Community Health Worker Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a community health worker career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a community health worker is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Community Health Worker Career

A career as a community health worker generally involves helping people learn about and implement healthy behaviors. Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of a career as a community health worker.

Pros of a Community Health Worker Career
Strong projected job growth (25% for community health workers from 2012-2022)*
Opportunity to help save lives with diagnostic screenings**
Job location flexibility *
Most jobs offer full-time hours*

Cons of a Community Health Worker Career
Limited earning potential (average annual salary of about $38,000 for community health workers)*
Long hours may include nights and weekends*
Advocating for government funding can be highly stressful**
Travel throughout the community is often required*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*NET OnLine.

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Community health workers spend much of their time developing programs and events to educate people about various health topics. As a community health worker, you may create and distribute educational materials focusing on nutrition, smoking cessation, cancer awareness or other health issues. You'll also provide public safety information and help people find the services they need in emergency situations.

Another important responsibility of community health workers is advocating for improved health policies and resources. Those professionals who specialize in health education might spend much of their time lobbying on behalf of specific health laws and regulations. If you perform this duty, you'll also need to collect and analyze data to inform your advocacy efforts and to make sure that you fully understand the needs of your community.

Career Prospects and Salary

The BLS projected above-average job growth for community health workers over the coming years, with overall employment expected to increase 25% from 2012-2022. Those specializing in health education can also expect a strong job outlook, with the BLS projecting 19% job growth for health educators from 2012-2022. As of May 2014, the BLS reported an average annual salary of about $44,000 for the broad community and social service specialists, all other category. The BLS further reported an average annual salary of about $55,000 for health educators and $38,000 for community health workers as of May 2014.

What Are the Requirements?

To qualify for most community health worker positions, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree in health education, health promotion or a closely related field. Some positions require a master's degree, particularly those with federal or state public health agencies. Many health education or promotion programs feature internships to give you valuable real-world experience.

Several skills prove very beneficial to community health workers. Analytical skills can come in handy when applying data to assess community needs, and instructional skills can help you translate data to community members. You'll also need to be adept at interacting with people of different backgrounds and relating to their needs and concerns.

What Employers Are Looking for

If you have a degree in health education or promotion and would like to work in a community health setting, you might find positions at government agencies, civic organizations or health care facilities. The following job postings listed in December 2012 can provide a snapshot of the current job market for community health workers:

  • A county government in Minnesota is looking for a community health specialist with one to two years of experience in public health promotion and planning. The position requires a bachelor's degree in community or public health education or a similar area.
  • A military base in Kansas seeks a public health technician to serve the health needs of military families. This position involves a wide range of administrative and leadership functions and requires a master's degree in public health. Two to five years of experience is required.
  • A county health and human services agency in California is looking for a public health program manager to work with the women, infants and children (WIC) nutritional program. The successful candidate will be responsible for planning, supervising and evaluating health promotion programs and administrative functions.

Standing Out in the Field

While certification is generally not required for community health worker positions, you can set yourself apart from other entry-level candidates by earning a health education credential. The National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc. offers a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) designation that is intended for entry-level health educators with a bachelor's degree. To earn the certification, you need to pass an exam. Continuing education is required to keep the CHES credential valid.

Alternative Career Paths

Social and Human Service Assistant

If you're interested in working directly with those in need, you might consider a career as a social and human service assistant. While working in this position, you might help families locate childcare services, assist elderly clients with meal deliveries or help people with disabilities find personal care services.

A high school diploma is typically required to work as a social and human service assistant, and some college training may be preferred. The BLS projects strong job growth for social and human service assistants in the near future, with overall employment expected to increase 28% from 2010-2020. As of May 2011, the BLS reported an average annual salary of about $31,000 for social and human service assistants.

Social and Community Service Manager

Individuals interested in focusing on the administrative side of community service could pursue careers as social and community service managers. Social and community service managers coordinate social service programs by working with various community organizations.

To obtain this position, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree and work experience. The BLS projected 27% job growth for social and community service managers from 2010-2020. The organization also reported an average annual salary of about $63,000 for social and community service managers as of May 2011.

