Education and Training: Master's degree or higher
Salary: Median—$52,639 per year
Employment Outlook: Very good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Health educators plan, organize, and direct health education programs for communities and groups such as civic organizations and labor unions. They work with other health professionals, civic groups, and community officials to determine health needs, develop desirable health goals, and evaluate the availability of health services. They focus on promoting good health and preventing disease, but they must also deal with social, behavioral, legal, and economic issues.
Public health educators prepare and distribute educational and informational materials on public health issues such as smoking, immunization, drug abuse, and AIDS. They may plan exhibits and health fairs, and may conduct forum discussions to motivate their audiences to understand health issues so they can act in ways that promote good health. Public health educators may also be involved in health-related issues, such as traffic safety and the design of community health facilities. Their goals are to help people adopt healthier lifestyles, make the most efficient use of health services, and practice self-care.
Education and Training Requirements
To be a health educator, you should have a master of public health (M.P.H.) or a master of science (M.S.) degree, preferably from one of the accredited schools of public health or an accredited graduate public health program offered at other educational institutions. Study for the M.P.H. or M.S. involves courses in public health practice and program management, behavioral sciences, and health education, among others.
Some health educators also have a medical degree and have worked in the medical field. Others have a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as sociology or anthropology, as well as related work experience. Practicing public health educators must continue to take courses to maintain and improve their skills, and many go on to earn doctoral degrees. You can become a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) if you meet the standards of competence established by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC) and have successfully passed the CHES examination.
Getting the Job
Graduates can consult the college placement office for job openings. Many entry-level jobs are available with federal, state, and local governments; health agencies; and volunteer health organizations.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
A public health educator for a town or county can become the director of health education for a state's Department of Health and Human Services or, at the federal level, a director of the National Institutes of Health or the Health Resources and Services Administration. A public health educator can also advance by becoming a specialist in a particular area—such as international health issues—and by working for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Employment opportunities for public health educators are expected to increase faster than the average through 2014. The rise of communicable diseases such as AIDS, the need for prenatal and child health care programs, and the increasing complexity of medical technology have all contributed to this growing demand. Community-oriented health care is also becoming increasingly important.
Public health educators generally work in comfortable offices. When they are conducting forums or giving presentations, they may have to work some evenings and weekends. Public health educators also frequently travel to other communities or states to explore health education programs.
Educators must have good communication skills and be comfortable working with people. They must also be able to adapt ideas to suit various situations.
Where to Go for More Information
National Commission for Health Education Credentialing
1541 Alta Dr., Ste. 303
Whitehall, PA 18052-5642
Earnings and Benefits
In 2006 the median salary for a health educator was $52,639. Salaried educators usually receive health insurance, paid holidays and vacations, and retirement plans.