Health Educators Overview
While 23 percent of health educators work in government, an additional 51 percent work in healthcare and social assistance. Although a bachelors degree is sufficient for most entry-level jobs, a masters degree may be mandatory for certain positions or for advancement. Health educators are expected to have a faster than average job growth.
Nature of the Work for Health Educators
Health educators teach individuals and communities issues on health and wellness about behaviors that can prevent injuries, disease and other health problems.
Health educators inform and educate individuals and communities about the importance of exercise, how to avoid sexually transmitted disease, proper nutrition and behaviors to prevent illness. In order to complete these trainings, health educators begin by assessing the needs of their audiences and decide the appropriate topics to cover. Next they decide how to meet those needs. When putting together programs, health educators have a lot of options such as organize a class, event, lecture, health screening or demonstration, or develop educational material, such as a brochure, video or pamphlet. This usually requires them to work on teams or a committee. Health educators must always keep their company’s goals and objective in mind when creating programs.
In order to implement the proposed plan, they may be required to locate funding by apply for grants, create materials to be made available to the public and write curriculums for classes. They must also deal with the logistics of the program by securing a location and speakers for an event.
When the program is completed, health educators will generally evaluate its success. Evaluation methods vary depending on the program and can help to improve plans for future programs by capitalizing on strengths and learning from mistakes.
In addition to programming, health educators are also a resource on health topics for individuals and communities. This may include locating reference material or services.
The goal of health educators varies depending on the organization. At medical care facilities, they usually work on an individual basis with patients and their families. Here, they may educate individual patients on their diagnosis and how that may affect or change their lifestyle. Health educators may also steer patients to outside resource and in some cases, they train hospital staff about how to better interact with patients.
In colleges and universities, health educators primarily work with students. They create programs for topics concerning young adults, such as smoking, sexual activity and alcohol. They especially need to keep their audience in mind in order to attract people to their event. Sometimes, they train students as peer educators to design their own programs.
In school, health educators are primarily found in secondary schools, teaching a health class. Health educators working in schools have to keep their audience in mind, as they may cover sensitive issues, including alcohol or drug abuse, sexually transmitted diseases and may also teach another subject at the same time, such as physical education or science. In some cases, they develop the health curriculum for the entire school or for the whole school district.
When employed by local and State, health educators usually work in the departments of public health and administer State-mandated programs. They are also in charge of developing materials for other public health officials.
At a nonprofits, they provide information related to health to the public and educate them about various resources available to help the public. Some target a specific audience, while others educate the community regarding one health issue or disease. Sometimes, they can work to set policy that will improve public health, such as working to advance legislation for prohibition of smoking
In the private sector, health educators design programs that inform its employees that fit to the workers schedule, such as lunchtime speakers.
The work environment of health educators varies depending on the industry in which they are employed. In nonprofit organizations, colleges and universities, corporations and businesses and medical care settings, they primarily work in offices. They must also spend a considerable amount of time away from the office when planning and attending programs, teaching classes, meeting with community organizers and speaking with patients. In schools, health educators spend most of the day in classrooms.
They usually work the standard 40-hour workweek, but during meetings or programs, they may be required to work evenings or weekends.
Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Health Educators
A bachelors degree in a health education program is usually sufficient for entry-level positions as a health educator. Courses in their program teach students methods and theories of health education. They may take classes in human development, psychology or a foreign language, as well as gain experience through an internship or volunteer opportunity.
In graduate school, health educators specialize in a field such as school health education, public health education, community health education or health promotion. Graduates of these programs earn a Master of Science, Master of Education, Master of Public Health or Master of the Arts, depending on their focus. A master's degree is required for most health educator positions in public health.
It is essential that health educators be comfortable working with individuals and groups. They must be excellent verbal and written communicators, as they are often speaking in public or teaching classes. A sensitivity to cultural differences is a necessity, as they are often working with diverse populations.
Although many employers do not require it, beginning health educators may choose to become a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES), offered by the National Commission of Health Education Credentialing, Inc. Applicants must have a bachelors degree, or be within three months of completion and pass an examination. In order to keep their credentials, 75 hours of approved continuing education courses or seminars over a period of five years are required.
To advance past an entry-level position, a graduate degree is usually required. In higher positions, health educators spend most of their time planning and evaluating programs and less time on implementing them. Health educators with a doctoral degree in health education may pursue a research position or become professors of health education.
Top 10 Most Popular Public Health Education and Promotion Schools
1. Brigham Young University, Idaho (Rexburg, Idaho)
2. University of Utah, Salt Lake City (Salt Lake City, Utah)
3. University of Southern California (Los Angeles, California)
4. Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia)
5. East Carolina University (Greenville, North Carolina)
6. University of North Carolina, Greensboro (Greensboro, North Carolina)
7. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
8. Oregon State University, Corvallis (Corvallis, Oregon)
9. Coastal Carolina University (Conway, South Carolina)
10. Oklahoma State University, Stillwater (Stillwater, Oklahoma)
Online School: Kaplan University - Online School
Employment and Job Outlook for Health Educators
Number of People in Profession
Changing Employment (2008-2018)
Employment is projected to grow faster than average (increase 14 - 19%).
Job Opportunities & Competition
Good or favorable job opportunities. Job openings compared with job seekers may be in rough balance.
Employment of health educators is expected to grow by 18 percent in the next decade, which is faster than average for all occupations.
The rising cost in healthcare will spur growth for health educators. In order to curb costs, employers, governments and insurance companies may hire health educators to prevent illnesses and disease and avoid costly treatment. Illnesses such as, lung cancer, heart disease, HIV and skin cancer may be avoided with lifestyle changes. Other health problems are best treated with early detection, so health educators are needed to teach people how to detect possible symptoms on their own.
Most industries, except secondary schools, are expected to see an increase in most industries. When facing budget cuts, many schools ask teachers to train in other fields to teach the subject of health education.
Those who have experience through internships or volunteer jobs will see the best job prospects. Employers in public health and non-entry-level positions usually require a graduate degree.
Earnings and Salary for Health Educators
Health educators’ median annual wages are $44,340. The highest 10 percent earns more than $79,290, while the lowest 10 percent earn less than $26,120. The middle 50 percent earn between $33,270 and $60,970.
The median annual wages for top employing industries in health education are:
General medical and surgical supplied: $56,390
Colleges, universities and professional schools: $49,050
Local government: $43,040
Outpatient care centers: $36,830
Individual and family services: $36,050
Annual Salary for Health Educators
On average, Health Educators earn $44,340 per year.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook