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What Are the Roles and Duties of a Health Education Specialist?

Explore the career requirements for a health education specialist. Get the facts about duties, education requirements, professional licensure and the employment outlook to determine if this is the right field for you.

What Does a Health Education Specialist Do?

Health education specialists promote health and wellness in a variety of institutions. For instance, when working in medical centers, they may meet with patients to help explain the treatments they are receiving. At government health departments, they launch campaigns to help the public understand and deal with important health concerns like nutrition and infectious disease. Health education specialists who work in colleges and universities design programs and educational materials to help young people understand the health issues that they are most directly affected by, such as alcohol use. Those who work at for-profit companies develop programs to incentivize employees to adopt healthy lifestyle habits.

Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter the field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Health education, health promotion
Key SkillsAssessment, evaluation, teaching, training, interpersonal skills, data collection
Licensure or CertificationCertified Health Education Specialist credential required by some employers
Job Growth (2018-2028) 10% growth (for all health educators)*
Median Salary (2018) $54,220 (for all health educators)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Health Education Specialist?

The main duties of health education specialists are to promote health and wellness and prevent illness and disease through education. The vast majority of health education specialists work in public health departments, educational institutions, not-for-profit community health organizations and medical facilities.

If you choose to work in the field of public health, you may help non-profit organizations acquire funding, serve on public health committees and design educational materials for public health departments. In a school setting, you could teach students about drug and alcohol abuse or sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

As a community health specialist in a community health organization, you might distribute printed educational materials to the public, deliver lectures, organize health screenings and help develop public policies. Working in a medical facility could afford you the opportunity to educate patients about illnesses and on ways to improve their health. Depending upon the type of industry you work in, your duties might also include conferring with community leaders or working to enact health-related legislation.

Do I Need a Degree?

Bachelor's degrees in health education are required for health education specialists. Job prospects are best for candidates who have a degree and related work experience. Volunteer work or college internships can provide hands-on experience. Your bachelor's-level health education program might include classes such as gerontology, medical sociology, biology, disease management and substance abuse and addiction.

Career advancement usually requires a master's degree in community health education or public health education. You may choose to obtain your master's degree after having worked in the field of health education for a period time.

A graduate curriculum in community health includes courses in health care communication, community assessment, health ethics and policy and law. Master's-level public health programs offer courses in public health statistics, environmental health, program development in health education and public health measurement sciences.

Do I Need to Be Licensed or Certified?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of 2017, most states did not require certification for health education specialists. However, in order to remain well-informed, you should plan to enroll in continuing education programs for health education specialists. Certification may also be required by your employer (www.bls.org). Certification is typically provided by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc. and graduates obtain a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) or a Master of Certified Health Education (MCHE) credential (www.nchec.org).

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Another job in which you could help people make better lifestyle choices is a career as a dietitian. Dietitians focus on the use of nutrition to promote health; they develop meal plans for individuals and groups to achieve specific health goals, such as weight loss or medical condition management. A bachelor's degree is required for this job, and some states require dietitians to be certified. You might also be interested in becoming a substance abuse counselor, through which you would advise and support clients to help them overcome health problems like alcohol addiction and eating disorders. These counselors need at least a bachelor's degree.