How To Become a Certified Diabetes Educator

stamp1One of the mostly commonly asked questions is “What do you do for a living?” Since “working at Pier 1” isn’t exactly the most sexy or exciting answer, I typically answer, “I’m a full-time student studying to become a Certified Diabetes Educator.” Although “diabetes education” isn’t an actual major in college, it’s the fastest way to explain what I’m doing (going to school) and why (to be a CDE).

Most people leave it there, but occasionally you’ll get an extra inquisitive person who then says, “So how do you become a CDE?”

Great question.

I’m so glad you asked.

The path to become a Certified Diabetes Educator is not a popular one. Very few people take it, and thus, we have an enormous shortage in this country of qualified CDEs for the ever growing population of PWD — both type 1s and type 2s (the population percentage is rising for both, not just type 2). It’s a long and somewhat winding path that is confusing at best and “WTF?!”-worthy at worst.

Now, I’m not in the position to declare whether or not the pathway to certification is legit or over the top. I’m just not. I’m not a practicing CDE, so I have no idea at this point whether or not what I’m about to do is something I actually feel I should have to do. Hindsight is 20/20 and all that. That being said, I know people who want to change how the pathway to becoming a CDE, I know people who want to open up more options for different levels of certification, I know people who think that the current pathway is necessary and needed, and I know people who think the pathway to CDEhood is absolutely effed up.

Pick the side as you will, but this is not what this post is about. (Come talk to me in 5 years.)

Becoming a CDE is actually a pretty straightforward, down the line process. The main gripe is that it takes a lot of time, money and aggravation for those who didn’t start straight out of high school wanting to be a Certified Diabetes Educator.

A Certified Diabetes Educator is not a profession in which you receive a degree. It’s a certification after you have already received a degree and are practicing as something else. According to the National Certification Board of Diabetes Educators, to be a CDE, you must have a medical degree (doctor, pharmacist, nurse, podiatrist, opthalmologist, etc. etc.), or you can be a Registered Dietitian, psychologist, exercise physiologist, physician’s assistant, or have a Masters in Social Work. Take your pick.

Once you have one of those degrees you must then work as a [enter chosen profession here] for two years.

You also have to collect 1,000 hours in diabetes education. I’m still unclear whether that is only after two years in your chosen profession, or if you can do it during, but needless to say, 1,000 hours in diabetes education is a lot. That means you have to be employed in a position that has you working one-on-one with patients doing some kind of diabetes education.

After that, you get to take the exam.

The fun part: most jobs require you to have the CDE certification before they will let you do diabetes education.

Sneaky bastards.

That being said, there are places where you can get a job doing diabetes education with the assumption that you are eligible to take the CDE examination within a certain period of time and that you will do so and that your job hinges on passing the examination, which I hear is one of the hardest test known to man. And that was from two type 1 PWDs who are now CDEs.

And that, my friends, is how it’s done.

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3 Responses to How To Become a Certified Diabetes Educator

  1. Adrianne Halford says:

    OMG, What a “right on” article! I am one of the walking wounded who has taken the exam 3 times, devoted several years in preparation, lots of money for study materials and a week long course in New York, only to have missed the mark once by 5 points & the last 2 times by 1 point. I am an RN BSN who has worked in diabetic education via a disease management program for 5 years! I am no longer working in that capacity so I am not eligible to retake the exam anytime soon. Oh, I am also a PWD, type 2. The questions are tricky, like “what is the best wrong answer”. I may sound like sour grapes, I hope not, because what you say about it being “the hardest test known to man” is so absolutely true. One of my CDE instructors said if she took it now she would never pass it. Apparently, it has evolved into a monster of a test! Anyway, just wanted to get my “two cents” in. I appreciate your candor as well as validation of my experience. Thank You! A. Halford RN BSN

  2. Kelley says:

    Wow! I had no idea all of that was involved in becoming a CDE. Thanks for sharing, I had thought about this at one point in my life but I was horrible at science so that didn’t gel too well with a medical degree :-P

  3. Jamie says:

    As someone who’s working on becoming a CDE herself (I’m a Registered Dietitian, and PWD), I can tell you that the 1,000 hours start accumulating immediately. So if you have your 1000 hours right after you reach your 2yr anniversary, you’re able to take the CDE exam :)

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