Academic Requirements

Community Health Worker (CHW) training and educational requirements vary across states, cities, employers and employment sectors.  Until recently, the CHW field lacked unified training standards, so trainings tended to be generally local and sometimes employer driven.  The NYS CHW Initiative recently published recommendations for CHW training and credentialing based on the existing evidence base and their own original research. The training recommendations directly address the skills necessary to conduct the CHW scope of practice and the stated needs of both CHWs and their employers. The recommendations include guidance on CHW training content and methodology with deep roots in adult learning methods and popular education philosophies. 

A few states have regulated CHW training through various methods including legislative and policy initiatives, yet there are very limited examples that follow the recommendations in published "promising practices."   Until a national CHW scope of work is agreed upon the development of a nationally recognized curriculum framework will continue to vary by states.  Recently, however, states are starting to develop training and credentialing criteria more informed by CHW leadership and by documented "promising practices."  The setting of CHW training programs also varies widely.  Some states have developed college-based training while others have implemented community-based training resources.

Today, CHWs are increasingly recognized for their contribution to community organizing, increasing access to health and improving health outcomes. This increased attention to the CHW role by health care providers, community organizations and government officials has created interest in providing appropriate training and supervision.

Qualifications for CHWs vary widely. Some employers require only a high school diploma, while others require a college degree. CHWs typically receive up to 100 hours of additional training on the job, through classroom study, job mentoring or a combination. CHWs are not licensed, but continuing education requirements may be set by the employer. Several states have begun to develop credentialing programs for CHWs.

An effort is underway to develop state and national standards for training and capacity building for CHWs. One initiative in particular is focused primarily on collecting and sharing "promising practices" among CHWs to ensure that training benefits from and is responsive to the experiences, needs and knowledge level of CHWs.