How to Become a Health Educator

How to Become a Health Educator

A Certified Health Educator instructing her classroom on vital organs.

Health educators work as teachers and advocates for active and healthy lifestyles in schools, businesses and communities. Health educators serve a diverse demographic of clients, so job requirements and specifics may vary. Professionals in this field might work with dietary-, sexual-, habitual- or exercise-related subjects.

Audience will dictate what a subject matter and methods a health educator must be familiar with. Educators specializing in children, for example, will have a different approach and lesson than they would for a crowd of middle-aged women. Health educators typically need a broad base of knowledge on healthy lifestyle facts and methods to best educate their crowds.

If you are interested in a career as a health educator, you might want to ask yourself:

  • Are you able to communicate and work with people? Being a people person is important for this career—as you educate others, you will need to be invested in their education and understanding of this field.
  • Are you determined and motivated? You might begin to feel discouraged as those you are educating just don’t seem to care about their health and wellbeing. You will have to be both patient and convincing.
  • Are you expressive and creative? Health educators will need to be creative in their presentation. Even in lecture, a boring instructor will not be looked on favorably or listened to well. A successful career as a health educator will depend on your ability to creatively and accurately provide information.

Education and Requirements

A bachelor’s or master’s degree is required, depending on the specific education position you plan to hold. A master’s level of education will make you a more valuable candidate for a position, but may not be required.

Certification to become a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) is offered by the National Commission of Health Education Credentialing, Inc. A bachelor’s degree in health education and continued education is required to take the credentialing exam and maintain the certification. Many employers prefer certified employees and some states require certification to work in the public health department.

Salary and Outlook

The average salary for a health educator was reported by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as $53,100 in 2012. A total of 55,270 health educators were recorded in 2012 by the BLS.

According to the BLS, the job outlook for health educators is very positive and expected to grow at a rapid rate of 37 percent from 2010-2020. This is much faster than the average growth rate in other industries and is attributed to a trend in healthy habits and reducing the cost of healthcare.

As government programs and corporations desire healthier citizens and employees, educators in health will find more and more job openings available in this field.

Tips for Pursuing a Career in Heath Education:

  • Get a broad education. Though you may want to choose a focus industry or audience, maintaining a broad and diverse number of subjects in your education will be helpful in obtaining a job later. Educators should be familiar with many health and fitness topics.
  • Take an interest in multiple facets of nutrition and fitness. There are many answers and ideas for health and fitness. Rather than only focusing on one type of answer, obtain a broad understanding of many. Knowing the differences and benefits of natural and conventional medical approaches, for example, will help you provide balanced education and field audience questions.
  • Take public speaking classes. Clear communication and keeping an attentive audience are important in the role of a health educator.
  • Take classes specific to your planned career choice. While you will want a broad and diverse understanding of health, taking classes to make you a specialized educator in certain areas will be valuable to an employer. For example, if you hope to teach health classes in the public schools, taking some child psychiatry and education classes will vastly improve your credentials in that area.

Sources: http://www.nchec.org/credentialing/credential/, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Community-and-Social-Service/Health-educators.htm, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211091.htm, http://www.healthcarecareers.org/health-educators/, http://www.csuchico.edu/hcsv/programs/he_becoming_health_educator.shtml

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