How to Pursue a Career in Health Education

How to Pursue a Career in Health Education
© Sarah Pflug

Health educators are professionals who work with individuals and groups to ensure they maintain healthy lifestyles. Some careers in health education and promotion include: school health counselor, corporate wellness trainer, worksite safety coordinator, community health educator and health promotion specialist.

The main responsibility of health educators is to spread awareness about positive habits in order to prevent diseases and promote wellness. They often develop programs, materials and events for this cause. In this article, we’ll discuss what there is to know about pursuing a career in health education.

What is the role of a health educator?

Health education is majorly about developing and promoting health education programs. These professionals often address essential health topics such as proper diet and nutrition, personal hygiene, fitness and exercise,  vaccines and immunization, environmental sanitation, sex education, and many more.

Health education specialists also have specific duties but it depends on their work setting. They may work for school districts, colleges, healthcare facilities, private organizations and public health departments. But the common goal is to promote and enhance the health of students, employees and communities.

The responsibilities of health educators may include: assessing health needs and concerns of the group or community, developing materials and programs to teach people about health topics, teaching people how to manage existing health conditions, and connecting patients with suitable health service providers.

The qualifications needed to become a health educator

Health educators are required to have some academic qualifications in order to practice. This could be a diploma, bachelor’s or master’s degree in health education or promotion. Such programs equip students with the knowledge of healthy behaviors as well as effective teaching methods and program management skills.

Some undergraduate or graduate programs require students to complete a few months of paid or unpaid internship in a community health agency or private institution. This provides an opportunity for health education graduates to apply their academic knowledge and solve problems in a real-world scenario.

Another qualification required for advanced health educator opportunities is a doctor of education degree (EdD). This degree would prepare students who are looking to occupy leadership and policymaking positions in health education. An online EdD program can help you qualify for leadership roles in health education.

Some employers require health educators to become certified health education specialists. Those who studied public health or health education programs in accredited institutions are eligible to take the CHES exam which is administered by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC).

Which industries employ health education specialists

Certified health education specialists can be found in a variety of work settings such as: schools, universities, clinics, hospitals, non-profit organizations, government offices, wellness centers, addiction centers, and other agencies in private or public health sectors.

Depending on their job description, they might provide one-on-one counselling with individuals or work with families, employee groups and members of a particular community. Health educators are responsible for implementing strategies or programs that can promote health and well-being in their designated workplace.

What type of jobs are available in health education

Due to the diverse nature of the field, there are numerous job titles for health educators. Most of these roles are categorized under the work setting or specialization. For example, jobs in community health education include: family services specialist, community health educator, community outreach coordinator, etc.

Under school health education, we have roles like health counselor, school health educator, head start health specialist, district wellness coordinator, youth outreach coordinator, etc. Business health education includes jobs like corporate wellness trainer, health education director, and worksite safety coordinator.

Academia or university health education roles include: adjunct or assistant professor, health and wellness coordinator, health programs management director, etc. Some jobs in the government include: public health inspector, health information specialist, epidemiologist, environmental health educator, etc.

Health education specialists can be employed in healthcare facilities for roles such as nutrition services coordinator, community outreach coordinator, cancer information specialist, lactation consultant, patient care coordinator, biometric health screener, medical resource manager, patient education director, etc.

Career outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, health education and community health jobs are projected to grow 12 percent from 2021 to 2031. Over the next decade, about 16,000 openings for health educators will be available every year. More professionals are needed to replace those who may change occupations and those who exit the labor force completely.

The salaries of health education specialists and community health workers depend on factors such as work setting, qualification, specialization, geographical location, etc. The average annual income for community health workers was $46,590 in May 2021. Health education specialists can earn salaries from $50,500 to $102,480 every year.