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How To Become A Certified Diabetes Educator

How To Become A Certified Diabetes Educator


According to the American Diabetes Association, an estimated 30.3 million people in the U.S.—over 9 percent of the total population—live with diabetes. Keeping their conditions under control requires careful monitoring, regularly taking any prescribed medication and making informed diet, fitness and other lifestyle choices.

The roles of diabetes educators — and the settings where they work — are evolving to address the increasing prevalence of diabetes and meet new demands for population-level diabetes performance measures. To signal this evolution, the American Association of Diabetes Educators is promoting a new name for these professionals: diabetes care and education specialists.

Far from the idea of an educator teaching carb counting in a classroom, diabetes care and education specialists today are working with people with diabetes in new ways, and the need for more of these professionals is expected to grow. In a workforce analysis recently commissioned by the AADE, researchers projected a substantial increase in the demand for diabetes care and educators specialists through 2025.

That demand cannot be met today, however. According to an April report from the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE), 19,783 health professionals in the U.S. currently hold the certified diabetes educator (CDE) credential. Another estimated 15,000 diabetes educators who do not hold the CDE credential are also in practice, according to AADE. At the same time, the prevalence of diabetes is doubling roughly every 15 years. For every CDE, there are an estimated 1,600 people with diabetes in need of services.

As a medical professional, there are ways you can help educate the public about chronic illness. If you have an interest and background in caring for diabetes patients, you may choose to teach about this disease. With your instruction, you can help those affected by diabetes live healthier lives. In this article, we explain how to become a diabetes educator nurse along with everything this role entails.

The Role of Diabetes Education

Doctors and nurses prescribe medications and give their diabetes patients directions for their care. However, managing a chronic disease and all the complications that go along with it requires a strong support system and input from many different perspectives.

For example, where a doctor may provide general guidelines and dietary restrictions, diabetes educators can translate this advice into concrete lifestyle changes. As a diabetes educator, you could expand on the advice that patients and their caregivers hear from other medical professionals, sharing a real-world perspective on how to follow through with large shifts in their daily routines.

Diabetes educators may teach groups of patients and caregivers in classes or meet with them one-on-one. If you pursue this career, you might be employed in a variety of settings, including hospitals, public health departments, nonprofit organizations and colleges or universities.

 The Key Services That Diabetes Educators Offer

Some of the key services that diabetes educators offer include:

  • 1. Lessons in how to use devices like a glucometer and insulin pump
  • 2. Explanations of how to recognize and address complications from the disease
  • 3. Information about healthy lifestyle changes for patients and their families
  • 4. Personalized suggestions for following a treatment plan
  • 5. Advice for solving problems and coping with changes

Diabetes Educator: Education Requirements

Specialized education can build your skills in assisting people with diabetes and help you to qualify for certain jobs. Professionals with a master’s degree in social work may be prepared to counsel patients and their families so they can adapt to the changes in their lives. Healthcare social workers have the knowledge and experience to help people plan for the long term as they navigate their treatment.

Some positions require a master’s degree in nutrition, which helps educators understand the complex role that diet plays in maintaining a healthy lifestyle with diabetes. The right nutritional choices can help diabetics control their blood sugar, respond better to insulin and lower their risk for cardiovascular disease. Several common eating patterns have been shown to help people with diabetes sustain a healthier lifestyle:

  • 1. Vegetarian or vegan
  • 2. Low fat
  • 3. Low carbohydrate
  • 4. Mediterranean, which focuses on plant-based foods with some dairy, fish and poultry
  • 5. Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), which is specifically designed to lower blood pressure

By becoming a diabetes educator, you’ll be able to advise patients on how to make changes in their own lives. Staying up-to-date with the latest thinking in social work and nutrition will allow you to guide people with diabetes as they set goals for their treatment plans and select foods that fit their personal tastes and budget.

How to Complete Your Diabetes Educator Certification

Certification as a diabetes educator is a practice-based credential that indicates experience and mastery in the field. The certification is not intended as a step toward first entering the specialty, but diabetes educators who complete the process may be able to pursue advanced career opportunities. CDCES holders may become leaders and mentors within the field, and they make an average salary of $62,605.

To become a CDCES, you must meet the eligibility requirements established by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (CBDCE) and pass the Certification Examination for Diabetes Educators. To be eligible for the exam, fulfill the following requirements:

  • The discipline requirement can be met by holding an active license to practice medicine or another of the registrations and certifications for healthcare professionals accepted by the CBDCE. These include being a registered dietician or completing a master’s degree in social work. Along with the standard pathway, there are also unique qualifications that can meet this requirement with pre approval from the CBDCE. Individuals who hold degrees in nutrition, exercise physiology or public health may qualify in this way.

