Keeping people healthy and protecting against diseases are among the most important functions of any society. Achieving both goals requires building and maintaining a health infrastructure that depends on accurate and accessible public education. Skilled professionals who develop and run programs that promote health, prevent disease and prepare communities for events such as the COVID-19 pandemic disseminate this critical health information.
The role of public health educator is pivotal in planning, implementing and monitoring health education programs. The job combines epidemiology, statistics, environmental health, disease prevention and health economics. While the work of public health professionals covers perennial problems such as diabetes prevention, drug addiction and childhood immunizations, public health educators also focus on timely issues such as:
Public health educators play vital roles in improving the well-being of individuals and communities across the world. Their public health research, prevention programs and other education efforts benefit all individuals and groups by identifying and helping those who are most at risk of diseases.
Whether they’re working in a government agency, providing family services at a healthcare facility or employed by a nonprofit organization, public health educators help improve the lives of the people in their communities, especially vulnerable elderly, women, children and underserved populations.
Day at Work: Health Educator
What does a health educator do?
Health educators have a wide variety of responsibilities, including:
What is a health educator?
A health educator is a health professional who teaches both adults and children how to incorporate healthy and positive habits—like diet and exercise—into their lives. Health educators develop materials and programs to promote wellness, gather statistical data and educate communities about healthy habits and health risks.
Five sectors for health educators
Health educators can apply their comprehensive knowledge of health and wellness, disease prevention and community outreach and advocacy to several different sectors and roles. Below are the five most common sectors with their respective career titles in health education. Please note that many of these roles can overlap in which sector they serve, based on funding and program.
1. Health care
Health educators work in health care settings such as hospitals, outpatient clinics and community outreach programs. There are several roles to consider in health care, each with its own health education responsibilities, including:
2. Community and nonprofit
Outreach and communication of health information are also needed in the community and nonprofit organizations—especially for underserved populations that might not be able to afford proper traditional health care and education. Health educators working in community nonprofit roles include:
Health educators work in public and private schools, as well as for universities and colleges. They can work in public and private roles for grades K-12 in roles such as:
Health educators at the higher education level can be employed as:
Health education is an ongoing need in civil service, with health department roles at the municipal, state and federal levels. In government health education careers, you can fulfill a public need but are limited by government funding and organization. Health educators can fill roles in government as the following:
Large companies often either directly hire or liaison with health education professionals to provide their employees with health services to include health prevention, wellness and educational programs. Health educators can work for businesses as:
Work environment for health educators
Most health educators work full-time in offices and health care facilities. They may work in public health departments, private businesses and nonprofit organizations. They may sometimes work at night or during weekends, particularly if they need to attend meetings or health-related events. Depending on their specific role, they may spend a large portion of their time outside of the office meeting with community members and supervising programs.
Average salary for a health educator
There are a number of requirements to qualify for a position as a health educator:
Health educators must have a minimum of a bachelors degree in health education or another related degree. Within these programs, students learn about health education and methods and theories of health behavior. Most of these programs include an internship opportunity to shadow a health educator and gain hands-on experience.
Depending on the role you are pursuing, you may be required to pursue an advanced degree like a masters or doctorate. A graduate degree is particularly common in school health education, community health education or public health education.
Some employers may require or prefer candidates who are Certified Health Education Specialists (CHES), a credential thats offered by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc. To obtain this credential, candidates are required to have a minimum of a bachelors degree and pass a certifying examination. To maintain the certification, you are required to complete 75 hours of continuing education every five years.
Skills for health educators
Here are the most important skills to have as a health educator:
Social skills are essential for interacting effectively with other people, whether individually or in a group. Interpersonal skills include communication and active listening, empathy, mentoring and instructing skills as well as an overall positive attitude.
Health educators need to be able to listen closely to the person with whom they are speaking and understand nonverbal cues. They also need to use negotiation and persuasive skills to help others understand the importance of maintaining healthy habits.
Health educators use problem-solving skills to identify specific challenges that individuals may be experiencing and uncover strategies for resolving them. They also need to be able to brainstorm creative solutions for improving the overall health and well-being of their communities.
Health educators need to have strong written and verbal communication skills. They need to be able to communicate about complex health issues in a manner thats clear and easy to understand. They also need to be able to create written materials that convey health information. Some health educators may also need to be able to create written proposals to apply for funding.
Part of the job of a health coordinator is to gather information. They must then be able to analyze that information to determine the highest needs of the community and develop programs that address those needs.
Because health educators are frequently required to lead educational programs, facilitate discussions and teach classes, they need to have strong instructional skills, particularly public speaking skills.
Health educators need to have strong computer skills to develop materials with health information, apply for funding and research health-related topics.
What is the health educator?