According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), healthcare is one of the country’s fastest-growing industries,with a wide range of career opportunities. Among those occupations is health educator. These professionals focus on teaching patients and the public how to get and stay well. Patient education can be an effective way to control ever-increasing healthcare costs, so the demand for health educators is growing.
Heath educators create programs that encourage health and wellness, and prevent disease. They teach people how to make good health decisions, incorporate healthy activities into their lives and avoid harmful behaviors. Health educators may work in public health clinics, schools and colleges, hospitals or community centers; they are often employed by private health services providers, nonprofit organizations and government agencies.
Health educators are often responsible for creating and implementing health education programs for the general public, as well as targeting at-risk populations, such as diabetes patients, expectant mothers and heart patients. Preparing presentations, conducting health screenings and patient outreach, and serving as point of contact for patients are typical duties.
Health educators who work in medical facilities provide patients with information on their diagnosis and treatment, as well as tips on staying healthy. They teach group classes on health topics and train medical staff on how to communicate with patients. Health educators employed by private companies may conduct staff health screenings, design healthy workplace programs, or create incentives for employees to lose weight, quit smoking or increase their level of exercise.
Additional health educator duties include:
- Supervising staff
- Creating health-related materials, such as posters and websites
- Helping people find the appropriate health services or information
- Advocating for improved health resources and policies
- Collecting data and other information to analyze needs and evaluate programs
- Preparing reports for management and other stakeholders
Job Outlook and Salary Range for Health Educators
According to the BLS, employment for health educators should grow 19% through 2022 with the desire to keep healthcare costs down through increased patient education creating a demand for these professionals to instruct the public about more healthy lifestyles.
Health educators earned a median annual wage of $50,400 in May 2014, the BLS reported. Those working for hospitals had an average salary of $61,300, and those employed by local governments had an average pay of $49,700.
National data is not necessarily indicative of local market conditions, which vary according to factors such as a candidate’s education and experience, specific job title and employer.
Education and Training for Health Educators
Most health educator jobs require a bachelor’s degree at minimum and some employers may prefer candidates who also are Certified Health Education Specialists, the BLS reports. Undergraduate fields of study include health promotion or health education, and often include an internship.
In some cases, health educators may require a master’s degree, particularly for employment with state or federal public health agencies.
In order to be effective, health educators must be able to evaluate information and data, build rapport with a diverse group of people and express themselves clearly, both verbally and in writing.
Professional development and continuing education opportunities are available through organizations such as the Society for Public Health Education, the American Association for Health Education and the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing.
Military Occupational Specializations
Military personnel who are transitioning out of service into the civilian workforce may see similarities between their current skills and duties and those of health educators. In the Navy, for example, health care administrators must be able to evaluate, assess and manage skills. Air Force public health specialists help develop and monitor health education.
Applicable roles in the Army include medical specialist corps officer, and Coast Guard health services technicians develop hands-on healthcare skills.