Becoming a Diabetes Health Counselor: Job Description & Salary Info

About this article
A diabetes health counselor's mean annual salary is around $59,000. Is this wage worth the education requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a diabetes health counselor is right for you.
View available schools

Pros and Cons of a Career as a Diabetes Health Counselor

Diabetes health counselors can help people reduce their risk of contracting diabetes and advise diabetics in making healthier life choices. Continue reading to learn about other pros and cons of this career, so you can decide if it's a good fit for you.

Pros of a Diabetes Health Counselor Career
Can help diabetics improve their health*
Higher-than-average salary (about $62,000 as of 2015)***
Might not need graduate education****
High job stability due to the disease's prevalence (more than 25 million people suffer from diabetes)*
Type 2 diabetes is preventable**

Cons of a Diabetes Health Counselor Career
Must typically receive certification as a diabetes educator****
Possible exposure to diseases from working in a healthcare environment****
Irregular hours****
Diabetes is not reversible, which can sometimes make treating patients difficult**

Sources: *Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, **National Diabetes Education Program, ***PayScale.com, ****May 2012 CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com job postings.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Diabetes health counselors, more commonly called diabetes educators, work with individuals suffering from both diabetes and pre-diabetes, a condition where the blood glucose levels are high, but not quite at diabetic levels. According to the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP), part of your job may consist of working with other healthcare professionals to create, manage and teach diabetes education programs (ndep.nih.gov). This can provide patients with information about what diabetes is, how they can manage their glucose levels and how they can take steps to improve their health. You may also teach other staff how to identify people who could be at risk for diabetes, so they can obtain professional help.

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), diabetes educators work with people individually or in groups to help them make changes in their diets and fitness regimes to improve their health and manage the disease (www.innovations.ahrq.gov). Having diabetes can lead to other health problems, such as blindness, heart disease and kidney failure. You can teach patients how to monitor their blood sugar, lower their cholesterol levels and lose weight to avoid these additional health problems.

Career and Salary Information

According to AHRQ, more than 25 million people have diabetes. The NDEP reported that there were 17 million people with type 2 diabetes as of 2006 and that there are about a million new cases every year. The NEP reported that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services conducted a study that indicated that type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed in pre-diabetics, which has produced a high demand for diabetes counselors.

Employment opportunities for diabetes health counselors were expected to grow 21% between 2012 and 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). With a need for increased health care services and efforts to decrease healthcare costs, employment is expected to grow for all health educators. According to the BLS, the 2014 median annual salary for a general health educator is around $50,000. Payscale.com reported that certified diabetes educators made a median annual salary of around $62,000 as of 2015.

Career Requirements

Education

To become a diabetes counselor, you usually must start by earning a degree in nursing, nutrition, dietetics or counseling. The most common route is to become a registered nurse (RN), which requires you to earn at least an associate's degree in nursing and pass an exam. Undergraduate training as a nurse can provide you with experience working with a variety of patients and fulfilling basic nursing responsibilities. You'll explore pharmacology, ethics and methods for promoting general health.

Certification

You must also typically become a certified diabetes educator (CDE) by passing the exam offered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (www.ncbde.org). To be eligible for the exam, you must have two years of professional experience in a healthcare field. You also must meet a lengthy set of educational requirements, which vary depending on your specialty. For example, you might meet the eligibility requirements by holding an RN or registered dietitian title or by earning a master's degree in social work. You also must complete at least 15 hours of continuing education before applying to take the exam. Through this training, you could acquire the following skills, which could prepare you for a career as a diabetes counselor or educator:

  • Familiarity using nutrition in diabetes management
  • Methods for helping diabetics control their glucose levels
  • Strategies for identifying diabetes in its early stages, when it's manageable and reversible
  • Ways to integrate lifestyle changes that can improve health
  • Listening skills
  • Teaching skills

Job Postings from Real Employers

Most employers are looking for diabetes counselors who have advanced training in diabetes education and a background in nursing. They want someone who can take the initiative to create a program that can help their patients and their staff. They also expect applicants to communicate well with patients to help them understand what they need to do to improve their health. The following job postings were seeking diabetes educators in May of 2012.

  • A pharmaceutical company in Florida wanted a certified diabetes educator to teach care providers, staff and patients about diabetes management and different products that help treat symptoms. The employer required that applicants have a bachelor's degree, CDE certification, communication skills and presentation skills.
  • A health services facility in New Mexico searched for a certified diabetes educator who could counsel employees about pre-diabetes and diabetes care, teach classes, set treatment goals and improve disease management. The employer wanted applicants with credentials as either a licensed dietitian or an RN, a bachelor's degree, CDE certification and at least three years of experience in diabetes care. Someone who can communicate well, knows how to monitor glucose and can take initiative was ideal.
  • A university health system in San Antonio, TX, advertised for a diabetes educator who had at least a bachelor's degree in nursing and had completed a dietetic internship. Responsibilities included creating a diabetes education program and encouraging staff development.
  • A healthcare organization in Florida looked for a certified diabetes educator who had at least an associate's degree in a healthcare field, an RN license, CDE certification and two years of experience working with diabetics. Their responsibilities included working with patients to help them change their lifestyles and improve their health.
  • A university hospital in Missouri wanted to hire a diabetes educator to improve patient care for diabetics, incorporate updated research into the diabetes education programs and manage programs. The employer was looking for someone who had a bachelor's degree in nursing, CDE certification and two years of clinical experience.

