How to become a community health worker

June 13, 2023 · 4 min read · By ASU Online
A community health worker plays an essential role in serving the health and wellness needs of the areas they live. Learn all about community health workers do, how to become one, and the online bachelor's in community health that can prepare you for the role.

Who can someone turn to when they need to set up a doctor’s appointment but don’t know how to navigate the modern health care system? Or if someone seeking prenatal care doesn’t speak the local language, how do they gain access to the medical services they need?

These are just two of many such examples of why community health workers are indispensable resources to their neighbors.


What is a community health worker?

Modern health care extends beyond the hospital and into our very neighborhoods. Whether it means ensuring everyone has access to nutritious and fresh foods, or providing vulnerable populations with preventative checkups, health care is acommunity matter.

A community health worker plays an important role in serving the health and wellness needs of a community. This involves maintaining and improving the overall standard of public health.

Community health workers often live in the communities they serve and typically receive lower levels of formal education and training than professional health workers such as nurses and doctors. As the World Health Organization noted, "This human resource group has enormous potential to extend health care services to vulnerable populations, such as communities living in remote areas and historically marginalized people, to meet unmet health needs in a culturally appropriate manner, improve access to services, address inequities in health status and improve health system performance and efficiency."


Types of community health worker jobs and responsibilities

Job titles such as health care educator, community health supervisor, health services administrator and more can fall under the umbrella of community health worker.

They might be working independently or within an organization to provide the health care education, resources and treatments the community in their care requires. They might also assist or lead a community response to a health care emergency.

Other job responsibilities may include:

  • Ensuring seniors have appointments for and access to annual vaccines and boosters.
  • Coordinating the consistent supply of healthy food to a vulnerable, undernourished community. 
  • Develop health literacy in the community in the form of obesity screenings, anti-smoking education, injury prevention guidance and nutritional counseling, to name a few.
  • Collecting and making sense of data on health in the community and using it to make decisions and set up programs that best serve those in the area.

A must for community health workers is excellent communication skills. Being multilingual is a bonus as some community health workers offer translation and interpretation services as part of their role.


Community health worker salary and job outlook

Demand for community health workers will only continue to grow in the foreseeable future, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS). The BLS projects the rate of employment for health education specialists and community health workers to grow 12% between 2021 and 2031, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. The median annual salary for a community health worker in 2021 was $48,860, according to the BLS.


The benefits of a college degree for community health workers

When you study for a degree in community health care, you’ll gain experience in advocacy services, care coordination, disease management, health care navigation, health education, health promotion and more. These are all critical areas of knowledge that can solidify your understanding of complex issues that arise in the course of your career.

You may take courses that explore ethics for health care professionals and statistics for social workers, as well as social statistics. You'll learn about the health care systems that are currently in place and how different health care organizations work together. You'll study the fundamentals of community health and learn about leadership in community health. You may also be required to take science courses such as psychology, chemistry, microbiology, human anatomy and physiology.

Taking these introductory science courses is not the same as studying to become a nurse or a doctor. A community health degree is not the same as a nursing degree and is not counted as a step toward getting a nursing license.


Earn your online community health degree from Arizona State University

ASU Online offers a Bachelor of Science in community health that aims to develop leaders who are dedicated to addressing health challenges at their source while also creating partnerships to leverage resources. One of the benefits of this program is it provides you with the opportunity to pursue internships with community agencies in your home area.

Another benefit is that graduates of this program are qualified to take the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES®) exam, a nationally recognized credential that offers a competitive edge to job seekers in the health care field.

The Bachelor of Science in community health can be completed as part of ASU’s Accelerated Master’s program, wherein you can obtain both a bachelor's in community health and master's in either health care innovation or aging in as little as five years.

Everything you need to know about ASU Online classes and degree programs

We’ve compiled what you need to know about online classes and degree programs at Arizona State University. Read on to learn all about what to expect from the ASU Online learning experience.


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