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Health Education Specialists and Community Health Workers

Summary

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Video transcript available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntfDZQCq2hc.
Quick Facts: Health Education Specialists and Community Health Workers
2020 Median Pay $48,140 per year
$23.15 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, 2019 127,100
Job Outlook, 2019-29 13% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2019-29 17,000

What Health Education Specialists and Community Health Workers Do

Health education specialists develop programs to teach people about conditions affecting well-being. Community health workers promote wellness by helping people adopt healthy behaviors.

Work Environment

Health education specialists and community health workers are employed in a variety of settings, including hospitals, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies. Most work full time.

How to Become a Health Education Specialist or Community Health Worker

Health education specialists typically need at least a bachelor’s degree. Community health workers typically need at least a high school diploma and a brief period of on-the-job training. Certification may be required or preferred for some health education specialists and community health workers.

Pay

The median annual wage for community health workers was $42,000 in May 2020.

The median annual wage for health education specialists was $56,500 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of health education specialists 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.

State & Area Data

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

Similar Occupations

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

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

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

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 64,900 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of community health workers were as follows:

Government 18%
Individual and family services 17
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 14
Hospitals; state, local, and private 8
Outpatient care centers 8

Health education specialists held about 62,200 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of health education specialists were as follows:

Government 24%
Hospitals; state, local, and private 22
Individual and family services 8
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 7
Outpatient care centers 7

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. These programs include instruction in the theories and methods of health behavior and health education. 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 2020

Health education specialists

$56,500

Health educators and community health workers

$48,140

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

$47,500

Community health workers

$42,000

Total, all occupations

$41,950

 

The median annual wage for community health workers was $42,000 in May 2020. 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 $28,010, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $70,790.

The median annual wage for health education specialists was $56,500 in May 2020. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $33,720, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $101,890.

In May 2020, the median annual wages for community health workers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private $48,150
Government 45,490
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 44,090
Outpatient care centers 39,900
Individual and family services 38,300

In May 2020, the median annual wages for health education specialists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private $65,530
Government 59,070
Outpatient care centers 57,850
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 49,090
Individual and family services 43,400

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 2019-29

Community health workers

15%

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

14%

Health educators and community health workers

13%

Health education specialists

11%

Total, all occupations

4%

 

Overall employment of health education specialists 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.

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.

Job Prospects

About 14,500 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.

Community health workers who speak a foreign language and understand the culture of the community that they intend to serve may have the best prospects.

Employment projections data for health education specialists and community health workers, 2019-29
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Health educators and community health workers

127,100 144,100 13 17,000

Health education specialists

21-1091 62,200 69,300 11 7,100 Get data

Community health workers

21-1094 64,900 74,800 15 9,900 Get data

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) 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 OEWS 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.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop 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 education specialists and community health workers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help on Entry-Level Education 2020 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Dietitians and nutritionists Dietitians and Nutritionists

Dietitians and nutritionists advise people on what to eat in order to lead a healthy lifestyle or achieve a specific health-related goal.

Bachelor's degree $63,090
Epidemiologists Epidemiologists

Epidemiologists are public health workers who investigate patterns and causes of disease and injury.

Master's degree $74,560
High school teachers High School Teachers

High school teachers teach academic lessons and various skills that students will need to attend college and to enter the job market.

Bachelor's degree $62,870
Middle school teachers Middle School Teachers

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

Bachelor's degree $60,810
Postsecondary teachers Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a variety of academic subjects beyond the high school level.

See How to Become One $80,790
School and Career Counselors School and Career Counselors and Advisors

School counselors help students develop academic and social skills. Career counselors and advisors help people choose a path to employment.

Master's degree $58,120
Social and human service assistants Social and Human Service Assistants

Social and human service assistants provide client services in a variety of fields, such as psychology, rehabilitation, and social work.

High school diploma or equivalent $35,960
Social workers Social Workers

Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives.

See How to Become One $51,760
Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors provide treatment and advise people who suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, or other mental or behavioral problems.

Bachelor's degree $47,660
Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists Marriage and Family Therapists

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

Master's degree $51,340

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

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Health Education Specialists and Community Health Workers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/health-educators.htm (visited July 13, 2021).

Last Modified Date: Tuesday, June 1, 2021

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2020 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 and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2020, the median annual wage for all workers was $41,950.

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, 2019

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2019, which is the base year of the 2019-29 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2019-29

The projected percent change in employment from 2019 to 2029. The average growth rate for all occupations is 4 percent.

Employment Change, 2019-29

The projected numeric change in employment from 2019 to 2029.

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 2019-29

The projected numeric change in employment from 2019 to 2029.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2019 to 2029.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2019 to 2029.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2019 to 2029.

2020 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 and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2020, the median annual wage for all workers was $41,950.