How Do I Become a Diabetes Care and Education Specialist?
This is a question we frequently get. It is a challenging one to answer because there is no universal route to becoming a diabetes care and education specialist (DCES), formerly known as a diabetes educator.
Members of this specialty encompass a diverse set of health disciplines, including nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, physicians, mental health professionals, podiatrists, optometrists, exercise physiologists and others. At some point in their career, they choose to specialize in diabetes education.
Talk with any diabetes care and education specialist and they will tell you it was their calling and they could not think of doing anything else, professionally.
"I was interested in diabetes from the time I was a young girl, due to my grandmother having diabetes. Then in college, I had a good friend with Type 1 diabetes who was involved in a fatal car accident due to hypoglycemia. As I started my career in nursing, I knew that I wanted to help make a difference in the lives of people with diabetes. I have stayed in diabetes care and education for almost my entire career for that same reason and also because it has been so exciting to see the diabetes management treatments and tools advance so dramatically over the years."
- Patty Scalzo, MSN, NP, RN, CDCES
"I landed in diabetes education by accident. The first job happened to be at a diabetes center. I became a pump specialist and was part of a team doing research with the implantable insulin pump. I loved diabetes care because there are so many different things you can do in the field and so many people who need help. I worked for industry for a few years and ran a DSMES program after that role. I loved the technology training aspect of it too. And working in chronic disease allowed me to form long term relationships with my clients and see them changing and flourishing over time. I was not made for acute care!"
- Jodi Lavin-Tompkins, MSN, RN, BC-ADM, CDCES
Diabetes Education-Specific Credentials
While not always feasible for all practitioners, ADCES recommends all diabetes care and education specialists pursue specialty certifications, such as the Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES), previously referred to as Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE), and/or become Board Certified-Advanced Diabetes Management (BC-ADM). Learn more about these credentials and their requirements.
Currently there are no bachelor’s degree programs for diabetes education yet there is a graduate program – Master of Science degree in Diabetes Education and Management – at Teachers College-Columbia University. The university also offers a graduate-level certificate program in Advanced Diabetes Topics.
The certified diabetes care and education specialist (CDCES) credential is an important tool to show your expertise in diabetes care and education while advancing career opportunities. Sheryl Traficano, the CEO of the Certification Board for Diabetes Care and Education, shares how to qualify and apply for the credential. We also discuss tips to help you prepare for the exam and, once you’ve earned the credential, how to renew.
Diabetes care and education specialists work in a variety of settings: hospitals, physician offices, clinics, home health, wellness programs and public health, to name a few.
They most often work within accredited or recognized diabetes education programs. Learn more about ADCES’ Diabetes Education Accreditation Program. This means that the diabetes care and education program has met requirements set forth by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and can bill for diabetes self-management training through two different billing codes: G0108 and G0109, which are for individual and group diabetes care and education.