Careers in community health can be highly rewarding for those interested in working in the healthcare industry, particularly with educating the public about health. The educational requirements vary from each specific position but usually a combination of formal schooling and on-the-job training is required.
Community health educators usually hold a degree in health education or health promotion, and many employers call for professional certification. During their studies, they learn to create health education programs and usually gain experience through an internship. Community health workers, who work on health concerns with members of a specific population, need only a high school diploma or the equivalent, but a certificate or associate's degree may allow for more employment opportunities.
|Career Title||Health Educator||Community Health Worker|
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree in health education or promotion||High school diploma or GED certificate|
|Other Requirements||Certification required by some employers||N/A|
|Job Growth (2014-2024)*||12%||15%|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$51,960||$36,300|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
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Community Health Career Information
A community health career involves collaborating with various agencies or organizations to educate, develop or implement health education policies or programs. Community health professionals might work in community awareness or outreach programs, evaluate existing programs or conduct research to analyze current public policy. Professionals in this field work for the government, in hospitals or private corporations, and in research and development organizations such as the National Institutes of Health.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of community health workers and health educators is predicted to grow 15% and 12% respectively between 2014 and 2024. The BLS indicates that the biggest employers for this occupation are government and social and healthcare assistance agencies, such as hospitals or care centers. In May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics cited a median salary of $36,300 for community health workers and $51,960 for community health educators.
An individual's long-term career goals will help determine degree requirements. Working on the national level in areas of research and policy-making requires a Ph.D. A bachelor's or master's degree in public health is all that might be needed for working on a local, grassroots level. Students enrolled in a community health degree program should expect to encounter coursework that includes science, nutrition, psychology, communication, anatomy and human development.
Certification is not necessary for work in the community health field, but some employers prefer public health employees to have obtained the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential. This type of certification is offered by the National Commission of Health Education Credentialing, Inc., to individuals who have a bachelor's degree in health education and pass an examination on health educator responsibilities. Several states may also require individuals to obtain certification for employment in a public health department, which may include completing 75 hours of continuing education over a 5-year period in order to maintain certification.
Community health workers help their communities learn about health and promote proper health practices. So if helping your community stay healthy is important to you then this job is probably for you.