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How to Become a Health Educator

By Anita Akpuoforba

Published:

If you are passionate about getting people into shape, and ensuring that they get the most out of healthy living, becoming a health educator is a career path you should be considering. Below, we have detailed how you can go about achieving this dream, including information about salary and career outlook.

Career Summary

Health Educator Salary

Health Educator Salary

Health educators in the United States typically earn an average salary of $60,600, which equals the national average wage for all occupations.

However, their salary depends on factors such as geographic location, experience, and industry of employment.

A trajectory to explain the salary scale can be seen below, per Career Explorer.

  • Entry Salary (US$37k)
  • Median Salary (US$61k)
  • Executive Salary (US$103k)

It is also possible for health educators to earn additional cash compensation, which is usually dependent on extra hours worked and the level of hazards encountered during the course of carrying out their duties.

What does a Health Educator do?

Health educators play a vital role in promoting health and wellness by educating communities and populations. They do this by developing and delivering educational programs, workshops, and presentations specifically tailored to the audience in question. The health educator job description also includes the distribution of informational resources and collaborating with community partners to promote health initiatives.

Health Educator Career Progression

Health educators have multiple avenues for career progression and professional development.

Here is a general overview of the typical career trajectory for individuals in this field:

  • Entry-Level Health Educator: Begin as an entry-level health educator, gaining experience in program implementation, educational sessions, and resource distribution.
  • Experienced Health Educator: Progress to a more senior role, leading larger projects, developing programs, and mentoring junior health educators.
  • Program Coordinator/Manager: Advance to a program coordinator or manager position, overseeing program planning, implementation, evaluation, budgeting, and stakeholder coordination.
  • Health Education Specialist: You may choose to specialize in specific areas of health, such as nutrition, sexual health, or chronic disease prevention.
  • Health Education Consultant: Become a health education consultant, providing expert advice, designing programs, and offering training to professionals.
Health Educator Career Progression

Pros:

  • Promoting positive change and impacting lives through health promotion
  • Weeding society of negative health myths
  • Pioneering engaging programs and creative teaching methods
  • Building professional relationships and expanding reach
  • Advancing policies and promoting health equity

Cons:

  • Limited resources and funding to implement health initiatives
  • Resistance to change from individuals and communities
  • Burnout and workload from juggling multiple responsibilities
  • Dealing with health disparities across diverse populations
  • Navigating difficult conversations about sensitive topics

Useful Skills to Have as a Health Educator

  • Ability to identify trends and assess community needs.
  • Effective communication and presentation skills.
  • Knowledge about different cultural beliefs.
  • Ability to leverage digital tools for a broader reach.
  • Great interpersonal skills to aid in building connections.

Popular Health Educator Specialties

  • Sexual Health Education Specialist
  • Nutrition Education Specialist
  • Physical Fitness and Exercise Education Specialist
  • Chronic Disease Management and Prevention Specialist
  • Mental Health Education Specialist
  • Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist

How to become a Health Educator

Health Educator 5 Steps to Career

Becoming a health educator requires a combination of education, experience, and a passion for promoting health and wellness. This rewarding career path involves providing education, resources, and support to individuals and communities to help them make informed decisions about their health, prevent diseases, and adopt healthy lifestyles.

Education

Education plays a crucial role in preparing individuals to become competent health educators. A lot of advances have been made in the area of health. Hence, it is important that prospective health educators equip themselves with this knowledge to give them the capacity to carry out their duties.

Do I need a degree to become a Health Educator?

While a degree can significantly enhance your qualifications and career prospects as a health educator, it is not always a strict requirement. The specific educational requirements may vary depending on the organization, position, and geographic location.

If you don’t have a degree, you will need to have some relevant certifications or vocational training.  These alternative paths can provide a foundation in health education principles and practices and land you some entry-level positions.

Why is it important to get a degree in Health Education?

