What Level of Education Does a Health Educator Need to Have?

health-educatorIf you have a passion for teaching others and a desire to enter an exciting career in the booming healthcare industry, then you may be the perfect fit for becoming a health educator. Health educators are responsible for developing and implementing effective strategies for educating people about healthy behaviors that promote wellness. As our society continues to place a strong emphasis on improving health outcomes through preventative care to reduce healthcare costs, employment of health educators is expected to skyrocket by 21% before 2022. Since health educators need to be highly informed on nutrition, fitness, disease prevention, and other health topics, post-secondary education is required. Below we'll go step-by-step through the usual educational pathway taken for becoming successful in health education.

1. Earn a Relevant Bachelor's Degree

Before you can start your career goal, you'll need to hold at least a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited four-year institution. Most health educators choose to earn a degree in health education, health promotion, human development, human services, social work, psychology, or community health. Rather than dwell on your major, it's important to choose a flexible program with courses that teach the methods of health education and develop the soft skills you'll need to develop educational materials. It's also highly recommended that you study a foreign language to enhance your ability in educating specific communities that may not be native English speakers.

2. Apply for National Certification

Many employers now require their job candidates to be nationally certified through the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC) as Certified Health Education Specialists (CHES). To apply for the certification, you'll need to have at least a bachelor's degree with an official transcript showing at least 25 semester hours of coursework related to health education. You can easily download the application online or request an exam registration packet by mail with an application fee of $100. You'll then need to successfully complete the 165-question certification exam on the April or October testing date. In order to maintain certification, it's also required that you accumulate a minimum of 75 continuing education contact hours every five years.

3. Consider Attending Graduate School

There are plentiful job opportunities available to individuals with bachelor's degrees, but health educators seeking advancement and increased responsibility may want to consider going back to graduate school. Many health education jobs in the federal government and state public health agencies will require you to have a two-year master's degree in health education, community health, public health, school health education, or health promotion. With an advanced education, you'll be more likely to be promoted into the roles of senior health educator, supervisor, and executive director. You could also qualify for achieving the advanced Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES) credential.

Overall, health educators lead a prominent role in promoting, maintaining, and improving public health outcomes by assisting individuals and communities in adopting more healthy behaviors. From eating nutritious diets and getting daily physical activity to limiting alcohol intake and preventing the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases, health educators cover all aspects of how to live long, healthy lifestyles. When you follow these steps to become a health educator, you can share your wisdom teaching others in hospitals, ambulatory healthcare centers, social service agencies, government organizations, schools, clinics, non-profits, physicians' offices, and more.

See also: What Does a Community Health Worker Do?

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