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Health Educator: Career Information

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Job Description:

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 health educators come in. A health educator 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.

Health educators 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 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.

Employment Facts:

There were 63,000 health educators employed in 2020.

Educational Requirements:

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, a foreign language 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.

Other Requirements:

One can become a Certified Health Education Specialist, but this certification, which the Nation 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.

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. They must also have good writing skills, necessary for putting together the written material used in teaching. Analytical and writing skills are also important.

Advancement Opportunities:

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.

Why Do You Need to Know About Advancement?

Job Outlook:

The future looks rosy for health educators. This occupation can expect faster than average employment growth through 2020. It is among the fastest growing occupations among those that also require a bachelor's degree.

Why Do You Need to Know About Job Outlook?

Earnings:

Health educators earned a median annual salary of $47,940 in 2011 (U.S.). Their median hourly wages were $23.05.

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:

On a typical day a health educator's tasks might include:

  • informing and educating communities about health related topics in order to try to prevent illnesses
  • assessing the needs of the communities in which he or she works
  • developing educational materials such as videos and brochures
  • organizing events such as lectures, classes and health screenings
  • evaluating the success of these programs

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Health Educator, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/health-educators.htm (visited July 16, 2012).
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Health Educator, on the Internet at http://www.onetonline.org/link/details/21-1091.00 (visited July 16, 2012).

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