Getting a degree in Health Education is important for several reasons. One of the top reasons is that it provides you with a comprehensive understanding of the principles, theories, and best practices in the field, far more than any associate degree or vocational education will give you.

In the process of being tutored on a variety of in-depth coursework, you will develop the skills needed to design and implement effective health education interventions when you finally graduate.

Your degree then increases your credibility and marketability as a health educator seeking a job or internship. Employers often prefer candidates with formal education in the field, as it demonstrates a commitment to professional growth and a solid foundation of knowledge.

How long does it take to get a degree in Health Education?

The time required to obtain a degree in Health Education can vary depending on several factors, including the level of the degree and the student’s enrollment status.

Here is a general overview of the typical time frames:

  • Associate Degree: An associate degree in Health Education typically takes around 2 years of full-time study to complete.
  • Bachelor’s Degree: A bachelor’s degree in Health Education usually requires approximately 4 years of full-time study.
  • Master’s Degree: Pursuing a master’s degree in Health Education typically takes around 1-2 years of full-time study beyond the completion of a bachelor’s degree.

It’s worth noting that some institutions offer accelerated options or part-time study, which can either extend or reduce the time taken to complete the degree.

Once you have completed your education and training, you can become certified as a health educator. The National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC) offers two levels of certification: Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) and Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES). To become certified, you must pass an exam and meet certain educational and experience requirements.

How much does it cost to study Health Education at a University?

The cost of pursuing a health education degree at a university can vary based on several factors, including the institution’s location, type, degree level, and residency status. In the United States, undergraduate tuition for in-state students at public universities averages around US$13,900 per year, while private universities may charge US$27,200 or more annually.

In addition to tuition, there are additional expenses to consider, such as miscellaneous fees, books, supplies, and room and board. If you are looking to lower your tuition costs, it may be worth considering attending a public university in your home state if it offers a health education program.

By doing so, you can take advantage of significant tuition fee reductions offered to in-state students, which are not typically available at private institutions. You can also explore the financial aid options listed on the school’s website to help manage the overall costs of your education.

Can I become a Health Educator through online education?

Pursuing a career as a Health Educator is indeed possible through online education. Many universities and colleges offer online programs in health education, allowing individuals to earn a degree or certification in this field through distance learning.

Those who choose to follow this path get the advantage of flexibility and convenience, enabling them to learn at their own pace from any location with internet access. When choosing an online program, it’s important to ensure that the institution offering the program is accredited and recognized in the field of health education.

Accreditation guarantees that the program adheres to certain quality standards, and the education you receive will be acknowledged by employers and professional organizations. It is also important to thoroughly research the program’s curriculum, faculty qualifications, and any additional requirements or recommendations for becoming a certified Health Educator.

What are some web resources to learn skills to become a Health Educator?

The web resources listed below offer courses, professional development opportunities, and practical tools to help you develop the skills to become a health educator. These platforms offer industry insights, best practices, and valuable opportunities to excel in the field of health education.

  • American College of Healthcare Sciences: This institution provides online programs and courses in holistic health education, herbal medicine, nutrition, and wellness coaching.
  • Health Education Associates: This organization provides online courses, consulting services, and resources for health educators, with a focus on training in sexual health education.
  • Health Ed Solutions: This provider offers online certifications and courses for health educators, including programs focused on CPR, first aid, and basic life support training.

Other possible web resources to learn health educator skills can be sought from the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Shape America, and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Practical Experience

What are Internship Opportunities for a Health Educator?

As a Health Educator, there are various internship opportunities available to gain practical experience and further develop your skills. You could try out more than one of these internship opportunities to ensure you gain knowledge of more than one specialization.

