Health Educators and Community Health Workers

What Health Educators and Community Health Workers Do

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntfDZQCq2hc

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 at least bachelor’s degree. Many employers require the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential. Community health workers typically need to 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 community health workers was $40,360 in May 2019.

The median annual wage for health education specialists was $55,220 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

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.

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.

Duties

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.

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 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.

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.

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 Median Annual Pay, May 2019

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 $61,270

Epidemiologists

Epidemiologists

Epidemiologists are public health professionals who investigate patterns and causes of disease and injury in humans.

Master’s degree $70,990

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 $61,660

Middle School Teachers

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

Bachelor’s degree $59,660

Postsecondary Teachers

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

See How to Become One $79,540

School and Career Counselors

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

Master’s degree $57,040

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 $35,060

Social Workers

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

See How to Become One $50,470

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 $46,240

Marriage and Family Therapists

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

Master’s degree $49,610

For more information about health educators and community health workers, visit

Society for Public Health Education

American Public Health Association

For more information about the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential, visit

National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc.

CareerOneStop

For a career video on community health workers, visit

Community health workers

O*NET

Community Health Workers

Health Educators


Suggested citation:

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