Community health workers are a critical link between social & health services and the community, promoting access to medical care and the community’s well-being.
For those who don’t know how to become a community health specialist, our guide will help you obtain a general idea of what education requirements and skills you need to have.
What Is a Community Health Specialist?
A CHS is a public health professional whose goal is to improve health within the community he/she serves. While some specialists are volunteers, most get paid for their work.
CHSs typically work in accordance with local medical care systems within the community they’re serving. According to the NIH, these workers will share life experiences, socioeconomic status, language, and ethnicity with other members of the community.
CHSs may also have different job titles, such as:
- Peer Health Educator
- Peer Health Promoter
- Community Health Representative
- Outreach Educator
- Lay Health Advocate
- Community Health Advisor
What Does A Community Health Specialist Do?
A CHS is primarily in charge of advocating for the community’s citizens, and their roles vary depending on their position.
For example, those working as advocates for kids will have different specific duties from those working as community health advisors. Still, most CHSs share these responsibilities in common, despite their communities or roles:
- Promoting communication between social & health care organizations and community citizens
- Building a reliable relationship with their community
- Raising people’s understanding of their social & health conditions
- Providing advocacy to those in need of it
- Visiting and paying special attention to the elderly, nursing or pregnant mothers, or high-risk cases
- Holding individual meetings and groups with community members
- Conveying medical care information explicitly and making it easy for citizens to understand
- Determining medical care plans’ eligibility
- Providing simple counseling
- Gathering data to plan out future programs
How to Become a Community Health Specialist?
At a minimum, an entry-level position usually requires an associate degree or high school diploma. Yet, higher-level positions will call for a bachelor’s in a relevant major.
And if you wish to work for a public health agency or the federal government, be prepared to pursue a doctoral or master’s degree.
Get a Bachelor’s Degree
Good education is a crucial element in determining your career success. You can choose to get an undergraduate degree in community health education, health promotion, or a relevant subject.
These programs include practices and theories in the implementation and development of health education. Consumer health, infectious diseases, and epidemiology are common topics included in a typical community health program.
Undergraduate coursework helps students get ready for graduate-level study or beginner positions in public health organizations.
Undergraduate coursework prepares individuals for entry-level positions in community health organizations or graduate education.
Some excellent grads share with us these paramount tips for enriching your education background:
- Register for English and communication classes
CHSs must seize superior oral communication and written skills. Students looking to refine their skills can register for English and communication classes while studying for an undergraduate degree.
- Apply for internships
Internship jobs give you the chance to reinforce knowledge learned at school and gain hands-on experience. Those internship experiences will also be a highlight on your resume and foster your employment prospects.
Gain On-The-Job Experience
Some employers expect the candidate to possess some practical experience, particularly when recruiting for senior positions.
New grads wishing to enrich their experience may volunteer in healthcare settings, like clinics or nursing homes, or participate in internship programs.
Don’t forget to seek the chance to work with particular tasks related to community health care, such as managing groups, public speaking, analyzing data, and writing reports.
As mentioned, we strongly suggest finding an entry-level job that can give you exclusive knowledge and experience in your area.
Build Important Skills
To become an accomplished CHS, you must be adept at the following qualities and skills:
- Analytical skills
Your primary duties are to collect and process data, evaluate programs, and determine the requirements of the citizens you serve. Exceptional analytical skills will come in handy in almost any task.
- Instructional skills
CHSs often need to facilitate discussion with families and clients, lead programs, and teach classes.
Thus, you should be confident speaking in front of the public and possess specific instructional techniques, such as demonstrating, explaining, direction-giving, discussing, and questioning.
- Interpersonal skills
During daily work, you will interact with people from different walks of life and various backgrounds. Thus, ensure you’re a good listener and be selectively considerate when responding to people’s needs.
- Problem-solving skills
Problems may sometimes arise in communicating with clients or planning programs (for example, budget changes or patients’ resistance to a treatment measure).
As a CHS, you must think creatively and quickly about how to cope with a hard situation and enhance the community’s well-being via education programs.
- Writing skills
CHSs must train their writing skills to a cultured level since they will have to work with written materials and convey information every day. Writing proposals to apply for funding and develop programs also calls for such qualities.
It’s not mandatory to get certified, yet professional certification will help you grab the attention of recruiters from reputable companies.
The CHES examination includes 165 questions testing your advocating, communicating, implementing, and planning health education. Those who want to take this exam must get a bachelor’s at a minimum.
To prepare for the exam, we advise visiting the NCHEC website and studying recommended reading, practice test questions, and guides available there.
Consider Pursuing an Advanced Degree
If you’re ambitious for your career and aim for an advanced position in the private sectors or governmental organizations, then a master’s degree has to be your next goal.
Many advanced programs cover concentration areas, including health policy & management, global health, epidemiology, and environmental health.
Apart from coursework like industrial hygiene, program planning & funding, biostatistics, or urban health education, students may also need to accomplish fieldwork.
Average Community Health Specialist Salary
According to Glassdoor, an average CHS can earn $38,206 a year in 2022, and this field will see a 17%-increase in the labor force between 2020 and 2030 – higher than most professions in the public health domain.
Salaries for CHSs will vary depending on many elements, including the specific roles and duties, location, and who or which company they work for.
Community health professionals work in close association with the communities they serve. They are dedicated to enhancing the quality of healthcare delivery, improving humans’ well-being, and raising awareness of health & social problems in their communities.If you desire to be part of this emerging workforce and contribute to society’s welfare, stick to our guide and find yourself suitable community health specialist jobs.