Finding a job that allows you to earn a good salary is only one part of finding a great career. You’ll also want to look into the job stability, the benefits package offered, and the ability to enjoy personal rewards and satisfaction. Community health workers enjoy all of these things, and are able to help their communities in a variety of ways while earning pay that is above the national average.
It’s a job with plenty of rewards, and also one that is easier to enter than some other professions in the medical field. With that in mind, here’s a closer look at what community health workers do and what the job may offer to you.
What Is a Community Health Worker?
A community health worker is someone who works to improve the overall health and wellbeing of a community’s population through several different steps. Most notably, they focus on outreach, education, counseling, and social support to help out the population. Their specific role will vary depending on their location and the problems within the area, and as such those who are community health workers will usually have a wide range of different tasks that they need to complete in any position.
Potential job duties for a community health worker include:
- Study and identify the different health related issues that exist in a community
- Develop tools, strategies, and resources that can help with those problems
- Work to deliver those tools or education to those in need
- Coordinate with other officials and health experts in the area to improve health in the region
- Boost communication between the health care facilities in the area and those in need of health care
- Help families understand and improve their access to insurance, food, health care, and even housing
Usually, community health workers focus on helping underprivileged communities. They may work in areas where health care is difficult to acquire, where financial struggles directly impact health, or where other issues exist.
Working in the field requires several different things, and having strength in a few particular areas is important. Here’s a look at some of the personal traits that can help you thrive in the role:
- Good Communication – You’ll need to be able to adequately explain your strategies to colleagues, and help those you’re helping understand more about what they can do for themselves.
- Good Problem Solving – Being able to identify issues and figure out how to overcome them is important. Strong problem solving skills are a must.
- Confidence – Your ideas may have a big impact on the community you’re trying to help. As such, being confident in your own abilities is vital.
Nature of the Work
As mentioned above, the nature of the work varies depending on where you are. Office work is a major part of your day, reviewing information and using it to develop different strategies for improving health in a community. But you’ll also likely visit those in the community, going to their homes or delivering educational resources and presentations at schools or community events. You may work with others to help strategize and implement health programs or initiatives, as well.
Usually, community health workers are employed by a government – either local, state, or federal. Some private companies may hire them as well, but it is rare.
Education and Training
The requirements for entering the field as a community health worker vary greatly depending on the state and city you work in. Different employers have different requirements, but in general you’ll want to earn a college degree. Some schools actually offer a community health program while in other cases earning a bachelor’s or even a master’s in a related field – like public health – will be the key to entering the field. Usually, on the job training is common and allows community health workers to continue mastering their skills while helping others. Unlike other professions in the health field, there are no specific certification or education rules.
Salaries for those entering the field are around $35,000 to $42,000, with those in management level positions earning about $60,000 annually. The specific pay will depend on the part of the country you’re employed in, your specific employer, your experience, and more. The job is still very in demand, and likely will be for years to come.