  • Community Health Outreach Intern: Joining forces with community health organizations, you’ll actively contribute to improving the health of local populations. This includes organizing health promotion events, conducting needs assessments, and collaborating with community partners, you’ll be at the forefront of addressing health disparities and fostering positive change.
  • Public Health Research Intern: As a part of a research team focused on public health, you’ll delve into critical issues such as disease prevention, health behaviors, and healthcare inequalities. Your contributions in data collection, analysis, and research report development will contribute to evidence-based strategies for improving public health outcomes.
  • Health Policy and Advocacy Intern: As a health policy and advocacy intern, you’ll dive into the world of healthcare policies and social change. It includes researching and analyzing healthcare policies, contributing to advocacy campaigns, and engaging in community outreach.
  • Maternal and Child Health Intern: This internship allows you to support the health and well-being of mothers and children. You’ll collaborate with healthcare professionals, assisting in prenatal education programs, conducting research on child health topics, and providing valuable resources to expectant mothers and their families.
  • Chronic Disease Prevention Intern: You’ll engage in projects aimed at reducing the impact of conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Some of your duties will include, developing educational materials, and implementing prevention programs.
  • Environmental Health Intern: As an environmental health intern, you’ll work on projects related to air and water quality, occupational health, and food safety. Your role may involve conducting research, assisting in environmental assessments, and raising awareness about environmental health issues.
  • Mental Health Promotion Intern: In this internship, you’ll focus on promoting mental well-being and reducing mental health stigma. This includes organizing awareness campaigns and facilitating workshops or support groups.

What Skills Will I Learn as a Health Educator?

The skills listed below are some of the many you will learn as you study to be a health educator. Depending on the job or circumstance at hand, you will need to apply such skills to effectively promote and deliver effective health education programs.

  • Health Promotion and Education: You will develop expertise in planning, developing, and implementing health promotion and education initiatives to empower individuals and communities to make informed decisions about their well-being.
  • Needs Assessment and Program Evaluation: You will learn to conduct comprehensive needs assessments to identify health issues and prioritize interventions. Additionally, you will gain skills in program evaluation to measure the impact and effectiveness of health education initiatives.
  • Behavior Change Strategies: You will acquire knowledge and techniques for applying behavior change theories and models to encourage individuals to adopt healthier behaviors and make sustainable lifestyle changes.
  • Cultural Competence: You will develop cultural competence, which involves understanding and respecting diverse cultural practices, beliefs, and values to deliver culturally sensitive health education programs.
  • Group Facilitation and Presentation Skills: You will learn effective strategies for facilitating group discussions, leading workshops, and delivering engaging presentations on various health topics to engage and educate diverse audiences.
  • Health Literacy: You will develop skills in health literacy, the ability to communicate health information in a clear and understandable manner, using plain language, visual aids, and multimedia tools to promote health understanding.
  • Research and Data Analysis: You will gain proficiency in researching health-related topics, analyzing data, and interpreting research findings to stay informed about current health trends and evidence-based practices.

These skills will empower you to effectively promote health, deliver impactful health education programs, and make a positive impact on the well-being of individuals and communities.

What is the Work-Life Balance of a Health Educator?

The work-life balance of a health educator can vary depending on the specific job and the individual’s work style. However, in general, health educators tend to have a good work-life balance.

This is because they typically work regular hours and have the flexibility to work from home or in other non-traditional settings. They also often have the opportunity to work with people who are passionate about health and wellness, which can make the job more enjoyable.

Of course, there are also some challenges that can affect the work-life balance of health educators. These challenges can include having to work long hours or take on extra projects and being under pressure to meet deadlines or achieve goals.

What’s the Career Outlook for Health Educator?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of health education specialists and community health workers will grow 12 % from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.

This growth is expected to be driven by a number of factors, including:

  • The growing demand for health education programs in schools, workplaces, and community settings.
  • The increasing prevalence of chronic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
  • The need to educate the public about emerging health threats, such as COVID-19.

As a result of this positive career outlook, the field of health education is expected to see approximately 16,000 new job opportunities annually for health education specialists and community health workers over the next decade. These openings will be predominantly available in hospitals, schools, and government agencies, providing diverse employment prospects in impactful settings.

Ultimately, prospective health educators can be reassured about job stability as there will be various opportunities available to take on in different health sectors.

