Most Important Job Skills To Build a CHW Career Path

Employment for community health workers is looking up. More organizations are looking for ways to include CHWs and provide more CHW core competency training for internal staff. This is good news for anyone looking to put themselves on a CHW career path while improving health outcomes for their community.

Careful planning of a CHW career path can allow anyone who starts with an entry-level job to expand it into a rewarding career. As need for this role keeps growing, CHWs can not only increase the health knowledge of their community members but also increase their own reach to more people and other job opportunities.

CHW Job Outlook

The statistics are inspiring. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for CHWs are expected to rise 18.1% by 2026. That means that an estimated 10,400 jobs should open up. Also, salaries for already employed CHWs are increasing. Wages are good, with a median of $19.01 per hour, or $39,540 annually.

Acquiring the skills to become a CHW can open the door to a profitable and secure career.

Building a CHW career path–rather than just finding an entry-level job—involves understanding the core competencies and what kinds of skills are useful for ongoing growth.

In order to earn a profitable job and build a lasting career, current and prospective CHWs need to keep their health and professional skills sharp. They need to take extra training and prove their knowledge and expertise through certification. A CHWTraining learning subscription offers complete, up-to-date training for employers who want to provide staff with foundational skills and knowledge of specific health topics, such as diabetes or breast cancer.

We created the quick guide below as a tool for employers who want to build sustainable training programs and CHWs who want to understand the job qualifications.

CHW Core Competencies

CHWs are employed in every state of the US (except South Dakota, for which no data is available), according to the BLS. Each state has independent job requirements, which vary from college degrees that take multiple years to complete to on-the-job training. Some states require certification, and some employers require certificates of completion to show successful training.

CHW jobs by state

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

However, there are some similarities among all the differences related to core competencies, which are available through CHWTraining’s Learning Tracks. The following are common skills required by many programs and advisory committees. Here are some CHW core competency training areas common among the Washington State Department of Health’s CHW program, the Roles and Competencies from the Community Health Worker Core Consensus (C3) Project, the US Department of Labor Employment & Training Administration, and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. You can compare more national requirements at State Community Health Worker Models from the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP).

CHW Training Guide

Core CompetencyExample Skills
Advocacy Skills/Capacity Building SkillsEmpower clients, motivate people to manage their own health and advocate for themselves, help people reach their goals, support behavior change, identify and overcome barriers, understand community cultures and ways to reach members.
Care Coordination or Service Coordination and System NavigationNavigate systems and collaborate with partners to connect clients to resources; help service providers work together; tell systems about needs of people; help develop and implement care plans.
Communication SkillsListening skills, language skills, building rapport, using nonverbal communication, resolving and avoiding conflict, understanding and working within culturally diverse communities.
Cultural Humility/Cultural ResponsivenessServe as a bridge between different cultures, translate healthy behaviors into culturally appropriate equivalents, understand and work to reduce health disparities, use cultural sensitivities for all diverse groups, behave respectfully, identify bias.
Education and Facilitation SkillsUse various ways to deliver health information clearly, explain terms in plain language, promote healthy behavior change, find and use resources to develop self-efficacy skills.
Evaluation and ResearchIdentify issues in communities and their causes, conduct evaluation projects, collect data, share results, communicate to stakeholders to make changes in services.
Experience and Knowledge BaseFully understand the community, including social determinants of health, health issues, ways to improve health and self-care, and basic public-health principles; understand how US social-service systems work.
Individual and Community Assessment and Direct ServicesIdentify needs, strengths and resources of communities; help meet needs; help clients understand their needs and overcome barriers; provide social and health support.
Interpersonal and Relationship-Building SkillsEstablishing trust with people and in communities, being open-minded, using Motivational Interviewing techniques.
Outreach Skills, Methods and StrategiesDevelop and implement outreach plans, share information about programs and resources, create and maintain relationships with community members and partners.
Professional Skills and ConductUnderstand and handle legal and ethical challenges, respect confidentiality and privacy rights, respond appropriately in complex situations, understand and follow agency rules.