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Health Communication Careers

Health communicators are a specialized type of public relations professional who work to efficiently spread public health messages. Read on to learn more about the field, and find out about education programs and earnings.

What is Health Communication?

Health communication is a very specific branch of the public relations field. If you decide to work in health communication, your main goal will be to relay important messages on topics relating to public health. You might represent hospitals, medical facilities, rehabilitation facilities, health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology companies, or non-profit organizations focused on health initiatives. Health communicators, like other types of PR specialists, must have a good control of public speaking and the ability to work in teams. Successful health communicators are charismatic and good at bringing people together.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree; Master's degree recommended
Education Required Public relations, journalism, communications, English, or business
Key Responsibilities Public speaking, teamwork, building relationships between organizations
Job Growth (2018-2028) 6% (for all public relations specialists)*
Median Salary (2018) $60,000 (for all public relations specialists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Jobs Might I Have?

Health communication is a field that can encompass several specific job positions. For example, you might find a career as a senior communications specialist for a hospital or healthcare center. In that role, you would be responsible for communicating hospital news to the public and fielding questions from the media. You might also work as a medical communications account manager in a public relations firm. In such a position, you would be responsible for handling all healthcare industry clients within a PR agency.

Another job you might obtain is that of a physician relations representative, where your primary goal would be to establish relationships between a particular hospital or medical facility. You could also work as a corporate communications manager for the health insurance or pharmaceutical industries.

What Education Will I Need?

If you are interested in earning a career in health communication, a good place to start would be at a 4-year college or university. You will most likely need to enroll in a bachelor's degree program in public relations, communications, public health, or advertising, which will prepare you for a Master of Science in Health Communication degree program.

While enrolled in a graduate degree program in health communication, you will learn how to harness the principles of public relations and communication to provide health-related information to the public. You will study epidemiology, biostatistics, health communication technology, professional communication, professional health writing, and public healthcare policies.

What Can I Expect to Earn?

As there are several different job positions available in the field of health communication, you will have the opportunity to earn one of several different salaries. Your career will most likely fall into the broader category of public relations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, public relations specialists held about 270,000 jobs in the country in 2018 (www.bls.gov). They also earned a median annual salary of about $60,000 in that year.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Public relations managers supervise public relations specialists (including those in the health communication field), directing their PR efforts and delegating tasks like running events. Meeting, convention, and event planners organize different kinds of events for individuals and companies, such as parties, charity fundraisers, and more. Advertising managers oversee the creation of advertisement campaigns aimed at drawing interest to a company's products and services. These careers require bachelor's education.