Health Educator Popular Career Specialties

What are the Job Opportunities of a Health Educator?

There are many different job opportunities available to health educators, in a variety of settings.

Some of the most common job titles include:

  • Community Health Educator: In this role, you would work closely with communities and populations to assess their health needs, develop health education programs, and deliver interventions that promote healthy behaviors and lifestyle changes.
  • School Health Educator: As a School Health Educator, you would be responsible for implementing health education programs in schools to address topics such as nutrition, physical activity, sexual health, substance abuse prevention, and mental health. You would work closely with students, teachers, and administrators to create a healthy school environment.
  • Public Health Educator: Public Health Educators work in government agencies, non-profit organizations, and community health centers. They develop and implement health education campaigns, conduct outreach programs, and collaborate with stakeholders to address public health issues, promote disease prevention, and improve overall community health.
  • Healthcare Education Coordinator: In healthcare settings such as hospitals, clinics, and rehabilitation centers, Healthcare Education Coordinators play a vital role in developing and delivering educational programs for patients, families, and staff. They provide information on disease management, treatment options, prevention strategies, and healthy lifestyle choices.
  • Research and Policy Analyst: Some Health Educators work in research and policy roles, where they analyze health-related data, conduct research studies, evaluate health education programs, and contribute to the development of health policies and guidelines.

What Type of Companies Hire Health Educators?

Health educators are sought after by various companies and organizations that prioritize promoting health and well-being.

Some of the common types of companies and organizations that hire health educators include:

  • Healthcare Institutions: Hospitals, clinics, and healthcare centers employ health educators to provide patient education, develop health promotion programs, and deliver preventive care messages. These institutions focus on improving patient outcomes and promoting healthy behaviors.
  • Schools and Universities: Educational institutions hire health educators to implement health education programs and curriculum, conduct wellness initiatives, and promote healthy behaviors among students and faculty. Health educators in schools address topics such as nutrition, physical activity, mental health, and sexual health.
  • Government Agencies: Local, state, and federal government agencies employ health educators to work on public health initiatives, community health programs, and health promotion campaigns. These agencies focus on addressing public health concerns, implementing policies, and improving population health outcomes.
  • Nonprofit Organizations: Nonprofit organizations dedicated to specific health issues, such as cancer prevention, heart health, or HIV/AIDS awareness, often hire health educators. They develop and implement health education programs, conduct outreach, and advocate for public health policies.
  • Community and Social Service Organizations: Various community-based and social service organizations, such as youth centers, senior centers, and community health clinics, hire health educators to provide health education and support to specific populations or communities.
  • International and Global Health Organizations: International organizations and NGOs working on global health initiatives hire health educators to develop and implement health education programs, conduct training sessions, and address health challenges in diverse cultural settings.
  • Corporate Wellness Programs: Many companies have employee wellness programs to promote the health and well-being of their workforce. Health educators are hired to design and implement workplace health initiatives, provide health education, conduct screenings, and encourage healthy lifestyle choices among employees.

Should I become a Health Educator?

Whether or not you should become a health educator depends on your individual interests, skills, and values.

Consider reflecting on the questions written below:

  • Do you enjoy working with people and helping them learn? Health educators work with a variety of people from all walks of life, and they need to be able to communicate effectively and build relationships.
  • Are you interested in health and wellness? Health educators need to have a strong understanding of health topics and be able to stay up-to-date on the latest research.
  • Are you organized and detail-oriented? Health educators often need to plan and implement health education programs, and they need to be able to track the progress of these programs.
  • Are you willing to work with different populations? Health educators may work with people of all ages, backgrounds, and cultures. They need to be able to adapt their teaching style to different audiences.

If you answered yes to most of these questions, then a career in health education may be a good choice for you. However, it is important to note that no career is perfect. There will be challenges and setbacks along the way. If you are willing to work hard and persevere, you can have a rewarding career as a health educator.

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Anita Akpuoforba

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