Become a Health Teacher: Education and Career Roadmap

Jan 02, 2019

Research the requirements to become a health teacher. Learn about the job description and duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career in education.

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Should I Become a Health Teacher?

Health teachers instruct students on nutrition and diet, disease and illness, drug and alcohol abuse, and the importance of developing healthy lifestyles. They cover age-appropriate topics for primary and secondary level students. Common duties include developing lesson plans, implementing classroom management techniques and counseling students when necessary. Most health teachers are employed in public or private school systems. Working with young people can be tiring and stressful. However, teaching can also bring intrinsic rewards when educators are able to see the progress made by their students.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree required
Degree Field Health science, education
Licensure and Certification State certification is required
Experience Supervised student teaching experience
Key Skills Excellent communication skills, ability to instruct others, patience
Salary $55,260 (Annual mean salary for a health educator, 2014)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2014), ONET Online, Boise Schools job posting (August 2012), Central Washington University

Working in a school as a health teacher will require a minimum of a bachelor's degree in the fields of health science and education. In addition to a degree, state certification and the completion of supervised student teaching are required. The key skills needed to work as a teacher can include excellent communication skills, ability to instruct others, and patience.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in May of 2015, the mean annual salary for all health educators was $56,690.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree is the minimum level of education required for individuals seeking a career as a health teacher. A bachelor's degree in health science or education prepares graduates to teach at the K-12 grade levels. Elementary education programs qualify graduates to teach in elementary schools, while secondary education programs are designed for teaching at the middle and high school levels.

Teaching programs should be accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and approved by the state's Department of Education. Approved undergraduate curricula are typically aligned with the National Health Education Standards. Course topics may include anatomy, nutrition, disease and illness, stress management, and methods of health promotion. Students are usually required to complete a semester of student teaching to satisfy program requirements.

When working to become a teacher, students should consider taking communication classes in order to enhance their skills. It is vital that health teachers possess excellent communication skills. Students in an undergraduate program can improve their communication skills by enrolling in communication or speech classes.

Students enrolled in a teacher preparation program will need to participate in a student teaching experience. A student teaching experience allows students to apply the knowledge they have gained in the classroom to a real-world situation.

Step 2: Become a Certified Teacher

A teaching certificate is required to teach in public schools. Each state's Department of Education establishes certification requirements. In most states, candidates must complete education coursework, earn a bachelor's degree and pass a basic skills test. To teach health, candidates must also take a special subject test to obtain a health education endorsement on their license.

According to the NCATE, more states are using a tiered licensing system, which includes mentoring programs and professional development activities to support and assist beginning teachers. Alternative licenses are available for those with a bachelor's degree in health but lacking a teacher education background. These licenses allow graduates to begin teaching while taking classes in the evenings and weekends. In this type of program, a regular teaching license is usually granted after one to two years of work experience.

When working to earn certification, prospective teachers should prepare to take the basic skills and health educator exam by gathering the recommended reading materials, obtaining study guides and taking practice exams.

Step 3: Experience and a Master's

Most students get practical teaching experience through student teaching or internships as part of their bachelor's degree program. Students may also find part-time work as tutors or after-school program teachers to gain experience and increase their comfort level when working with young children and teenagers. Aspiring teachers may also consider substitute teaching work to gain additional experience.

Some states require health educators to hold a master's degree to teach in secondary schools, colleges and universities, and work experience is generally needed to qualify for a master's degree program or for advanced certification. Graduate degree programs generally last 1-2 years and blend health and science concepts with teaching methods. Coursework includes human sexuality, personal health, substance abuse, stress prevention and health instruction. Students may also study diseases, eating disorders and other diet-related illnesses. Students gain extensive practical experience in classroom settings by observing and teaching under the supervision of a licensed teacher.

To qualify for some graduate programs, applicants must hold a bachelor's degree in health education or a closely related field and have prior work experience with students at the K-12 grade levels. Other requirements may include taking the basic skills test for their state and passing the Praxis or GRE exam.

Step 5: Voluntary Certifications

Advanced certification is available for teachers through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). National certification is recognized by all states and often gives teachers certain benefits, such as larger salaries or more leadership or employment opportunities.

Teachers interested in advanced certification must have a bachelor's degree, a minimum of three years of teaching experience and a state teaching certificate to be eligible, according to the NBPTS. Applicants must also submit a portfolio containing at least four entries that demonstrate their teaching practice, such as video recordings or examples of student work. One of these entries must be related to a qualification obtained outside the classroom, such as community work. Lastly, applicants will need to take a computer-based test in their teaching subject area, such as health.

So, becoming a certified health teacher will require an individual to have strong communication skills and to earn a minimum of a bachelor's degree. Those working to become health teachers also need to complete a student teaching program, and the coursework they take should include anatomy, nutrition, disease and illness, stress management and methods of health promotion in order to manage student learning and a classroom environment.

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