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.

Do I Want to Be a Health Care Advocate?

Health care advocates make it their mission to promote reform and provide support in the health care industry. They 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.

Job Requirements

Though there is no particular educational requirement necessary to become a health care advocate, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that health educators earn a bachelor's degree, while community health workers might need a high school diploma and a few years of on-the-job training. The following table, compiled from job openings found in October of 2012, shows further requirements typical to becoming a health care advocate:

Common Requirements
Degree Level None needed
Experience 2+ years in social services and/or the health care industry
Key Skills Active listening, speaking, organization
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 program 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 their health care issue, 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.

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