How Do I Become a Certified Diabetes Educator?

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  • Written By: T. Broderick
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2019
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Many requirements are necessary to become a certified diabetes educator in the United States. You must have a license in a medical related field and have significant work experience. Taking specialized classes in diabetes is also required. Finally, passing an exam given by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE) is the last step toward certification. Another set of rules governs re-certification, a process that occurs five years after initial certification.

A certified diabetes educator assists individuals with diabetes in creating effective diabetes management plans. Though most educators are not physicians, they work in hospitals as mentors to patients, teaching everything from proper nutrition to what to do when one's blood glucose levels go either too high or low. The path to become a certified diabetes educator has many requirements in order to protect patients and ensure their quality of life.

Before you consider the goal to become a certified diabetes educator, you need a background in medicine or a medical related field. The NCBDE is strict in its requirements about who can sit for the certification exam. Its first requirement concerns educational background. Physicians and registered nurses are certainly eligible, as are clinical psychologists and licensed dietitians. Individuals with an advanced degree in social work are also eligible.


The second requirement to become a certified diabetes educator is experience. At least two years of experience in the fields described above are necessary. In addition to work experience in your chosen medical field, you need 100 hours of experience performing diabetes self-management education (DSME), 40 of those hours occurring in the year prior to your exam date. DSME is defined as working one-on-one with diabetic patients to create an individualized life plan that will spare them the detrimental side effects of diabetes.

If you meet the educational and experience requirements, the NCDBE will allow you to sit for its certification exam. The exam is given on a computer, and consists of entirely multiple choice questions. Out of a maximum 99 points, 70 is the passing score. Scores are delivered to you through the mail. Passing the exam will grant you a certification valid for five years.

As diabetes education is an evolving field, to become a certified diabetes educator requires that you commit yourself to the profession after initial certification. The NCBDE requires re-certification every five years to make sure diabetes educators are still providing diabetes patients accurate guidance and advice. If you have 1,000 or more hours of education experience, you can simply apply for re-certification. Less than that amount will require you to complete 75 hours of education courses in diabetes and retake the certification exam.


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