What is a Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (DCES)?


A key member of the diabetes care team, a diabetes educator is a health professional who helps people with diabetes learn the best ways to take care of themselves and manage the day-to-day challenges of living with diabetes. They have expertise in type 2 diabetes prevention and diabetes management. Many also hold the diabetes care and education specialist (DCES) credential.

Being successful at self-management means having a personalized plan, which can include everything from eating healthier and increasing physical activity to developing improved coping skills and having access to the best tools available.

The goals of a DCES are to help those living with diabetes educate themselves and others, provide support for all impacted by an individual’s disease and to be a team member and advocate for the people they work with. 

Individualization is a cornerstone of diabetes education. Diabetes educators are responsible for helping people with diabetes identify the goals that are most important and then working with them to meet those goals and achieve optimal health goals.  They coach clients on monitoring their blood sugar, giving themselves insulin, finding the best ways to take medication regularly and documenting personal patterns and progress. They assist with the creation of personal strategies and timelines so that the person with diabetes can reach whatever goals they have in mind for themselves. This might include things like establishing a healthy eating plan, setting a fitness goal or transitioning from one medical device to another.

Educators operate in a variety of environments, including clinics, hospitals and private practices. Often, they will assist with challenges and questions that arise outside of normal medical management—like finding ways to afford medication and trouble-shooting changes in work schedules or challenges with traveling. Some diabetes educators take their specialization further and are insulin pump educators as well, with a chosen primary focus on assisting clients with the set-up and use of systems.

Those who hold the DCES credential are required to earn and maintain certification, and this begins with meeting the eligibility requirements defined by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators. They must have first earned a degree and hold a valid license or registration in a health-related field, such as nursing, pharmacy, nutrition, psychology, therapy or optometry, among others. They then must work with people who have diabetes for a minimum of two years and complete several other requirements, including the completion of a minimum number of hours of experience and training, as well as passing an exam.

A diabetes educator is a wonderful person to have in your corner after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. When challenges arise, they are often the absolute best person to seek guidance and support from and can provide information and insight that someone with type 2 diabetes might otherwise go without.

Ready to find a diabetes educator in your area? Try these tools. More information about diabetes care and education specialists can be found here.

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

WRITTEN BY Beyond Type 2 Editorial Team, POSTED 12/18/18, UPDATED 12/11/22

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