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

Earn a Master's Degree

Earning a master's degree can be an expensive decision, but it can also give you advanced skills and help you stand out as a diabetes educator or health counselor. Since you need to pursue continuing education to earn your CDE status, you could potentially complete a master's degree that also includes courses in diabetes, so you can earn credit for the certification while also pursuing graduate education. You can earn a master's degree in diabetes education and management, or you can complete a master's degree program in nursing with a specialization in diabetes nursing, which can provide you with practical experience managing diabetics. You'll learn how to test blood sugar, recognize symptoms, perform evaluations, complete outcome assessments and teach people about diabetes. You can also complete field experiences and conduct diabetes research.

Develop Related Skills

Another way to stand out is by developing related skills that can be useful as a CDE. For instance, taking classes in fitness, nutrition and wellness can give you a different understanding of how the body responds to disease and how to keep it healthy. You could also create nutrition and fitness plans, which could help you do the same for your future clients.

Alternative Career Paths

Nutritionist

If becoming a diabetes health counselor doesn't seem like the best job for you, but you want to help people reduce their risk of disease and live healthier lifestyles, you might consider becoming a nutritionist. These professionals use modern knowledge of food and wellness to create meal plans and teach classes directed at choosing healthier foods. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that employment would increase by about 20% for nutritionists between 2010 and 2020, which was greater than average. These workers earned a median annual salary of approximately $54,000 as of May 2011 (www.bls.gov). You must complete an undergraduate degree in nutrition and earn a license to practice.

Health Educator

If you're looking to deal with people's general health rather than a particular ailment, you might want to become a health educator. The BLS stated that health educators only need a bachelor's degree, but additional certifications, such as a certified health education specialist title, could help you find jobs. Health educators create educational materials and programs that familiarize people with common diseases and preventative methods. These professionals made a median annual salary of around $48,000 as of May 2011, reported the BLS. The BLS projected that employment would increase by 37% from 2010-2020, which was much faster than the average for other jobs.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Admin: Management
      • Master of Business Admin: Operations Management
      • Master of Business Administration - Accounting
      • Master of Information Technology - Information Assurance and Security
      • Master of Business Admin: Project Management
      • Master of Healthcare Management
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Business Administration - Generalist
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Marketing
      • Bachelor of Business Admin - Accounting
      • Bachelor of Business Administration - Finance
      • Bachelor of Technology: Information Assurance and Security
    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts in Business Administration
      • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Teaching and Learning
      • Master of Project Management
      • Master of Finance
      • Master of Professional Accounting
      • Master - Information Technology Management
      • Master - Human Resource Management
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Communication
      • BS - Human Services
      • BS - Accounting
      • BS - Project Management
      • BS - Marketing
      • Undergraduate Specialization - Criminal Forensics
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate - Human Resource Management
      • Undergraduate Certificate - Project Management
      • Graduate Specialization - Accounting
      • Graduate Certificate - Cyber Security
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Saint Leo University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BA: Criminal Justice
      • BA: Criminal Justice - Criminalistics
      • BA: Liberal Studies
      • BA: Psychology
      • BA: Psychology - General
      • BS: Computer Science
    Associate's
      • AA: Criminal Justice
      • AA: Liberal Arts
      • AA: Business Administration
      • AA: Information Technology
      • AA: Cybersecurity
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Purdue University Global

