Diabetes Counselor: Training, Certification & Job Description

A diabetes counselor educates patients on how to manage their medical condition. Find out more about what a diabetes counselor does, the training needed, and certification requirements, so you can determine whether this is the right career for you. Schools offering Mental Health Counseling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Diabetes counselors work with diagnosed diabetes patients to help them manage their disease. They develop management plans and counsel patients on how to make lifestyle changes. Find out more about this career in the following table.

Required Degree Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Nursing, social work, public health, health education, other health-related fields
Key Skills Communication, analytical, problem-solving, teaching, compassion, writing
Certification Certification optional; may be required by some employers
Job Growth (2016-2026) 14% (health educators)*
Median Salary (2019) $64,140 (diabetes educator)**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS); **PayScale

What Does a Diabetes Counselor Do?

A diabetes counselor has a defined role as a diabetes educator and plays a role in the care and education of diabetes patients. They meet with patients, families, and caregivers to assess healthcare needs in relation to diabetes and help patients develop a management plan. Diabetes counselors show patients how to measure their blood sugar levels, take insulin, and develop healthy dietary and exercise habits. They monitor a patient's progress and make changes to the plan as needed. Diabetes counselors also develop educational materials and provide diabetes training in a group setting.

What Are the Education and Training Requirements?

At minimum, diabetes counselors should have a bachelor's degree in a health-related field, such as nursing, public health, or health education. Many employers require a master's degree, and some may require a doctoral degree. Students should complete programs that cover topics such as health behavioral theory, health education methods, and development of health education materials. Many programs include an internship or fieldwork. Diabetes counselors who have a professional degree, such as nursing, social work, or clinical psychology, should have the appropriate license for their profession.

Diabetes counselors typically receive on-the-job training specific to managing and educating diabetes patients. This includes training in communication and outreach to this population.

Is Certification Required?

While certification is not required, diabetes counselors may choose to become certified by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). Some employers may also require this certification. This is not an entry-level certification, and diabetes counselors must meet certain requirements. These requirements in 2019 include a license or registration/certification in a related field, such as medicine, pharmacy, nutrition, or health education; a master's degree in social work is another alternative. Also required are two years professional experience, 1,000 hours of experience as a diabetes counselor, 15 continuing education hours, and successful completion of the Certification Examination for Diabetes Educators. Those who are eligible and pass the exam can use the Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) designation. This certification must be renewed every five years.

Where Do Diabetes Counselors Work?

Diabetes counselors work in a wide variety of settings, both public and private. Many work in healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, clinics, and physician offices. Diabetes counselors can be found in nonprofit organizations, colleges, pharmacies, and public health departments. Some work for the employee health departments of private enterprises. Health insurance companies also employee diabetes counselors to help their patients enroll in disease management programs.

What Are the Salary and Job Outlook?

Jobs for health educators, which include diabetes counselors, are expected to grow by 14% from 2016 to 2026, says the BLS. This increase will occur as organizations strive to improve health outcomes while reducing healthcare costs. Qualified diabetes counselors will be needed to teach patients healthy behaviors to manage their diabetes and to navigate the healthcare system. As of 2019, PayScale listed the yearly median salary for diabetes educators as $64,140.

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