Professional Practice Experience

To meet the professional practice requirement, you will need

  • A minimum of 2 years professional practice experience in your discipline after meeting the discipline requirement.
  • A minimum of 1,000 hours providing diabetes care and education (DCE) earned within the 5* years prior to your application date, with a minimum of 20%* of those hours (200* hours) accrued in the most recent year preceding application. 

*Note:  Reflects change effective April 1, 2021 –To address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the ability of health professionals pursuing the CDCES credential to accrue practice experience in diabetes care and education (DCE), the CBDCE Board of Directors has approved temporary changes to the professional practice requirement relating to DCE for initial certification.  Learn more on what changed in our Pandemic Impact Certification Statement.

What counts as Diabetes Care and Education (DCE)? 

Diabetes self-management education and support (DSMES), historically also referred to as diabetes self-management training or diabetes education, is performed by health professionals who have appropriate credentials and experience consistent with their profession’s scope of practice. CBDCE uses the term diabetes care and education (DCE).

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist?

A Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES) is a health professional who possesses comprehensive knowledge of and experience in diabetes prevention, prediabetes, and diabetes management. The CDCES educates, supports, and advocates for people affected by diabetes, addressing the stages of diabetes throughout the lifespan. The CDCES promotes self-management to achieve individualized behavioral and treatment goals that reduce risks and optimize health outcomes.

The certification exam for Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialists is designed and intended for health professionals who have responsibilities that include the direct provision of diabetes education (DE), as defined by CBDCE. The credential was previously known as the Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE).

  1. What does a CDCES do?

A CDCES partners with people with diabetes to educate, support and help them achieve their goals in managing diabetes.

  1. What is the difference between certification and certificate programs?

Certification refers to a credential that demonstrates the certificant’s specialized knowledge, skills, and experience. After meeting defined eligibility requirements, a certification applicant achieves a credential that is nationally recognized credential with the successful completion of a rigorous exam. In addition, individuals who hold a certification credential are normally required to renew their certification on a regular basis in order to demonstrate continued knowledge and experience in the specialty, e.g., maintaining the CDCES credential requires renewal every 5 years.

A certificate program is an educational offering that confers a document (certificate) at the program’s conclusion. The participant’s possession of the certificate may be indicative of attendance only and is not necessarily a measure of knowledge or skills. There is also no requirement to demonstrate the maintenance of knowledge or skills over a period of time.

  1. How long is certification valid?

Certification is valid for a five-year time frame with an expiration date that ends on December 31 of the last year of the certification cycle.

Note: The following information is provided as an overview of the renewal process. Specific details are provided in the  Handbooks published in the year you renew. The Handbooks are the final documents regarding the policies and procedures that apply to the renewal process.


  • Jasmine became certified on February 6, 2020, her certification expires on December 31, 2025
  • Steve became certified on December 15, 2020, his certification also expires on December 31, 2025

The expiration date is found on your wallet card and certificate, as well as provided in the verification documentation and on the dashboard. We know five years seems far away right after you become certified, but now is the time to:

  • Learn about the various renewal pathways
  • Add an appointment to your calendar for January 1 of the year your certification expires that reminds you to check in with CBDCE to ensure you understand what is needed for renewal.

Renewal Cycle

The five-year time frame has a history in the high pass rate of those who recertified by exam versus initial candidates when renewal was required to be by examination; even with changes to examination content outlines since initial certification. The decision to offer renewal by continuing education starting in 2005 as an option versus solely by examination was based on the renewal exam pass rate of 95% and higher for the ten years prior to offering the renewal by continuing education option. In addition, the changes to the exam content outline based on various practice analysis over the years have been minimal regarding the tasks and knowledge in the field.

Ways to Renew

There are several ways to renew certification. Each way has its own requirements. Besides needing to maintain the license or registration used to become certified, you can use any of the combinations below to renew:

  • Renewal professional practice requirement and continuing education activities (Pathway 1)
  • Renewal professional practice requirement and exam (Pathway 2)
  • Continuing education activities and exam (Pathway 3)
  1. Where can I find information on the Board Certified-Advanced Diabetes Management (“BC-ADM”) certification?

CBDCE does not administer or manage the BC-ADM certification program. It is sponsored by the Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists (ADCES).

