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

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Liberty University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • EDD: Community Care & Counseling: Traumatology
      • PHD: Counselor Education and Supervision
      • DBA: Healthcare Management
    Master's
      • MA: Pastoral Counseling: Community Chaplaincy
      • MA: Pastoral Counseling: Theology
      • MA: Marriage and Family Therapy
      • MA: Professional Counseling
      • MS: Criminal Justice: Forensic Psychology
      • MS: Healthcare Administration: 42-hour
    Bachelor's
      • BS: Social Work
      • BS: Psychology: Addiction and Recovery
      • BS: Psychology - Christian Counseling
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Performance Psychology
      • Doctor of Philosophy in Counselor Education and Supervision
    Master's
      • M.S. in Mental Health and Wellness with an Emphasis in Integrated Health
      • MS in Professional Counseling
      • 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
      • M.S. in Mental Health and Wellness
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Counseling - Addiction, Chemical Dependency, and Substance Abuse
      • B.S. in Behavioral Health Science with an Emphasis in Substance Use Disorders
      • BS in Health Care Administration
      • BS in Health Sciences: Professional Development & Advanced Patient Care
      • B.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Forensic Psychology
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Winthrop University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Social Work
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Purdue University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Psychology/Applied Behavioral Analysis
      • Master: Psychology/Addictions
      • Master of Healthcare Admin
      • MS in Nursing
      • MS in Educational Psychology
      • MBA: Health Care Management
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Psychology in Addictions
      • Master of Healthcare Admin
      • Bachelor: Healthcare Admin
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate in Addictions
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Saybrook University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision.
    Master's
      • M.A. in Counseling
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Walden University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PhD in Clinical Psychology - General
      • PhD in Clinical Psychology - Health Psychology
      • PhD in Clinical Psychology - Teaching Psychology
      • PhD in Clinical Psychology - Forensic Psychology
      • PhD in Clinical Psychology - Industrial & Organizational Psychology
      • PhD in Forensic Psychology - Criminal Justice
    Master's
      • MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling - Addiction Counseling
      • MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling - Forensic Counseling
      • MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling - General Program
      • MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling - Military Families & Culture
      • MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling - Trauma & Crisis Counseling
      • MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling - Marriage, Couple & Family Counseling
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Psychology - Clinical Mental Health (MS AIM Track)
      • Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) - General
      • BS in Psychology - Addictions
      • BS Healthcare Management
      • BS in Psychology - Forensic Psychology
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Herzing University

    Program Options

    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
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Florida Tech

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BA in Applied Psychology/Clinical Psychology
      • BA in Applied Psychology/Forensic Psychology
    Associate's
      • AA in Healthcare Management
  • Campus and Online Programs
    9. The Chicago School

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Dual Enrollment: Master of Health Service Administration and Master of Public Health
      • Master of Health Services Administration
      • M.A. Clinical Mental Health Counseling
      • M.A. Forensic Psychology
  • Online Programs Available
    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
      • Master of Social Work
      • M.A. in Marriage & Family Therapy
      • MAMFT - Child & Adolescent Family Therapy
      • MAMFT - LGBTQ Couple & Family Therapy
      • MAMFT - Military Family Therapy
      • Master of Arts in Psychology - Marriage and Family Therapy

Featured Schools

Liberty University

  • EDD: Community Care & Counseling: Traumatology
  • MA: Pastoral Counseling: Community Chaplaincy
  • BS: Social Work

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Performance Psychology
  • M.S. in Mental Health and Wellness with an Emphasis in Integrated Health
  • BS in Counseling - Addiction, Chemical Dependency, and Substance Abuse

What is your highest level of education?

Winthrop University

  • Master of Social Work

What is your highest level of education?

Purdue University Global

  • Master: Psychology/Applied Behavioral Analysis
  • BS in Psychology in Addictions
  • Graduate Certificate in Addictions

Which subject are you interested in?

Saybrook University

  • Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision.
  • M.A. in Counseling

What is your highest level of education completed?

Walden University

  • PhD in Clinical Psychology - General
  • MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling - Addiction Counseling
  • BS in Psychology - Clinical Mental Health (MS AIM Track)

What is your highest level of education completed?

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?

Florida Tech

  • BA in Applied Psychology/Clinical Psychology
  • BA in Applied Psychology/Forensic Psychology
  • AA in Healthcare Management

What is your highest level of education completed?