A diabetes educator collects blood from a patients hand with a fingerstick

A certified diabetes educator could...

Help a person with diabetes understand when they should give themselves an insulin injection. A person injecting themselves with an insulin pen Help a person with diabetes come up with guidelines for a diet. Piles of various fruits and vegetables on a table
Show a child who has type I diabetes how to monitor their blood glucose levels. A blood glucose monitor held against a persons fingertip Perform regular health assessments on a patient with diabetes. A nurse uses a blood pressure monitor on the upper arm of a patient
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Key Facts & Information

Overview Who does a diabetic turn to if they have questions or do not understand how to manage their disease? They consult a certified diabetes educator. These diabetes experts work with people who have diabetes (or pre-diabetes) so they know how to manage their condition. This can include educating people about how to measure and control their blood sugar levels, giving specific diet and exercise recommendations, and providing emotional support. Certified diabetes educators present health information in ways that their audience can relate to, and are sensitive to cultural differences.
Key Requirements Ability to understand and process health information, analytical skills, ability to explain scientific ideas in everyday language, outstanding communication skills, ability to comfortably speak to groups or to individuals, and sensitivity to cultural differences
Minimum Degree Bachelor's degree
Subjects to Study in High School Biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, algebra II, pre-calculus, English; if available, computer science, physiology, statistics, foreign languages, public speaking
Median Salary
Certified Diabetes Educator
U.S. Mean Annual Wage
Min Wage
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) Faster than Average (14% to 20%) In Demand!
  • Watch this interview to hear why Cheryl Williams, a certified diabetes educator at The Longstreet Clinic, chose this career.
  • Read about Joanne Rinker, a certified diabetes educator who was named the 2013 Diabetes Educator of the Year by the American Association of Diabetes Educators.
Related Occupations
Source: O*Net

Training, Other Qualifications

To become a certified diabetes educator, a person usually starts out working in a health-related field, and then specializes as a certified diabetes educator. Before specializing, the person is often a pharmacist, dietitian, registered nurse, or physical therapist, but other careers are also suitable for specialization as a certified diabetes educator.

Two years of professional practice, at least 1000 hours of diabetes self-management education, and continuing education related to diabetes are required for certification, which is awarded by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators in the United States.

Education and Training

To become a certified diabetes educator, several requirements must be met, although the path a person chooses is rather flexible:

  • Four years of health-related education in a college or university, resulting in a Bachelor's degree.
  • Additional education and/or training in a relevant health- or medical-related discipline, specifically to become one of the following professions:
  • At least two years of experience in a professional practice as one of the above professions.
  • At least 1000 hours of diabetes self-management education.
  • At least 15 hours of continuing education related to diabetes.

Other Qualifications

People who want to become a certified diabetes educator must be comfortable working with both individuals and large groups. They need to be excellent communicators and comfortable speaking in public, as they may need to teach classes or give presentations. Certified diabetes educators often work with a very diverse population, so they must be sensitive to cultural differences. They should also be self-motivated, sympathetic, responsible, detail-oriented, and emotionally stable to cope with human suffering, emergencies, and other stresses. Certified diabetes educators often create new programs or materials, so they should also have some creativity and be skilled writers.

Nature of the Work

A certified diabetes educator is a professional from a health-related discipline who has specially trained in educating people with diabetes (or pre-diabetes) about how to treat their condition on a day-to-day basis.

A certified diabetes educator will educate people with different types of diabetes, primarily pre-diabetes, type I diabetes, type II diabetes, and gestational diabetes (a type of diabetes that first occurs during pregnancy). A certified diabetes educator may also try to educate other people about diabetes—such as family members of a person who has diabetes—to help them understand how best to care for the diabetic family member. Certified diabetes educators also often prepare and give presentations about diabetes at schools to help students better understand the condition and treatments. In fact, there has been an increased push for these professionals to educate others about preventative care, focusing especially on communities that are at higher risk of developing type II diabetes, making this a high-growth aspect for certified diabetes educators.

Watch this video by Nurses Talk to see Suzanne Williamson, a certified diabetes educator and registered nurse, talk about what it takes to become a certified diabetes educator and the benefits of pursuing such a career.

After a person has been diagnosed with diabetes by a medical doctor, they may meet with a certified diabetes educator to help educate them about what they should do to manage their condition. This includes discussing what diabetes is and how it is caused so that the person can better understand what is happening in their body, as well as showing the person how to measure their blood glucose levels and administer their own insulin injections. The certified diabetes educator will also talk to them about their lifestyle, dietary habits, physical activity levels, and any other complicating factors specific to that person, as well as how all of these components may need to be adjusted due to their diabetes diagnosis.

After a person who has been newly diagnosed with diabetes has met one-on-one with a certified diabetes educator, that person may then go on to attend larger group meetings where the certified diabetes educator works to educate several people diagnosed with diabetes at the same time. However, the certified diabetes educator is usually always available for one-on-one calls or meetings if a person has specific diabetes-related concerns or issues they want to discuss.

Overall, the primary goal of the certified diabetes educator is to improve the quality of life of people diagnosed with diabetes by educating them about their condition and its proper management.

Work Environment

Certified diabetes educators work in various environments, depending on the industry in which they work. In public health, nonprofit organizations, private businesses (such as a gym), and medical care settings (such as hospitals and small practices), certified diabetes educators primarily work in offices. They may work closely with medical physicians to understand a specific patient's condition. They will also likely spend time in a medical office or facility to show diabetic patients how to use medical devices (such as to measure glucose levels and give insulin injections). They may also spend time away from the office implementing and attending programs, meeting with organizers to give presentations, or teaching classes in a classroom or other setting.

Certified diabetes educators generally work 40-hour weeks; however, when programs, events, or meetings are scheduled, they may need to work evening or weekends. They may travel between different locations, such as between a private office, a hospital or other medical facility, and a location where they will give a presentation (such as a school or medical conference room).

On the Job

  • Explain how diabetes treatments and drugs work to people who do not have a medical background.
  • Review a diabetic patient's medical records to fully understand their situation.
  • Show a newly diagnosed diabetic patient how to measure their blood glucose levels, and tell them about the ranges they may expect to see.
  • Talk to a newly diagnosed diabetic patient about what to do in a diabetes-related emergency.
  • Show a newly diagnosed diabetic patient how to administer their own insulin injections.
  • Help a newly diagnosed diabetic patient (and possibly their family) understand diabetes and its many components, such as causes and self-management, which includes how they may need to modify their lifestyle, dietary habits, and physical activity levels.
  • Apply knowledge about how different medical drugs for treating diabetes can affect a patient and what to be careful of.
  • Check to make sure that a treatment plan for a given diabetic patient works with any other complicating factors they may have, such as other medical conditions or prescription drugs.
  • Perform regular health assessments of diabetic patients.
  • Develop and give a presentation to a large group of diabetic patients to help them better understand diabetes.
  • Develop and give a presentation on basic diabetes information to the general public or a classroom and cover such topics as the different types of diabetes, their causes, and treatments.
  • Prepare and distribute diabetes education materials, including reports, bulletins, and visual aids such as films, videotapes, photographs, and posters.
  • Manage frequent one-on-one calls with individual diabetic patients who have concerns or issues they want to discuss.
  • Maintain databases, mailing lists, telephone networks, and other information to facilitate the functioning of diabetes education programs.
  • Develop, prepare, and coordinate grant applications and grant-related activities to obtain funding for diabetes education programs and related work.
  • Develop and maintain diabetes education libraries to provide resources for staff and community agencies.

Companies That Hire Certified Diabetes Educators

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