How to Become a Health Care Advocate: Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a health care advocate. Research the job description and the education requirements and find out how to start a career in health care advocacy.

Should I Become a Health Care Advocate?

Health care advocates make it their mission to promote reform and provide support in the health care industry. Many advocates work directly with clients, assisting them in obtaining medical insurance, and operating as a liaison between insurance companies, providers, and the client themselves. Others may fill a variety of positions in existing advocacy organizations or choose to create their own. Advocacy falls under the nonprofit sector, sometimes called the independent sector. Professional health care advocates may spend a good deal of time away from the office, meeting with members of the public or staging informational events. The position can include weekend and evening hours as well.

The beauty of this career path is its versatility. Essentially anyone, regardless of their educational background, could perform work that would fall under the job description of a healthcare advocate. Moreover, anyone from a lawyer to politician to community-based organizer can fit the description of a healthcare advocate. In addition, the U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics (BLS) does not gather salary info specifically for healthcare advocates, given how many folks enter this career path from multiple degree and experience backgrounds.

Career Requirements

Degree Level None necessarily needed; however, many be beneficial for managerial positions
Experience 2+ years in social services and/or the health care industry
Key Skills Active listening, speaking, organization, self-motivation, empathy, connection with the community, passion, dedication to healthcare reform
Computer Skills Office software including e-mail clients, Word, and Excel

Step 1: Complete Applicable Education

Educational requirements for health care advocacy positions vary. An individual who hopes to start his or her own non-profit group or hold an executive position for an existing advocacy agency would do well to pursue higher education. Certificate programs include nonprofit management and health care advocacy, while advanced educational options, such as a Master of Science in Health Communications, can provide more in-depth knowledge on how to evaluate, create, and implement health care advocacy programs.

Success Tip:

  • Seek an internship in social services or health care. Some college programs offer opportunities to gain practical experience. Students may choose to search for health care advocacy internships to supplement their education. The American Medical Association facilitates advocacy for professionals and patients, and it can provide useful networking opportunities.

Step 2: Get Hands-On Experience

Many health care advocates begin their career paths by volunteering. Not only does this give them valuable hands-on experience, but it also helps prospective employees decide if an organization is the right fit for them. Nonprofit hiring managers look for a track record of support for health care issues, and volunteer experience can give applicants a leg up.

Not all health care advocates start their careers in the philanthropic sector. Gaining pertinent career experience in the for-profit industry can also help further a career as a health care advocate. Public relations and fundraising skills are in high demand in this field.

Step 3: Find Work

Candidates with adequate experience and education can begin applying for health care advocate positions commensurate to their skill set. They can also follow the proper legal channels and create their own advocacy agency supporting their very own brand of change. Health care advocates may appear as guest speakers, addressing crowds across the country.

Success Tip:

  • Register with Organizations Doing Similar Work. The National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants works directly with advocates across the country providing them with resources, networking, and opportunities to continue their education. This can be an invaluable resource for individuals looking to collaborate with other like-minded folks or brainstorm solutions to common problems.

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