  1. Who is the CBDCE?

Formed in 1986, the Certification Board for Diabetes Care and Education (CBDCE) is a national, not-for-profit certification organization that awards the Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES) credential.

  1. What are the benefits of CDCES Certification?

The CDCES credential is a professionally recognized achievement and a sought-after mark of excellence in the diabetes community!

Obtaining certification will:

  • Demonstrate your diabetes care and education skills and expertise
  • Expand your career opportunities
  • Provide you with credibility and recognition on the diabetes care team, and
  • Help increase your marketability

Achieving CDCES certification shows people with diabetes, primary care providers, peers, and your employer that you are a dedicated professional with an enduring commitment to continual learning and high-quality patient care.

“The CDCES credential has been one of the best decisions of my career! Since 1982 with my experience in acute, outpatient and eating disorder treatment clinics, knowledge of diabetes management has been highly enhanced by maintaining my certification and diabetes care skills.”

– Janice Baker, MBA, RDN, CDCES, CNSC, BC-ADM

Earning the credential

To earn the CDCES credential, health professionals go through a rigorous process, including passing an examination that covers numerous aspects of diabetes care and management.

  1. What’s the difference between CBDCE and the Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists (ADCES)?

Although there is a professional relationship between the Certification Board for Diabetes Care and Education (CBDCE) and the Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists (ADCES), it is important to understand that they are separate, autonomous organizations. Each is incorporated independent of the other, with separate charters, bylaws, finances, and leadership. ADCES has no role in the certification program or any other activities of CBDCE.

Through the definition, development, maintenance, and protection of the certification and credentialing process, CBDCE promotes quality diabetes education. This is CBDCE’s mission. With the assistance of its contracted testing service, CBDCE periodically examines the psychometric and legal defensibility of the certification program to ensure that the content of the Certification exam for diabetes care and education specialists (Certification exam) continues to reflect actual practice. The credentialing mechanism validates knowledge in diabetes education and provides recognition of excellence in practice. Certification sets the industry standard.

  1. What are the eligibility requirements?

NEW! Temporary changes to the professional practice requirement relating to Diabetes Care and Education (DCE) for initial CDCES certification making it easier to earn the credential! 

Discipline: RDNs and RDs meet the discipline requirement.

  • Professional practice experience (work or volunteer):
    • General: 2 years
    • Diabetes education: 1,000 hours – within a maximum of 4 years (with 400 of those hours in the last 12 months)
  • Continuing education (CE) activities: 15 hours of diabetes related CE within past 2 years

Maintaining the CDCES certification requires renewal every five years. But, once you’ve earned the credential, it’s never too early to think about renewing your credential, e.g., create a reminder in your calendar in January of the year your certification expires to remind you to check renewal eligibility requirements and applicable deadlines. Learn more. Please note that you will begin accruing either continuing education activities or renewal practice hours the January following the date you initially pass the examination.

Is there demand for diabetes educators?

It is anticipated that demand for diabetes educators would rise.

How many certified diabetes educators are there in the USA?

In the US, there are around 18,000 certified diabetes educators.

What are the new terms for certified diabetes educators?

All those employed in this profession are termed as “Diabetes Care and Education Specialists” .

Is a diabetes educator dietitian?

Registered dietitians with a focus on diabetes have the potential to earn certification as diabetes educators.

Certified diabetes educator course online

Yes, online learning is possible, but the initial certification costs $350.

How long does it take to become a certified diabetes educator

A minimum of two years of experience in the field, plus 1,000 hours of diabetes-related education completed in the prior four years

Certified diabetes educator salary

$56,780 on average per year, or $27 per hour. The top 10% earns more than $79,000 annually.

Certified diabetes educator exam pdf

You must adhere to the standards established by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Education, or CBDCE. You must have at least two years of professional experience under your belt as an RN, RD, PT, PharmD, PA, MD, or another related specialty, as well as 1000 hours of teaching experience in diabetes self-management.

Certified diabetes educator study guide pdf

Within two years of submitting an application for the exam, complete at least 15 hours of continuing education from a provider approved by the CBDCE.

How to become a diabetes nurse educator

Becoming a registered nurse, gaining experience, and then applying for certification. Create the essential abilities and Locate the ideal employer

Can a medical assistant become a diabetes educator

Yes, although there are some limitations on a medical assistant’s ability to become a certified diabetes educator.

Certified diabetes educator jobs

Jobs as a diabetes educator are available in medical facilities, clinics, doctor’s offices, homes, wellness initiatives, and public health.