Diabetes Care Specialist Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about diabetes care specialists' job descriptions, salary and training requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of diabetes care specialist careers.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Diabetes Care Specialist

A career in diabetes care encompasses many areas, including diagnostics, education, prevention, nutrition and coping mechanisms. Read on for pros and cons of diabetes care specialist positions to help you decide if this is the right career for you.

Pros of Becoming a Diabetes Care Specialist
Excellent job security (18%-21% job growth projected for various diabetes care specialist careers between 2012 and 2022)*
High average salaries ($55,000 to $195,000 as of May 2014)*
Flexible scheduling*
Variety of career opportunities (doctor, nurse, dietitian, educator)**
Can work in many settings (hospitals, offices, schools, nursing homes)*
Knowledge that you're helping patients control a disease**

Cons of Becoming a Diabetes Care Specialist
Some positions, such as a doctor, require an advanced degree*
May work long, irregular hours*
Can be stressful*
A license is required for some positions**
Need experience in diabetes management for many positions***

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **American Diabetes Association, ***November 2012 job postings

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), diabetes care specialists include counselors, dietitians, doctors, exercise physiologists, nurses, podiatrists and pharmacists who are trained in diabetes care. Your responsibilities will vary depending on your specific job, but your main goal is to help patients manage their diabetes on their own, which includes teaching them to follow a healthy diet, monitor their blood sugar levels, exercise and take their medications. You also might inform people about how they can prevent diabetes, particularly if they have a history of the disease in their family.

You could become an endocrinologist, a doctor who tests for, diagnoses and treat diabetes. Another option is diabetes educator, which would allow you to teach people to live with diabetes and inform the public about risks and complications of the disease. As a registered dietitian, you could teach patients what foods they should eat to be healthier, how to read labels and how to count carbohydrates, which can both prevent the onset of diabetes and treat it.

Career Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that, between 2012 and 2022, employment would increase by about 21% for dietitians, 19% for health educators and 18% for physicians and surgeons; these figures were all faster than the average anticipated job growth. According to the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE), in 2014, roughly 29 million people suffered from diabetes, and an additional 86 million had pre-diabetes. Also, the number of people with diabetes is expected to at least double by 2050, which suggests that employment of diabetes care specialists is likely to increase.

According to the AADE, 61% of its members are nurses, 11% are pharmacists, 25% are dietitians, 3% are other health professionals and 62% are certified diabetes educators. As a diabetes care specialist, you'll likely work in a doctor's office, hospital or other healthcare facility, though you could work in schools, nursing homes or a private office. You'll work with many clients and may need to work long hours, holidays, weekends or evenings.

Salary Info

As of May 2014, dietitians made a median annual salary of about $57,000, health educators earned around $50,000 and physicians and surgeons averaged about $195,000, according to the BLS. As of December 2014, Payscale.com reported that diabetes educators earned an annual salary ranging from around $41,000 to $75,000, while the annual salary for endocrinologists ranged from $118,000 to $223,000.

Training and Licensure Requirements

Diabetes care specialists are part of the medical profession, so you'll need an aptitude for math and science, but beyond that, academic requirements vary greatly. For instance, to become a diabetes educator, you must have at least a bachelor's degree in health education or health promotion, which includes courses in changing health behaviors, drugs in society, health promotion and health education leadership. To work as a dietitian, you need at least a bachelor's degree in dietetics or nutrition and a license. Common bachelor's degree courses in nutrition include food production, nutritional analysis, medical nutrition and culinary skills.

To become an endocrinologist, you must first earn a bachelor's degree, then complete a 4-year Doctor of Medicine (MD) program. These programs generally include courses in foundations of medicine, ethics and neuroscience, as well as rotations in family medicine, obstetrics, gynecology, pediatrics, surgery and psychiatry. Next, you'll earn your medical license and complete a residency and/or fellowship in endocrinology, which is a specialization of internal medicine. This will prepare you to diagnose endocrine and metabolic diseases, conduct diagnostic testing and conduct research that can lead to improved treatment of diabetes and other diseases.

