How to Become a Health Education Specialist in 5 Steps
Explore what it takes to become a health education specialist. Learn about the education requirements and the licensure and certification process to see if this is the career for you. Schools offering Health Education degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
What Is a Health Education Specialist?
Health education specialists implement disease prevention, nutrition and environmental safety programs in schools and community organizations. They develop specific programs to meet the health needs of a community. The programs may teach people how to manage health conditions, inform them of community resources and health services or promote healthy lifestyles. Health education specialists also collect data to improve programs, educational materials and services. They can also use this data to advocate for new and improved health resources in the community. The following table gives you an overview of what you need to know before entering this field.
|Degree Required||Bachelor's or master's degree|
|Education Field of Study|| Health education|
School health education
|Licensure and Certification||Each state has specific requirements for health educator licensure and certification|
|Job Outlook (2014-2024)*||12%|
|Average Salary (2015)*||$56,690|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Step 1: Research Required Duties and Education for Health Education Specialists
Health education specialists assess the health needs of communities and coordinate programs and services to meet those needs. In this profession, you would act as an educational resource by addressing questions and concerns while promoting healthy lifestyle choices.
You may perform services for corporate wellness programs, government agencies, health care facilities, higher education institutions or secondary schools. Common job titles you might hold include community health organizer, health education teacher or public health educator.
Most health education specialists hold a bachelor's or master's degree in health education or a related field. Additionally, health education specialists who teach in schools hold teaching licenses.
Step 2: Choose an Accredited Public Health Program
Completing a public health degree program from a school accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) could help you gain the knowledge and skills necessary to work as a health education specialist. This could also give you a competitive edge with employers. The CEPH provides a comprehensive list of accredited health education programs (www.ceph.org.).
Step 3: Earn Your Degree
Health education specialists seeking entry-level positions are generally required to have at least a bachelor's degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). You may need a master's degree for positions requiring more work experience or managerial functions.
You could earn a bachelor's degree in health education, health sciences or school health education. Courses you may study in these programs include nutrition and wellness, health care management, sexual education and educational psychology.
Earning an advanced degree, such as a Master of Public Health, could prepare you for career advancement. Courses offered in this master's degree program can equip you with the knowledge and skills necessary to perform health assessments and design health education programs.
Step 4: Obtain a Teaching License and Certificate
To teach health education in the public or private school system, you'll need to be licensed by your state. Each state may have different requirements for licensure. If you're an experienced teacher, you can obtain the Early Adolescence through Young Adulthood Heath Education certificate, offered by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). A bachelor's degree, three years of teaching experience and a valid teaching license are required for this certificate (www.nbpts.org).
Step 5: Get Certified
Becoming certified can help validate your professional competency and commitment to upholding the standards of this profession. The National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc. (NCHEC) offers the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) and Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES) credentials.
To take the CHES exam, you'll need an undergraduate or graduate degree in a health education discipline from an accredited school (www.nchec.org). Additionally, completion of 25 semester hours of related coursework is required. To take the MCHES exam, you'll need a master's degree or five years of experience working as a CHES.
What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?
High school teachers and dieticians or nutritionists are some similar jobs that require a bachelor's degree. High school teachers educate students in the 9th to 12th grades and prepare them for life after graduation, whether it includes college or a career. Dieticians and nutritionists work to improve health and manage illness through food and nutrition. Epidemiologists are also similar, but require a master's degree. These professionals study the causes and patterns of illnesses and injuries in people in order to decrease the potential risk of these occurrences.
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