If you’re interested in a career as a public health professional, the good news is that there are many potential career paths that you might consider. One common public health career, especially for those who are new to the field, is the role of health educator.
Below, we answer some of the most common questions that people have about working as a health educator, including what they do, where they work, and the steps it will take to break into the field.
The primary role of health educators is to design and implement educational programs within the communities that they serve. These programs typically have the goal of increasing awareness about certain health issues so that community members will be able to make smarter, more informed decisions about their health.
The programs designed by health educators can revolve around virtually any health issue or topic. Some common examples include programs about:
Health educators can work in a variety of different work environments. Some of the most common include hospitals, community health clinics, and even corporate environments where they promote the wellness of a company’s employees.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the largest employers of health educators are:
The average health educator in the United States earns an estimated $66,500 per year, according to Salary.com. Depending on the individual’s level of experience, geography, and specific employer, their salary will typically fall somewhere between $58,000 and $75,000 per year.
According to the BLS, the number of health educators is expected to grow by roughly 17 percent between 2020 and 2030, leading to the addition of approximately 125,200 roles. This is a much faster rate of growth compared to all jobs in general.
According to Dr. Leslie Mandel, professor of public health and health administration/director of undergraduate public health at Regis College, if you’re interested in becoming a health educator you should earn a bachelor’s degree in public health.
“The bachelor’s degree will prepare you for most entry-level health educator jobs that you’ll see out there,” says Mandel. “This includes titles like health educator (I), community educator (I), and other related titles.”
Mandel notes that once you’ve earned your bachelor’s degree and begin working and gaining experience, you are likely to find yourself advancing within the field relatively quickly compared to many other fields. Real, hands-on experience is one of the most important qualifications that employers look for when filling more mid-level positions, simply because so much of public health requires on-the-job training.
As you move toward more senior-level positions, you may find that earning a graduate degree, such as a Master of Public Health (MPH) can be beneficial.
Certain health education roles that blur the line with other professionals might also find that earning additional qualifications can improve their career prospects. For example, some hospitals prefer to hire health educators who have a background in nursing, who can directly treat patients in addition to providing educational services. Likewise, health educators who hope to work in a school setting may be required to complete an educational degree.
If you are interested in working as a health educator for a specific employer or in a specific capacity, Mandel recommends that you look at the educational requirements that the employer has on open job postings similar to those you aspire to.
If you’re interested in making a real difference in the health of your community, becoming a health educator is an excellent career option to consider. More broadly, the field of public health is constantly evolving, making for an exciting and rewarding field of study.
Are you ready to take the first step toward a career in public health? Learn more about earning your bachelor’s degree in public health from Regis College.