Useful Skills

Aspiring diabetes care specialists should be able to communicate effectively with their patients and make them feel comfortable. Skills they should have include:

  • Communication skills
  • People skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Organizational skills
  • The ability to multitask

Job Postings from Real Employers

For most diabetes specialist care positions, employers are looking for individuals who hold at least a bachelor's degree. They also want people who have experience. Following is a selection of the job postings from November 2012:

  • A Minnesota healthcare group searched for a diabetes prevention program manager who could organize programs, projects and organizations while overseeing the National Diabetes Prevention Program. The ideal candidate would have a bachelor's degree, certification in project management, at least three years of experience working in health and wellness and three years of project management experience.
  • A healthcare services company in Texas wanted to hire a diabetes therapy associate to sell therapeutic treatments to diabetes patients. The employer preferred candidates who had computer skills, the ability to multitask, a bachelor's degree and good interpersonal skills.
  • A Boston healthcare organization was looking for a registered dietitian who could help patients manage diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and hypertension. Applicants needed at least two years of clinical direct patient interaction experience, disease management counseling experience, a master's degree and a state license. The position was part-time, but could have included weekend or holiday requirements.
  • A healthcare group in New York advertised for a diabetes educator who had a bachelor's degree and three years of experience pertaining to diabetes care and education. The professional would be responsible for assessing, implementing and evaluating diabetes education guidelines and sharing these with both medical staff and patients. The employer preferred applications who were bilingual and required that they have Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) certification and good communication skills.
  • A California healthcare facility searched for an endocrinologist who could provide specialty care to numeous patients while working the day shift during the week. The employer required that candidates have a California medical license and 1-3 years of experience. Ideally, the candidate would also be board certified and have experience working in a managed care setting.

How to Beat the Competition

Experience

As evidenced by the job postings above, experience is an important requirement for finding a job in the field of diabetes care. You can acquire this experience by completing relevant clinical experiences and completing internships targeted at diabetes management and education. You can also gain experience in your area of discipline, such as nutrition, nursing or health education, before applying for jobs in diabetes care.

Continuing Education

If you pursue a career as a nurse, health educator or dietitian, you might opt to complete a master's degree program to gain advanced training in diabetes. This targeted training in diabetes management can make you stand out to future employers.

Certification

Certification is not required for most diabetes specialist care positions, but it can demonstrate that you have the knowledge and experience to teach patients to manage diabetes and pre-diabetes. To apply for the CDE credential through the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE), you need at least two years of professional experience and 1,000 hours of diabetes self-management education experience. You must also pass a certification exam.

Alternative Careers

Dialysis Technician

If you're looking for a medical career that requires little education but utilizes some of the same qualities that a diabetes care specialist would display - such as compassion, people skills and the ability to work as part of a team - you might be interested in a dialysis technician position. As a dialysis technician, you'd work under a physician or registered nurse to provide hemodialysis to patients with chronic kidney disease. In addition to monitoring patients throughout treatment, you'd operate and maintain dialysis machines. You also might troubleshoot problems with the machinery. Dialysis technicians must be state certified, a process that typically requires holding a high school diploma and completing training at an end-stage kidney disease facility or postsecondary institution. As of November 2012, dialysis technicians earned a median annual salary of around $33,000, according to Salary.com.

Case Management Nurse

If you'd like a career that will still allow you to help patients manage their healthcare but where you'll have a bit more independence, case management nurse might be a good fit for you. In this position, you would work to ensure that patients receive quality, cost-effective care, which might require researching treatment options and working with insurance companies. You might work with a specific patient population, such as pediatric patients or cancer patients. This position requires an associate or bachelor's degree in nursing and licensure as a registered nurse. According to Salary.com, case management nurses made a median annual salary of approximately $68,000 as of November 2012.

Counseling Psychologist

If you enjoy helping people, but you're not interested in a career in medicine, you could become a counseling psychologist, which involves talking to people about their problems and teaching them to manage them effectively. The BLS states that you must have at least a doctoral degree and a license to work as a psychologist. Employment of clinical, counseling and school psychologists was expected to increase by 22% between 2010 and 2020; the BLS reported that these professionals earned a median annual salary of around $68,000 as of May 2011.