Home » For CHWs » Certification Explained

Certification Explained

We are here to help. Below are answers to frequently asked questions about CHW certification. Please contact your chapter coordinator or Lissette if we haven’t answered your question(s).  

Basics & Background

Yes, you can work as a community health worker without certification. State certification, according to the regulations, is voluntary. Community health workers may practice and call themselves community health workers even if not state certified.

For starters, only state Certified CHWs can call themselves Certified CHWs. That is, you may add C-CHW as part of your credentials.

Additionally, there will be more benefits in the future. MACHW is working with employers, health care systems, health insurance plans, and government officials to expand career pathways for CHWs.

If you need help with your certification application, feel free to contact a chapter coordinator and they will assist you. Check here to find a chapter coordinator near you.

Additionally, MACHW is working with employers, health care systems, health insurance plans, and government officials to expand career pathways for CHWs.

You are welcome to attend the meetings of the Massachusetts Board of Certification of CHWs. They typically meet on the 2nd Tuesday of the month from 9:30 am – 1:00 pm at Bureau of Health Professions Licensure, 239 Causeway St, Boston (near North Station T stop) in Conference Rooms 417 A&B. View calendar.

Sign up for our emails to learn about future public hearings and other advocacy opportunities.

As the community health worker (CHW) profession became better understood in Massachusetts and in other states, interest in certifying CHWs grew. There was language in Massachusetts’ original health care reform law about  exploring certification for CHWs. MACHW also witnessed other states beginning to discuss certification without CHWs leading the conversation (View summary of state CHW laws). MACHW recognized this as an essential time for CHWs to convene across the Commonwealth to explore certification and have a unified voice. CHWs choose to support voluntary certification and provided input and advocacy on the legislation. Ultimately, the Massachusetts legislature passed a law in 2010 to establish a Board of Certification of CHWs (the Board). CHWs continue to provide input on regulations as members of the Board, through advocacy at Board meetings, and working with MACHW to provide guidance to the Board about implementing regulations. (View policy statement from the American Public Health Association on CHW leadership determining workforce standards).   


Applications for certification will begin to be accepted sometime in late 2017.  

The Massachusetts Board of Certification of CHWs. View list of Board members.

Load More

Application Details

  • Be at least 18 years-old
  • Fee of $35
  • Passport photo
  • Complete ALL sections of the APPLICATION which includes:
    • Signed statement that applicant has read and understands the Standards of Conduct
    • Complete the information required for the pathway you are applying under, (a) Work Experience; or (b) Training + Work Experience.
    • Three professional references
    • Signed document to authorize Board’s receipt of CORI results

YES! As of late June 2017, providing a Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) is the last step in the application process. It will only be conducted after an applicant meets all the criteria for certification, e.g., work experience, training, etc. The Board of Certification of CHWs (the Board) will not deny certification for arrests with no adverse outcome, juvenile offences or sealed items.  In assessing an applicant’s criminal history, the Board will only consider 1) convictions (except juveniles) and 2) open cases. Even if you have a conviction or an open case, the Board will review applications on a case-by-case basis, and assess the mitigating circumstances that led to the offence and your rehabilitation process since the offence.


Please note that MACHW has been advocating that the Board remove CORI from the application process. We are very concerned this could deter qualified CHWs from applying for certification.  This policy could undermine the goal of creating a workforce of diverse CHWs that can reach and meet the very specific and difficult needs of our most vulnerable populations. The Board held public hearings in June 2017 and we are waiting to hear if they have removed CORI from the application process. Click here for more information about knowing your CORI rights. Click here to view national report on removing barriers to state occupational licenses for people with records.

A. Work Experience (grandmothering pathway)

Because Certification will begin in 2017, the regulations sought to honor the broad experience of CHWs who have practiced in the field prior to 2017. As a result, and only for the next three years (until 2020), experienced CHWs can apply to be “grandmothered/grandfathered” as Certified CHWs.  

To apply through the Work Experience Pathway, you must demonstrate that, within the last 10 years, you have worked as a CHW for at least 4,000 hours (the equivalent of two years full time).  Work done as a volunteer (not paid) can be included in the 4,000 hours.

For hours to be valid, a supervisor or an individual familiar with your work must verify that during those hours, you worked within the CHW Scope of Practice.

Massachusetts CHW Scope of Practice

    • Providing culturally appropriate health education, information and outreach in community-based settings including but not limited to homes, schools, hospitals, clinics, shelters, local businesses and community centers;
    • Bridging or culturally mediating between individuals, families, communities and health and human services, including actively building individual and community capacity;
    • Assisting community members to access the health and human services they need;
    • Providing direct services, including but not limited to informal counseling on access to health and human services, social support, care coordination and health screenings;
    • Advocating for individual, family and community needs pertaining to access to health and human services; and
    • Additional roles as may be identified by the board that may emerge in the development of community health worker practice.

B. Training + Work Experience Pathway

CHWs applying for certification through this pathway must complete “the 80 hour CHW Core Competency Training” that is approved by the Board of Certification of CHWs.  

In addition to completing the 80 hours of training, you must demonstrate that, during the past 10 years, you worked as a CHW for at least 2,000 hours.  Work done as a volunteer (not paid) can be included in the 2,000 hours. For hours to be valid, a supervisor or an individual familiar with your work must verify that during those hours, you worked within the CHW Scope of Practice (see chart above).

As part of the application, you are required to submit three (3) professional references. Your references should be people who are familiar with your CHW work and able to rate you on your ability to meet the 10 CHW Core Competencies. References cannot be a spouse, partner, family member, nor a current or past client. Reference forms are included in the application packet and must be signed and dated by the individual making the reference. If you have worked as a CHW outside of the US, you may obtain references from other countries. (However, at least one of the three must be a current or former supervisor in the U.S.). References must be submitted with the application in sealed envelopes.

View detailed list of CHW Core competencies.

Briefly, these are the 10 CHW Core Competencies:

  1. Outreach Methods and Strategies
  2. Individual and Community Assessment
  3. Effective Communication
  4. Cultural Responsiveness and Mediation
  5. Education to Promote Healthy Behaviors
  6. Care Coordination & Systems Navigation
  7. Public Health Concepts and Approaches
  8. Advocacy and Community Capacity Building
  9. Documentation
  10. Professional Skills and Conduct

Core Competency #10 (see above) includes practicing in compliance the Massachusetts Code of Ethics for Community Health Workers. This document provides an ethical framework for CHWs to guide day-to-day decision making. It applies to all CHWs in Massachusetts. MACHW last updated the Code of Ethics in 2016 and welcomes feedback to ensure it stays relevant to the current issues CHWs face.  

Any health professional in Massachusetts who obtains a license or certification through the Bureau of Health Professions Licensure, must agree to behave according to the Standards of Conduct. The Standard of Conduct for Certified CHWs outlines the boundaries of the CHW relationship with employers, clients, and community members.  When you sign the application, you are agreeing to behave according to these standards if you become a Certified CHW. Once you are granted certification, failure to adhere to these standards could result in the Board revoking your certification.

The Board of Certification of CHWs will approve training programs. Once those programs are approved, we will post the list.

Certification is valid for 2 years.  In order to renew certification, the Certified CHW must complete 15 hours of qualified continuing education activities (approved by the Board).

The Board has not yet approved the criteria for continuing education activities nor developed criteria for the organizations that could provide the contact hours.  Once approved, the list of continuing education providers will be maintained and published by the Board.

Load More