degree $55,860
Postsecondary teachers

Postsecondary Teachers

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

See How to Become One $72,470
School and Career Counselors

School and Career Counselors

School counselors help students develop academic and social skills and succeed in school. Career counselors assist people with the process of making career decisions by helping them develop skills or choose a career or educational program.

Master's degree $53,660
Social and human service assistants

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.

High school diploma or equivalent $30,830
Social workers

Social Workers

Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives. One group of social workers—clinical social workers—also diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues.

See How to Become One $45,900
Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors

Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors

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

Bachelor's degree $39,980
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Health Educators and Community Health Workers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/health-educators.htm (visited December 09, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

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2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.