What Is Health Education?
Health education involves teaching individuals, groups, and communities about strategies for healthy living. The goal of health education is to promote healthy, proactive behaviors and practices that improve overall health and quality of life while keeping illness and disease at bay.
Depending upon the setting, a health educator can work with an entire community, classes of students, small groups, or individuals. Health education jobs can be found in a number of settings, such as schools and colleges, public health departments, hospitals, clinics, nonprofit organizations, and private businesses.
While your specific duties will vary based on where you work, some key responsibilities of health educators often include:
- Creating educational programs about specific health topics and evaluating their effectiveness
- Educating about disease prevention and management
- Guiding people to appropriate health resources
- Training and manage other community health workers
- Evaluating community health services and resources and recommend changes if needed
How to Become A Health Educator
If you're interested in becoming a health educator, you'll typically need a bachelor's degree in a relevant field - such as health education, health promotion, or public health. In order to qualify for certain positions, you could need meet additional requirements, such as having the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) certification or holding a master's or doctoral degree in a health-related field.
Courses in bachelor's degree programs in health education cover the theories behind healthy behaviors and methodologies for health education. Common courses in a bachelor's degree in health education program include:
- Health informatics
- Exercise and wellness
- Health behaviors
- Health education methods
- Health promotion programs planning, implementation, and evaluation
- Health education advocacy
Entry-Level Health Education Jobs
Once you have completed your bachelor's degree, you could choose to seek an entry-level position that will give you work experience. Prior to or upon hire, many employers require the completion of some level of on-the-job training to prepare you for the work you'll be doing. Some examples of entry-level health education positions and their duties are:
- Junior Health Educator: Provides health education and transitional care guidance to patients moving from pediatric to adult care; conducts outreach programs to educate the public about specific diseases
- Community Outreach Specialist: Educates patients on available resources; completes health assessments; interprets/translates for clinic events
- Program Assistant: Delivers health education programming and plans for specific communities or audiences; leads group health education for adults and children
- Family Educator: Provides individual education, skills development, training, and assessment of children with developmental disorders; plans and assesses intervention plans through collaboration and data analysis
Holistic Health Educator
Holistic health is a type of alternative medicine that focuses not only on the physical body but also on the mental, spiritual, and emotional health of the individual. A holistic health educator teaches others about self-care and lifestyle choices they can make, such as diet, exercise, counseling, and psychotherapy.
The majority of holistic health educators work in healthcare facilities or clinics, but some open their own practices. You could work under the title of lifestyle coach, wellness coach, holistic health coach, or homeopathic consultant. In these roles, your duties could include:
- Organizing or leading health and wellness retreats
- Planning and delivering holistic health education programs to at-risk groups
- Using a holistic approach to help clients achieve optimal health and wellbeing
The requirements for a career in holistic health education vary to some extent depending on institution, state, and the type of job you're seeking; however, you'll likely need a Bachelor of Arts in Health Education or a related field to begin working as a holistic health educator, and you may also want to complete a certificate program specific to the field or earn a wellness coaching certification to further your knowledge of holistic health practices.
Health Education Specialist
As a health education specialist, you'd promote wellness by teaching people appropriate behaviors and practices and putting programs into place that aim to improve the health of people and entire communities.
A health education specialist can work in several professional environments including:
- Healthcare Facilities: In this environment, you would communicate with patients and families to help them understand the implications of a diagnosis and how to use available resources.
- Colleges: In an education setting, you would develop and deliver programming and materials and teaching students to do the same.
- Public Health Departments: In a department, you would educate communities on the prevention, detection, and treatment of chronic and infectious diseases; implement emergency plans; and create educational materials.
- Non-Profit Organizations: At a non-profit, you could help raise awareness of health education and health promotion.
- Private Businesses: Your duties as a health educator in a private business could include helping employees implement healthy behaviors.
Certified Health Education Specialist
Becoming a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) is a great way to set yourself apart from your peers and validate your skills and knowledge as a health education specialist. This exam is administered through the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC) and it ensures that you meet the standards of an educationally and fundamentally qualified health educator.
The requirements for CHES certification are as follows:
- Hold a minimum of a bachelor's degree in health education (or a related program that includes 25 credit hours of specific coursework)
- Pass the 165-question competency-based exam
- Meet continuing education requirements to maintain certification
Your job duties as a certified health education specialist may include coordinating and delivering programs and associated materials that educate individuals and communities about practicing habits that promote health and wellness. You'll need to be an expert in guiding people to the right resources for specific health needs and circumstances. Jobs for certified health education specialist can be found in medical and surgical hospitals, clinics, and government agencies.
Health Specialties Teachers
Teachers of health specialties are medical professionals, such as dentists or chiropractors, who move into teaching classes at the postsecondary level to students who are pursuing health, science, and medical-related degrees. These professionals teach one or more courses in their area of expertise; design the curriculum; and create the associated tests, assignments, and projects. In addition to the courses they teach, they may also supervise graduate students and conduct independent research. These instructors are usually required to hold a Ph.D. in their field.
How to Become a High School Health Teacher
Teaching health education to high school students is another health education career option to consider, especially if you enjoy working with kids. There are some common requirements for becoming a licensed high school health teacher like:
- Completing a bachelor's degree
- Gaining experience with student-teaching or internship (where you practice instruction under the supervision of a licensed teacher)
- Passing a licensure exam
It's important to note though that each state will have slightly different requirements for those pursuing a teaching license, and some states may even require you to obtain a master's degree before or soon after you become a licensed health education teacher.
As a high school health teacher, you'll help students learn to develop healthy habits and make healthy choices about issues ranging from drugs and addiction to nutrition, safe sex and exercise. Like other teachers, you'll need to develop a curriculum, supervise classes, grade tests and assignments, and hold conferences with parents.