Certification is offered through the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing and requires completing an approved academic program and passing a multiple-choice exam of 165 questions. Certification is available at two levels and must be renewed periodically. Health educators who want to become public school teachers will need to meet their state's licensing requirements, which usually include completing an approved teacher education program and passing competency examinations.
A bachelor's degree program in health education trains students to educate individuals of all ages in a variety of settings. Courses cover topics such as disease, adolescent health concerns and the basics of public health education. Master's degree programs in health education usually focus on public health trends and problems. Students learn to develop and implement programs to tackle these issues. A thesis is often required, as is an internship.
- Program Levels for Certified Health Education Specialists: Both bachelor's degrees and master's degrees are available
- Health Education Specialist Program Fields: Health education, health promotion and education
- Prerequisites: Master's programs often require a bachelor's degree in a related field as well as college level coursework in human anatomy, physiology and psychology
- Experiential Learning: Both bachelor's and master's level programs usually include an internship
Bachelor of Health Education
Bachelor's degree programs in health education are most often offered as a Bachelor of Science. They combine training in today's topics in health with strategies for successfully educating people in health issues, along with how to implement successful programs. The goal is to train entry-level health education professionals who work in a variety of settings, from public health departments and schools to private businesses. Many schools offer their bachelor's degree program through the education department, so with further training an individual may be able to prepare for certification or licensure as a health or physical education teacher in a public school setting.
Most bachelor's degree programs in health education are tailored to meet the specifications of the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing. The typical program also includes an internship and general education classes. Some course topics may be:
- Public health foundations
- The spread of disease
- Community health observation and assessment
- Adolescent health issues
- Preventing sexually transmitted diseases
Master of Health Promotion and Education
Master's degree programs in health education are typically a focused approach to community and public health issues, trends, research and plan implementation. Students in this type of a program learn how to spot health trends and problems and devise programs to help prevent them. They learn how to arm the community with information and resources so people can protect themselves from the spread of disease or preventable health issues. There are many options on the master's degree level, such as the Master of Public Health, Master of Education or a Master of Science. Many master's degree programs may also lead to certification as a public school teacher.
Most programs also include a thesis or similar research project and an internship opportunity. Course topics may be:
- Statistics and research in health education
- The spread of disease
- Human movement and exercise
- Bringing wellness into large organizations
- Promoting health and wellness in the community
- Health assessments
A bachelor's degree program in health education can prepare an individual for a variety of job opportunities in health promotion. Among them are:
- Community health educator
- Wellness promotion specialist
- College health promotion specialist
- Worksite health coordinator
- Health communication specialist
- International health promotion
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
As health care costs continue to increase, the role of health educators will grow in an effort to keep people out of hospitals and doctors' offices, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS predicted jobs for this profession will grow about 19% from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations (www.bls.gov). The median salary for health educators was $50,430 in May 2014, as reported by the BLS.
Continuing Education and Certification Information
The National Commission for Health Education Credentialing has a Certified Health Education Specialist program that involves a rigorous exam. Individuals interested in taking the exam should have a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree from a health education program. Applicants also must submit transcripts from higher education degree programs that show a certain amount of hours of health education coursework.
In addition to offering Certified Health Education Specialist credential programs, the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing has continuing education opportunities in the form of seminars, journals and other resources (www.nchec.org). Those interested in becoming teachers should check with their state because certification and licensing requirements may vary. Teacher licensing generally involves passing a national exam and graduating from an approved training program.
Recertification happens every five years and requires applicants to earn continuing education credits. The commission also has continuing education resources for professionals in the field. Many schools offer doctorate programs in health education for those who want to do research in the field or teach aspiring health educators.