Department of Public Health Education

Community Health Education

What’s the point of being a health educator?

The purpose of being a health educator is twofold: disease prevention and health promotion.  Health educators teach people and communities about changing behaviors in order to improve health and ultimately prevent health problems and disease. 

What exactly do health educators do?

Usually, health educators promote healthy living by:

  • Studying the health needs of a targeted population (such as studying breast cancer in women or alcohol abuse in college students).
  • Working with others to create a health education program (such as developing curriculum for self-breast exams, tobacco-use prevention, teen pregnancy, immunization programs, etc.). 
  • Delivering the health information program (such as actually teaching a class). 
  • Evaluating how effective the program was in achieving its objectives (such as conducting surveys, conducting interviews, analyzing statistical data, etc.).
  • Improving the program based upon its evaluation (such as strengthening the weaknesses of the program, fixing mistakes, and utilizing its strengths).

CHES/MCHES Employer Video

What’s required to become a health educator?

Typically, a bachelor’s degree in health education is required for an entry level health educator position.  Those with a bachelor’s degree can increase their marketability for employment by obtaining hands-on experience through an internship and by becoming CHES (Certified Health Education Specialist) certified.  It is important to note that some employers prefer the health educator to possess a graduate degree in health education. 

As far as personality is concerned, health educators must be able to work with people, ranging from individuals to larger group settings.  Since health educators usually give presentations or teach classes, it is essential that health educators have good communication skills, especially within the realm of public speaking.  Moreover, health educators need to have innovative and productive writing skills in order to develop effective program materials.  Also, health educators are required to be respectful of varying cultures since they usually work within a wide range of populations.   

Where do health educators work?

Although health educators have the objective of disease prevention and health promotion, job duties can be very different depending on where one is employed.  Typically, health educators will work in schools, medical care organizations, nonprofit organizations, universities, national, state, or local public health departments, or even through private businesses.  Each sector is described more completely below:

Health Departments (Local and State)
Heath educators in local or state health departments manage health programs that are directed by the state.  Frequently, health educators are members of some type of health committee.  Health educators will also collaborate and assist nonprofit organizations that have a mission to improve the health of the community. 

Medical Care Organizations
Health educators will work with patients and families to educate them concerning the effects of a diagnosis, such as what procedures must be taken or what lifestyle changes are needed to control an illness and gain maximal health.  Health educators will collaborate with hospital staff, such as administrators, nurses, or physicians to develop specific educational programs.  

Nonprofit Organizations
Health educators will deliver health information and resources to the community concerning various health problems.  Nonprofit companies typically concentrate on a specific disease or a specific population.

Private Businesses
Health educators try to improve the health of a company’s employees by developing health programs specifically for the company’s staff.  Health educators organize programs in relationship to the schedules and duties of the employees.  In the private business arena, health educators are directed to accomplish the various health objectives set by the business executives.  

Schools/Colleges/Universities
Health educators will create educational messages that are relevant to students, such as exercise, nutrition, sexuality,  drugs, alcohol, and smoking.  Messages are created to gain the attention of students, which can be done through peer educators who are taught how to teach their fellow students.  Health educators may teach other classes, such as physical education or a science.   

What kind of salary can a health educator expect?
In May of 2010, the average earning of a health educator was $45,830 a year. The lowest 10 percentof health educators earned less than $26,730 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $81,430.  The median annual earnings for the sectors that employ the most health educators were:

Hospitals; State, Local & Private $58,440 per year
Government $48,900 per year
Ambulatory Healthcare Services $41,210 per year
Religious, Grantmaking, Civic, Professional and similar organizations $40,430 per year
Social Assistance $34,850 per year

What’s the job outlook for health educators?
Heath care costs are rising.  In response, the government, health insurance companies, and various employers will begin to place a larger focus on disease prevention.  Therefore, more heath educators will be utilized to prevent disease by educating communities about healthy living.   

The U.S. Department of Labor states that the potential for health educator jobs is predicted to be “favorable.”  In fact, the employment of health educators is expected to increase by 37 percent from 2010-2020, which is “much faster” than the average employment of all other professions.  

The potential for health educators with a bachelor’s degree to obtain a job will be favorable, especially if they have experience, through volunteering or an internship. 

What’s the work environment for a health educator?
Usually, a full time health educator will work day shift, 40 hours a week, with weekends off.  However, health educators may need to work weekends or evenings depending upon the scheduling of health programming events or meetings.  The environment in which a health educator will work in ultimately depends upon the sector in which they are employed.  Heath educators usually work in an office setting if they work within a local or state health department, a nonprofit organization, a private business, a college or university, or a medical care organization.  On the other hand, health educators may work outside the office setting if they are conducting health programs, attending meetings with community organizations, or educating the community.  

What about graduate or professional schools?
Majoring in community health education is an excellent foundation for students to apply to various graduate and professional programs, these may include: medical school, physician’s assistant school, dental school, optometry school, pharmacy school, chiropractor school, physical therapy school, public health, social work, health administration, nutrition, and counseling.  It is important to note that each graduate and professional school will vary in its admission requirements and admission procedures.  One should take care to investigate these requirements well ahead of time to ensure that each prerequisite as been met.
 
Professional Organizations
Health educators are eligible to become members of several professional organizations.  These include:
American Public Health Association (APHA) www.apha.org
American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD)  www.aahperd.org
American Association for Health Education (AAHE) www.aahperd.org/AAHE/
American School Health Association (ASHA) www.ashaweb.org
Eta Sigma Gamma (ESG) Health Education Honorary Society, www.etasigmagamma.org
Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) www.sophe.org         

References
U.S. Department of Labor.  (2010).  Health educators.  Occupational outlook handbook, 2012-13 edition.  Retrieved August 14, 2012 from:  http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos063.htm

The National Commission for Health Education Credentialing.  (2008).  Retrieved August 14, 2012 from: http://www.nchec.org/

Interested in the Community Health Education concentration?

Contact: Public Health Education
437 Health and Human Sciences Building
Tel: 336.334.5532
Email: phe@uncg.edu

For more information

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