Becoming a Diabetes Care and Education Specialist


So you want to be a diabetes care and education specialist?

Diabetes care and education specialists (DCES) work with people who have, are at risk for or are affected by diabetes. They are part of a healthcare team. If helping individuals create plans to stay healthy, learn about new tools and technology, and live their best lives sounds like exciting work then you might make a great diabetes educator!

Many employers require diabetes educators to have the DCES credential, which is administered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). See full eligibility requirements. The Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists (ADCES), formerly the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE), offers guidance and resources to help diabetes educators prepare for the exam. It’s important to note, that though the organization recently rebranded, those who already held the CDE credential do not have to retake the exam. 

Becoming a DCES

Becoming a DCES involves an extensive process. Candidates for the DCES first must meet the professional discipline requirement. These professionals usually have a  degree in a health-related field and must hold a valid license or registration in their discipline. Many diabetes care and education specialists are first nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, or therapists, among other specialties. Secondly, educators are required to obtain a minimum of two years of professional practice experience in their discipline and obtain a minimum of 1000 hours of time providing diabetes education.  These hours must be earned within four years of the application date.  A minimum of 40 percent of these hours must be earned in the year preceding the application date. Candidates must obtain a minimum of 15 continuing education (CE) hours applicable to diabetes in the two years preceding the application to sit for the exam. Lastly, candidates must pass the NBCDCES exam to ensure that an educator has adequate expertise to call themselves a CDCES

Understanding the culture that surrounds diabetes and putting person-centered care at the forefront of diabetes education is a key part of being a diabetes care and education specialist. Diabetes educators can successfully treat and empower those with type 2 every day through their work. 

Volunteering is a great way to gain experience in diabetes education and some of those hours can even count towards your certification. There are numerous clinics and camps that can readily provide impactful learning experiences for those looking to become diabetes educators. The more volunteering experience you have, the larger the impact you can make on all you come in contact with later in your career.

Many diabetes educators thrive because they choose to live life looking at a given situation from the perspective of those they support and coach. The key to being a successful teacher and advocate for those with diabetes is choosing to educate with empathy above all else.

Continuing education is one of the most important aspects of being a certified diabetes care and education specialist. Attending conferences, staying up to date on the latest science and research and being active in local groups are all ways to stay on top of your own diabetes education so that you can best work with others to manage their diabetes.

If you’re a person with diabetes interested in seeing a DCES as part of your diabetes care team, learn more here.

This content is sponsored by ADCES, a Founding Partner of Beyond Type 2.

WRITTEN BY Beyond Type 2 Editorial Team, POSTED 01/04/19, UPDATED 12/10/22

This piece was authored collaboratively by the Beyond Type 2 Editorial Team.