Use your MPH to Become a Health Educator | Aug 30, 2016

Many of the public health concerns that face the U.S. today, such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes, could be prevented or lessened with proper education and preventive measures among patients. However, in many communities, access to the necessary resources and instruction is limited. As a result, there is great need in these areas for public health professionals who can educate people in ways to improve their own wellness.

Whether you are a student earning a Master of Public Health degree or a professional already working in the field who enjoys teaching, consider making a difference in your community through a career as a health educator.

What is a health educator?

A public health educator is a professional who works to educate a target population about behavior that will increase wellness. This may mean working at a school, with a social service organization or in conjunction with government agencies, to teach community members of varying ages how to make healthy lifestyle choices. Regardless of the setting that you work in, the goal is ultimately the same: to improve the health of a particular community of people.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, responsibilities of a health educator can include tasks such as:

  • Monitoring the health needs of the people with whom they work.
  • Helping to connect people with health resources or information.
  • Creating programs and events to promote wellness, and evaluating those and other efforts.
  • Advocating for the policies and resources that your community needs most.
  • Training health workers and volunteers.
  • Oversee staff members carrying out group wellness efforts, such as educational programs.
  • Collect and assess data on populations and wellness measures.

Through these efforts, health educators are able to promote preventive measures that will aid community members in improving their overall wellness and quality of life. That could mean organizing a campaign to promote awareness of the dangers of smoking, or teaching children about proper oral hygiene, for example.

How to become a health educator

To pursue a career as a health educator, the first step is typically to earn a bachelor’s degree in health education or a related field. An undergraduate education will give you the basic knowledge of the issues, challenges and best practices of public health that you can build upon through internships or workplace experience. According to U.S. News and World Report, a bachelor’s in health education or health promotion will usually include courses on topics such as personal and community health, anatomy and the planning and analysis of health programs.

After earning an undergraduate degree, the BLS reported that many professionals pursue certification. One common option is the Certified Health Education Specialist, which is offered through the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc.

To truly set yourself apart in the field, consider earning your MPH. The degree not only deepens your knowledge of the field of public health, but prepares you to assume a leadership role within an organization. It will also help you to be competitive when applying for a new job or a promotion. Because an MPH is not common among health educators, potential employers will see you as an exemplary candidate right off the bat.

If you are considering a career as a health educator, today is a good time to start. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for health educators and community health workers is expected to increase by 13 percent between 2014 and 2024, a faster than average rate when compared to other industries in the U.S., adding a total of 15,600 new jobs.