Job Profile: Health Educator

Even though life expectancy has increased by six years since 1990, public health remains a major global concern. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 80 percent of deaths from cardiovascular diseases could have been prevented. Smoking claims nearly 6 million lives each year. An obesity epidemic has resulted in 10 percent of the globe’s adults being diagnosed with diabetes. Reversing the trend of these harrowing statistics is the goal of health educators. These public health practitioners are skilled teachers who inform community citizens on the proper lifestyle choices for wellness. Their workshops may champion for regular exercise, low-carb diets, safe sex, breastfeeding, drug detox, and even dental hygiene. Health educators develop programs to promote individuals’ understanding on ways to lower their disease risk.

Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that America’s 57,570 health educators earn a mean annual wage of $56,690, or $27.26 per hour. Health educators in general hospitals reap slightly more at $62,230, whereas those employed in social advocacy organizations make less at $50,100 on average. The top-paid health educators work for the federal government with an average yearly salary of $96,760. Health educators claim the highest average salaries in Maryland and District of Columbia at $86,170 and $82,040 respectively.

Beginning Salary

First entering the health education field typically places recent graduates in the bottom 10th percentile of earnings at around $30,250 yearly. However, health educators with a decade of experience can bring home salaries from $71,020 to $92,950 or higher. Earning the CHES credential can boost pay and promotion potential to positions like health and safety manager where the median salary is $101,681. Those appointed community health director earn $123,638 on average.

Key Responsibilities

Health educators are primarily responsible for disease and injury prevention to protect the well-being of at-risk populations. They coordinate community events like classes or health screenings to connect citizens with the knowledge and resources to stay fit. Many will specialize in areas like maternal, pediatric, elderly, or sexual health. Some health educators also create pamphlets, books, and online videos to spread their messages of wellness. Coordinating health education initiatives often includes applying for grants, writing curriculum, networking with guest speakers, and renting event space. Gaining feedback via surveys or suggestion boxes is essential for improving their teaching too. In hospitals, health educators may work one-on-one more to give recovery tips suited to each patient’s needs.

Necessary Skills

Working as a health educator requires strong interpersonal skills to effectively communicate with diverse pupils about sensitive topics like HIV and addiction. Public speaking skills are a must for health educators to deliver engaging classes where attendees become well-informed. Health educators should have creative writing skills to grab people’s attention and inspire them enough to make lifestyle changes. Being detail-oriented with good organizational skills is critical when designing program materials. Health educators must be excellent problem-solvers to tackle any budget or event planning issues that arise. Analytical skills are helpful for studying public health data and identifying risks that need addressing. Health educators also need a kind, compassionate demeanor when listening to people’s own concerns.

Degree and Education Requirements

Entry-level community health workers can find jobs with solely a high school diploma, but health educators will need post-secondary education. Most educators have finished a bachelor’s degree in health education, public health, health promotion, or health communication. Although a four-year degree is the minimum requirement, considering an advanced degree is wise. Master of Public Health (MPH) programs often provide a specialized track for community health education. Some great CEPH-accredited colleges to consider are Tulane, Loma Linda, and the University of Michigan. For school-based teaching, Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Health Education programs are also available. Advancing further for a doctorate is only necessary for becoming a university faculty member.

Pros and Cons of the Position

Leading others to healthier, happier lives as a health educator sounds ideal, but the job comes with benefits and downsides. Let’s start off positive by stating that health educators are in-demand with fast employment growth and short job hunts. Health education jobs often provide a salary above the United States’ median household income of $50,502. Positions are found in various different settings from hospitals to K-12 schools. Health educators typically have great autonomy in designing their community outreach for their own passion. There’s no set daily routine, so variety keeps the career interesting and satisfying long-term. However, health educators won’t work a normal 9-to-5 schedule because events are usually in evenings or on weekends. Days could be spend intensively researching healthful practices. Motivating people who are reluctant to forgo harmful habits can be stressful. Health educators need to invest heavily in their own continuing education too.

Getting Started

Earning the right bachelor’s or MPH degree isn’t the only step to discovering success as a health educator. Actual instructional experience can make or break your resume. During your schooling, participate in field practica and internships with local public health agencies. Head to the SOPHE Career Connection to find openings in your community. Some universities also offer teaching assistantships that could sharpen your speaking skills. After graduation, it’s highly recommended that you become a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES). This NCHEC credential will require passing a 165-question, competency-based exam at 130 U.S. testing sites. Staying certified mandates accumulating at least 75 continuing credits every five years. Landing your dream job could also require networking on LinkedIn and joining organizations like SHAPE America.

Future Outlook

Our healthcare system is always looking to shave off costs, and one of the most effective methods of doing so is preventing disease. Insurance carriers are particularly shining a light on health education to lower their insured patients’ probability of contracting illness. Demand for educators will rise along with concerns over diabetes, cancers, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. The BLS predicts that hiring of health educators will grow faster-than-average by 13 percent through 2024, which will spark 7,500 new positions. Health educators will find favorable prospects in hospitals, ambulatory clinics, social assistance agencies, public health departments, family services, schools, and college campuses.

The U.S. News and World Report recognized health educators for having America’s #4 best education job ahead of teacher assistants and sports coaches. Health educators deeply impact people’s lives across the lifespan by teaching them to maximize their odds against disease. Their outreach campaigns share vital information so that communities are aware of the right lifestyle choices. If you’re hooked on becoming a health educator, search through our website’s pages to find the right college degree.

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