Bachelor's in Human Development and Family Studies

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What Do Community Health Workers Do?

Each community has its own health concerns, ranging from tobacco use and obesity to heart disease and stroke. Students who are interested in combating those challenges by eliminating health disparities, promoting wellness, and strengthening community relationships among underserved populations will likely be drawn to a career in community health.

Community health worker greets a community member during a home visit

So, what do community health workers do?  Completing a specialized education program, such as an online bachelor’s in human development and family studies, can help graduates gain the knowledge and skills needed to pursue jobs in this field.

Possible Work Settings for Community Health Workers

 Professionals who choose this career path may work in a variety of settings in the public, private, or nonprofit sectors. Although most work in offices, community health workers may spend significant time in the community holding events, overseeing educational programs, and attending meetings.

Work settings for community health workers include the following:

  • Outpatient care facilities
  • Individual and family services centers
  • State, local, and private hospitals
  • Public and private senior care facilities
  • Nonprofit organizations

Community Health Worker Job Responsibilities

Individuals who are interested in community health should know the roles and responsibilities of this profession are often tailored to the communities they serve. What community health workers do may also vary based on their place of employment — hospital vs. social service agency, for example. Job duties may include the following:

  • Advocating for a community’s health needs and developing ways to connect vulnerable populations with healthcare services
  • Collecting data about the health disparities in the community to aid the development of outreach and educational programs
  • Facilitating communication with healthcare providers by providing interpretation and translation services
  • Providing culturally appropriate information about healthier lifestyle choices
  • Conducting outreach programs about the importance of nutrition, physical activity, smoking cessation, and other topics linked with chronic disease prevention
  • Holding workshops to discuss how a community can adopt healthy behaviors
  • Researching and discussing health concerns with community members
  • Tracking individuals’ progress toward meeting their health goals

Fundamental Skills for Community Health Workers

Community health workers should understand how to take action to promote the health and well-being of the population they serve. Consequently, students who wish to pursue this career path need to develop a variety of skills to be successful. Those skills include:

  • Advocacy: Professionals who choose this career path will need to understand how to advocate for the specialized healthcare needs of the communities they serve.
  • Assessment: Community healthcare workers should know how to identify and assess healthcare disparities in a community, which will help in the development and implementation of programs to address those needs.
  • Interpersonal and Communication Skills: Relaying and receiving information is a critical part of what community health workers do. Individuals who want to pursue this career should focus on developing active listening skills as well as written and verbal communication skills.
  •  Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving: Professionals in this field often need to use logic and reason to pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of community health. It’s also important they be adept problem solvers, able to retool teaching and outreach programs that need improvement.
  • Cultural Competence: Community healthcare workers should understand how to develop and implement culturally competent programs and services that meet the linguistic, social, and cultural needs of the communities they serve.

Salary Range for Community Health Workers

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that as of May 2019 the median wage for community health workers was $40,360 annually. Those in the bottom 10% reported annual earnings of $26,660, while the top 10% reported annual earnings of more than $68,350 per year. Top earners often have advanced education and years of work experience in the field.

Many factors influence the salaries of community health workers, including whether the position is in a high-cost-of-living area such as San Francisco, or a lower-cost-of-living area such as El Paso, Texas. Other factors, such as an individual’s years of experience and whether they’ve completed a bachelor’s or master’s degree, also play a role in annual compensation rates.

Community Health Worker Job Outlook

The BLS projects employment of community health workers will grow by 11% between 2018 and 2028, much faster than the average for all other occupations. Efforts to improve community health outcomes and reduce healthcare costs with behaviors such as exercising, smoking cessation, and healthy eating will drive this growth.

Job prospects will be best for individuals who have a formal education and experience working with a specific population, such as veterans or various minority groups. Enhanced opportunities are expected to be available for professionals who understand the culture of the community they intend to serve and who speak a relevant foreign language.

Your Path Toward a Career as a Community Health Worker Starts at Maryville University

Individuals who want to explore what community health workers do may be drawn toward a degree program in a related field, such as Maryville University’s online bachelor’s in human development and family studies.

This dynamic program not only provides students with a comprehensive view of human nature, it prepares graduates with the knowledge and skills to combat health disparities in underserved communities.

Are you ready to get started? Discover how the Maryville online bachelor’s in human development and family studies can help prepare you for the career you want.

 Recommended Readings
Risk Management in Healthcare

The Future of Healthcare: Trends, Technology & New Skills for Success

The Future of Public Health: Skills for Helping Communities Thrive

Sources
Career Explorer, “What Does a Community Health Worker Do?”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Community Health Worker (CHW) Toolkit

National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, Role of Community Health Workers

Rural Health Information Hub, Community Health Workers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Health Educators and Community Health Workers