Become a Certified Health Instructor: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a certified health instructor. Explore the job description and education requirements, and find out how you can start a career in health instruction.

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Should I Become Certified Health Instructor?

Certified health instructors, also known as health educators or health teachers, promote wellness and teach people the importance of making healthy choices. Their duties may include classroom management, creating lesson plans, distributing health education materials and counseling students.

Health educators typically work full-time in hospitals, health departments, government agencies, colleges, or physician's offices; some evening and weekend hours for special community events may be required. Some health educators may be exposed to infectious diseases, depending on the classes they teach and the individuals who attend them.

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Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree, but a master's degree may be required for certain government or state agency positions
Degree Field Health education or health promotion
Certification Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) certification from the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing is often required
Experience Not required for entry-level positions
Key Skills Strong communication, analytical, writing, problem solving, teaching and interpersonal skills
Salary (2014) $55,260 (Annual mean salary for a health teacher)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ONET Online

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Prospective health educators can earn a bachelor's degree in health education or health promotion. Despite their different fields of study, these programs, which normally require four years of study, often include similar coursework. The curriculum of these programs may include classes in topics like the foundations of community health education, health promotion, environmental health, epidemiology, human anatomy and health communication.

Success Tip:

  • Complete an internship. Some bachelor's degree programs may allow students to complete an internship during their studies. These internships not only provide networking opportunities that may make finding a job after graduation easier, but also give students experience completing the job tasks normally performed by health instructors.
  • Prepare for the NCHEC certification exam. Employers may prefer to hire candidates who are certified. Being certified requires passing an exam. The NCHEC provides practice questions and study guides on its website. Preparing for the exam may increase the likelihood of an individual passing it on the first try.

Step 2: Become Certified

The National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC) offers the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential. This credential is designed for graduates of health education bachelor's degree programs or those who plan to complete such a program within three months. Earning certification requires passing a 165-question exam.

Step 3: Begin Working as a Certified Health Instructor

Certified health instructors or health educators in hospitals or other healthcare facilities may be responsible for helping patients understand their diagnoses and directing them to helpful resources. Those in college settings typically educate students regarding health topics pertaining to young adults. In health departments, health educators usually provide instruction about handling public health issues like nutrition and disease prevention.

Step 4: Complete Continuing Education

CHES certified health instructors are required to complete continuing education to retain their credential. NCHEC requires completing 75 hours of continuing education over a five year period.

Step 5: Consider Earning a Master's Degree

Certified health educators who have worked in the field for some time may consider returning to school to earn a master's degree in health education or health promotion. A master's degree may make an individual eligible for more advanced positions, jobs with the federal government or positions at state health agencies.

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