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
      • Master of Science - DNP Path (Doctor of Nursing Practice)
    Master's
      • MS in Psychology - Forensic Psychology
      • Master: Legal Studies
      • MS in Psychology
      • Master : Business Admin
      • Master of Public Health
      • MBA: Human Resources
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Liberal Studies
      • Bachelor of Business Admin
      • BSBA - Investment
      • BS in Liberal Studies Leadership
      • Bachelor: Nutrition Science
      • Accelerated MS in Finance Option
    Associate's
      • AASBA in Business
      • AAS in Legal Support and Services
      • Associate: Business Admin.
      • AASBA in Food/Hotel Management
      • Associate: Business Admin. - Office Mgmt
      • Associate: Criminal Justice
    Certificate
      • Medical Office Administration Certificate
      • Human Services Certificates in Child and Family Services
      • Graduate Certificate in Addictions
      • Graduate Certificate in Industrial/Organizational Psychology
      • Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certificate
      • Postbaccalaureate Certificate - Pathway to Paralegal
  • Campus and Online Programs
    5. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science - Film Production
      • MS - Game Design (Campus)
      • M.S. - Entertainment Business
      • M.S. - New Media Journalism
      • Master of Fine Arts - Creative Writing
      • M.S. - Public Relations
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Sportscasting (Campus)
      • Bachelor of Science - Software Development
      • BS - Cloud Technologies (Campus)
      • BS - Creative Writing for Entertainment (Campus)
      • BS - Film (Campus)
      • BS - Media Communications (Campus)
    Certificate
      • Cert - Instructional Design and Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
      • PhD in Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
      • Doctor of Business Admin - General Business
      • PhD-TIM - Computer Science
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Management
      • Ed.D. - Sports Management
    Master's
      • M.A. in Psychology - General Psychology
      • MBA - Applied Computer Science
      • Master of Business Admin - General Business
      • M.Ed. - General Education
      • MS - Organizational Leadership: Criminal Justice
      • MSTIM - Computer Science
    Certificate
      • Education Specialist - Organizational Leadership
      • Education Specialist - Special Education
      • Education Specialist - International Education
      • Education Specialist - Early Childhood Education
      • Education Specialist - Curriculum and Teaching
      • Education Specialist - Instructional Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Regent University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
      • Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership
      • Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership - Ecclesial Leadership
      • Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership - Entrepreneurial Leadership
      • Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership - Individualized
      • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Entrepreneurial Leadership
    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Communication
      • Master of Arts in Communication - Political Communication
      • Master of Arts in Communication - Strategic Communication
      • Master of Arts in Government - Political Communication
      • Master of Arts in Journalism
      • Master of Arts in Law - Business
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Applied Science in Criminal Justice
      • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies
      • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Journalism
      • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Rhetoric and Public Culture
      • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Strategic Communication
      • Bachelor of Arts in English - Communication
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Johns Hopkins University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Communication
      • Master of Liberal Arts
      • Master of Arts in Science Writing
      • Master of Science in Applied Economics
      • Master of Science in Geographic Information Systems
      • Master of Science in Bioinformatics
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • DBA - Management
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
      • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
      • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Special Education
      • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Cognition and Instruction
      • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Industrial and Organizational Psychology
    Master's
      • M.S. Psychology with an Emphasis in Gerontology
      • M.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Human Factors
      • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
      • MS in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies
      • MS in Psychology: General Psychology
      • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education
      • BS in Psychology
      • B.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Performance and Sports Psychology
      • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education
      • BS in Early Childhood
      • BS in Elementary Education / Special Education (Dual Major)
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA
      • MBA Dual Concentration: HR & Project Mgmt.
      • MBA Dual Concentration: BS Mgmt. & HR
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Business Mgmt & Project Mgmt.
      • MBA: Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Project Management
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Business Management With No Concentration
      • B.S. - Business Management: Entrepreneurial Studies Concentration
      • B.S. - Information Technology: Security Technology Concentration
      • Bachelor: Health Care Management
      • Bachelor: Accounting
      • B.S. - Information Technology: Network Management Concentration
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Business Management
      • Associate of Science - Business Studies
      • Associate: Health Information Management
      • Associate: Healthcare Management
      • Associate of Science - Information Technology Admin and Management
      • Associate of Science - Accounting
    Certificate
      • Diploma: Medical Office Admin
      • Diploma: Medical Assisting
      • Diploma: Bookkeeping and Payroll Accounting
      • Networking Systems Certificate

Featured Schools

American InterContinental University

  • Master of Business Admin: Management
  • Bachelor of Business Administration - Generalist
  • Associate of Arts in Business Administration

Are you a US citizen?

Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Teaching and Learning
  • BS - Communication
  • Graduate Certificate - Human Resource Management

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Leo University

  • BA: Criminal Justice
  • BA: Criminal Justice - Criminalistics
  • AA: Criminal Justice
  • AA: Liberal Arts

What is your highest level of education completed?

Purdue University Global

  • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
  • MS in Psychology - Forensic Psychology
  • Bachelor: Liberal Studies
  • AASBA in Business
  • Medical Office Administration Certificate

Which subject are you interested in?

Full Sail University

  • Master of Science - Film Production
  • BS - Sportscasting (Campus)
  • Cert - Instructional Design and Technology

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • Doctor of Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
  • M.A. in Psychology - General Psychology
  • Education Specialist - Organizational Leadership

What is your highest level of education?

Regent University

  • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
  • Master of Arts in Communication
  • Bachelor of Applied Science in Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education completed?

Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Arts in Communication
  • Master of Liberal Arts
  • Master of Arts in Science Writing

What is your highest level of education?