Community Health Worker (CHW): Salary and Career Facts

Explore the career requirements for community health workers. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary, and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Medical Social Work degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Community Health Worker Do?

Community health workers help individuals and communities practice healthy behaviors and lifestyles in order to improve their quality of life. They serve as a link between the public and healthcare facilities. Job duties for this profession may include collecting data, organizing resources, overseeing health staff and answering community members' questions. These workers may advocate for health and social services on behalf of the community and present research findings to governmental bodies for review. Community health workers need to have excellent communication skills and a thorough understanding of public health education and policies.

Review the chart below to get more information about entering this field.

Education Required High school diploma or equivalent and on-the-job training; postsecondary education may be helpful
Education Field of Study Health education, health promotion
Key Responsibilities Teach people about essential healthcare services, help people locate health services
Certification Voluntary certification available
Job Growth (2014-24) 15%*
Median Salary (2015) $36,300*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Community Health Worker?

Community health workers provide the public with information on health and other social issues that affect a community. Working as a CHW, you might conduct wellness screenings in cooperation with clinics or hospitals. You also might work as an advocate to help improve conditions in a community, such as providing better access to quality childcare.

Because these workers go out into their communities to advise and assess needs, your duties might include helping people, such as the elderly or low-income residents, who have difficulty accessing conventional health care facilities. Your work might include assisting residents in finding social, government and medical support services.

How Can I Prepare for This Career?

To work in this field, you should be compassionate, able to objectively evaluate and assess the needs of individuals and the community, and interested in health and other social issues, such as community development and wellness. It might be helpful to have a background in organizing and leading groups of people through activities like teaching, scouting or volunteering with community organizations.

Nursing, medical assisting or other public health experience also might be beneficial. You can find a variety of community health certificate and degree programs, including an Associate of Science in Community Health and a Bachelor of Science in Public Health. These programs cover topics like cultural diversity, stress management and health services.

Where Might I Work?

Community health workers are generally employed by government or nonprofit agencies, such as hospitals, public outreach centers or homeless shelters. In this position, you might work with other healthcare, human resource or social service workers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that employment for community health workers could grow by 15% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). Most CHWs earned a median salary of $36,300 as of 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are numerous other careers that involve working directly with the community, although many require at least a bachelor's degree level of education. However, if you have a high school diploma or equivalent, you could also be a social and human services assistant, helping the general public access social and community services in a wide range of contexts. If you have attained a bachelor's degree, you may want to consider becoming a substance abuse counselor and helping people deal with addictions to drugs or alcohol. Substance abuse counselors may be involved in many different social services programs, working with people individually and within the context of group therapy.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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