Becoming a health
Preparing for a career in health education
requires creative and interpersonal skills, academic
preparation, and, for some positions, professional
credentials. Advancement in the occupation may require all
of the above.
Skills. Health educators are often
required to create new programs or materials and,
therefore, should be creative and adept writers. They
spend much of their time working with people, so they must
be both good listeners and good speakers. In particular,
they should be comfortable speaking publicly because they
may teach classes or give presentations.
Health educators also must be able to work
with both individuals and large groups, including
committees. Because health educators often work with
diverse populations, they must be culturally sensitive and
open to working with people of varied backgrounds.
Education. A bachelorís degree
is generally the minimum requirement for an entry-level
health educator position. However, some employers may
prefer to hire people who have a bachelorís degree plus
related experience from an internship or volunteer work. A
masterís degree in health education or a related field
is usually required for higher level positions or to work
in public health. More than 250 colleges and universities
offer undergraduate and graduate programs in health
education or a similarly titled area of study.
Courses in health education generally cover the
theories of health education and help students develop the
skills necessary to plan, implement, and evaluate health
education programs. Health education students should also
consider courses in psychology, human development, and a
foreign language to make themselves more marketable. Many
schools also offer information and assistance to students
who are interested in an internship or volunteer
At the graduate-degree level, students may
pursue a master of arts, science, education, or public
health. Relevant fields of study include community health
education, school health education, and health promotion.
Many students who have studied or worked in a related
field, such as nursing or psychology, later earn their
masterís degree in health education.
Credentials. Some States require
health educators who work in public health to be certified
health education specialists, and many employers outside
of public health also prefer to hire those who are
The Certified Health Education Specialists
designation is offered by the National Commission of
Health Education Credentialing. Certification is awarded
to those who pass a test covering the basics of health
education. The exam is designed for entry-level educators
who have earned a degree in health education or who are
within 3 months of graduating.
To maintain certification, health
educators must complete 75 hours of continuing education
every 5 years.
Advancement. Higher level health
education positions, which usually require an advanced
degree, include executive director, supervisor, and senior
health educator. People working in these positions may
spend more time on planning and evaluating programs than
on their implementation.
Higher level positions may also require
supervising other health educators who implement the
programs. Health educators at this level may also work
with other administrators within an organization.
Some health educators pursue a doctoral
degree in health education, which allows them to conduct
research or to become professors of health education.
For more information
Many health educators say their jobs are
rewarding. They appreciate the variation in their
day-to-day activities: One day might be spent teaching a
class on the risks of doing drugs, followed the next day
by meetings with community organizers of events
for American Heart Month. Health educators often enjoy
working on different projects with diverse groups of
If this occupation interests you, learn
more about it by continuing your research. Begin by
visiting a career counselor or your local library, where
youíll find information about the industries in which
health educators work.
Among the resources in many career
counselor offices and libraries are the Occupational
Outlook Handbook and Career Guide to Industries,
which provide details about the working conditions,
employment, earnings and more for hundreds of occupations
and dozens of industries. You can also find these
publications online: the Handbook at www.bls.gov/oco
and the Career Guide at www.bls.gov/oco/cg.
Associations are also a good source of
career information. For general information about health
American Association for Health Education
1900 Association Dr.
Reston, VA 20191
Toll-free: 1 (800) 213-7193
Society for Public Health Education
750 First St. NE., Suite 910
Washington, DC 20002
For information about voluntary
credentialing and job opportunities, contact:
National Commission for Health Education
1541 Alta Dr., Suite 303
Whitehall, PA 18052
Toll-Free: 1 (888) 624-3248
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