There is a strong connection between our lifestyles and our health. Eat a nutritious diet that is low in sodium, sugar and fat, and you are more likely to avoid serious diseases. Don't smoke and drink only moderately and you will live longer. The advice is simple but not easy for many to follow. That is where a health educator comes in. He or she teaches individuals and communities how to live healthy lifestyles in order to prevent health problems that can shorten their lives or at least make them unpleasant.
There were approximately 59,000 health educators employed in 2020. They work in healthcare facilities like hospitals and nursing homes. They work with students in elementary, middle and high schools as well as colleges. They are employed by businesses and organizations that strive to promote healthy lifestyles.
Many people who live in the communities health educators serve work during the day, Monday through Friday. The only way to reach those people and increase their attendance at workshops and programs is to hold them on evenings and weekends. This means health educators sometimes have to work during those times.
To get an entry-level position, you will need a bachelor's degree. This degree should be in either health education or health promotion with coursework that includes psychology and human development. In order to communicate with clients, being bilingual is also helpful and can make you more marketable as a job candidate.
For more advanced positions or if you want a US government job as a health educator, you will have to earn a master's degree in a discipline like public health education, community health education, school health education or health promotion. The bachelor's degree you will need for admittance to one of these program can be in another major.
One can become a Certified Health Education Specialist, but this certification, which the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc. offers, is voluntary. However, many employers will hire only job candidates who have it. To take the exam that leads to earning this certification, one must have, or be about to complete, a bachelor's degree. Seventy-five hours of continuing education classes every five years are required to maintain it.
In addition to formal education and certification, one also needs certain soft skills, or personal qualities to succeed in this occupation. Given that their primary function is teaching, it is imperative that those who aspire to become health educators are good at providing instruction as well as interacting with people. Good writing skills are needed for putting together the written material used in teaching. Analytical and problem solving skills are also important.
With experience and a master's degree, a health educator can advance past an entry-level position to become an executive director, supervisor or senior health educator.
The future looks rosy for health educators. This occupation can expect faster than average employment growth through 2022.
Health educators earned a median annual salary of $49,210 in 2013 (US). Their median hourly wages were $23.66.
Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much a Health Educator currently earns in your city.
A Day in a Health Educator's Life
These are some typical job duties taken from online ads for health educator positions found on Indeed.com:
- Provide health and wellness education and advocacy for health care.
- Evaluate, design, present, recommend and disseminate high quality, culturally appropriate health education information and materials.
- Perform intakes on new and re-enrolling adults in the infectious disease program.
- Facilitate classes according to the organization's guidelines.
- Maintain patient log of all patients scheduled for procedures.
- Plan and implement programs and treatments specifically designed to address the patient's needs.
- Consult with physicians and staff regarding related health education services.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Health Educator, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/health-educators.htm (visited June 4, 2014).
Employment and Training Administration, US Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Health Educator, on the Internet at http://www.onetonline.org/link/details/21-1091.00 (visited June 4, 2014).