Social Worker

If you're interested in helping individuals locate resources and assisting them through difficult times and crisis situations, consider a career as a social worker. To become a social worker, you need at least a bachelor's degree. If you're interested in becoming a clinical social worker, you're required to obtain a master's degree and state licensure.

According to the BLS, job growth for social workers was predicted to increase 25% from 2010-2020. The average annual salary for social workers, all other, was $54,000 as of May 2011.

Popular Schools

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    1. George Mason University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Health Informatics
      • Master of Science in Health Informatics
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    2. American University

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    Master's
      • Master of Science in Healthcare Management
      • Master of Science in Healthcare Management
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    3. Johns Hopkins University

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    Master's
      • Master of Science in Regulatory Science
      • Master of Science in Regulatory Science
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    4. Keiser University

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    Associate's
      • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant
      • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant
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    5. Grand Canyon University

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    Doctorate
      • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Performance Psychology
      • Doctor of Philosophy in Counselor Education and Supervision
      • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
    Master's
      • MS in Professional Counseling
      • M.S. in Mental Health and Wellness with Emphasis in Grief and Bereavement
      • M.S. in Mental Health and Wellness with Emphasis in Prevention
      • M.S. in Professional Counseling with an Emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy
      • M.S. in Professional Counseling with an Emphasis in Trauma
      • MS in Addiction Counseling
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Counseling - Addiction, Chemical Dependency, and Substance Abuse
      • BS in Health Care Administration
      • BS in Health Sciences: Professional Development & Advanced Patient Care
      • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science
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    6. Herzing University

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    Master's
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Project Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Public Safety Leadership
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Business Management and Public Safety Leadership
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    7. Argosy University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Clinical Psychology (PsyD)
      • Pastoral Community Counseling (EdD)
    Master's
      • Clinical Psychology (MA)
      • Forensic Psychology/Psychophysiology (MA)
      • Clinical Mental Health Counseling (MA)
      • Forensic Psychology (MA)
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    8. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Psychology/General Psychology
      • Master: Psychology/Applied Behavioral Analysis
      • Master: Psychology/Addictions
      • Master of Healthcare Admin
      • Master: Nursing/Nurse Administrator
      • MS in Nursing
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Human Services/Child and Family Welfare
      • BS in Psychology in Addictions
      • Bachelor: Health Science
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    9. University of Delaware

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    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Concentration
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    10. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PhD in Psychology - Mental Health Policy and Practice
      • PhD in Marriage & Family Therapy - Therapy with Military Families
      • PhD in Marriage & Family Therapy - General
      • PhD in Marriage & Family Therapy - Couple Therapy
      • PhD in Marriage & Family Therapy - Medical Family Therapy
      • PhD in Marriage & Family Therapy - Child and Adolescent Therapy
    Master's
      • M.A. in Marriage & Family Therapy
      • MAMFT - Child & Adolescent Family Therapy
      • MAMFT - LGBTQ Couple & Family Therapy
      • MAMFT - Military Family Therapy
      • MS - Organizational Leadership: Health Care Administration
      • MS - Forensic Psychology (MSPSYFS)

Featured Schools

George Mason University

  • Master of Science in Health Informatics

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American University

  • Master of Science in Healthcare Management

What is your highest level of education?

Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Science in Regulatory Science

What is your highest level of education?

Keiser University

  • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Performance Psychology
  • MS in Professional Counseling
  • BS in Counseling - Addiction, Chemical Dependency, and Substance Abuse

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Project Management
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Public Safety Leadership

What is your highest level of education?

Argosy University

  • Clinical Psychology (PsyD)
  • Pastoral Community Counseling (EdD)
  • Clinical Psychology (MA)
  • Forensic Psychology/Psychophysiology (MA)

What is your highest level of education completed?

Kaplan University

  • Master: Psychology/General Psychology
  • Master: Psychology/Applied Behavioral Analysis
  • Bachelor: Human Services/Child and Family Welfare
  • BS in Psychology in Addictions

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