Health educators are social workers that strive to inform the population about high-risk factors in their lifestyles that can lead to dangerous, expensive, even deadly medical conditions.

They often work with a specific population, such as children, the elderly, the obese, and smokers to deal with the medical issues each group is susceptible to BEFORE they become a problem.

As healthcare costs skyrocket to 18% of the nation's GDP, healthcare providers, government agencies, and NGOs are focusing on prevention as the best way to control costs while improving the public health. It's expensive to treat cancer or diabetes, but it's relatively cheap to convince someone to stop smoking, eat better, and exercise before they develop dangerous conditions.

It may be cheap to educate people on the dangers of their lifestyle, but it's not easy to convince them to change their ways. That's why it's important that wellness and fitness workers of all kinds, including health educators, nutritionists and dieticians, and fitness workers, are trained as scientists and salespeople – selling a lifestyle people need but may not want.

According to the BLS, 51% of health educators worked in healthcare or social assistance in 2008, and 23% worked in government. To break it down further:

  • 18% of health educators worked for hospitals
  • 13% worked for individual and family services
  • 12% worked for local governments
  • 6% worked for outpatient care centers
  • 5% worked for colleges, universities, and professional schools
Where do Health Educators Work? Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Wherever they work, health educators have the same goal, and many of the same methods. They are scholars and scientists able to make an articulate, research-supported argument for healthier living. Many health educators do their own research, online or at the library. Many create presentations, often utilizing technology like Microsoft PowerPoint, Publisher, and Excel. Health educators are experts in their fields (however specialized they may be), and are able to confidently field pointed questions.

Health and Wellness Career Opportunities

Related Careers: Health Educator

According to the BLS, there were 66,200 working health educators in 2008. Because preventative education is the most cost-effective way to control rising healthcare costs, health educators are expected to enjoy a strong occupational growth rate better than the national average for all occupations. The BLS predicts that the field will grow by 18%, and add 12,000 new jobs by 2018, for a new total of 78,200.

Health educators will experience strong job growth from 2008 to 2018, according to the BLS Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Real job opportunities for health educators will be better than even that robust projection. According to the O*NET, a project of the Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration, there will be 26,000 openings for qualified health educators from 2008 to 2018. That figure includes the 12,000 new jobs the BLS predicts AND existing positions vacated by retirement, career changes, and early termination.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, candidates with clinical healthcare experience will have the best opportunities as health and wellness educators.

Health Education Earnings

The BLS reports that median annual wages for health educators in 2008 were $44,000. The middle 50% of the field made between $33,170 and $60,810 a year, while the bottom 10% made less than $26,210 and the top 10% of the field made more than $78,260.

According to the BLS, Health Educators earn significantly more than the national median.Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Earnings for health and wellness educators vary by experience, education, and employer. Those that worked for hospitals earned a much higher median: $56,390 a year in 2008. Health educators working for colleges and universities earned $49,050, those working for local government earned $43,040, and those working for both outpatient care centers and family services earned around $46,000.

Health Education Educational Benefits

A bachelor's degree in health science/education is generally required for entry-level health educator positions. Advanced supervisorial and specialized positions may require a health science graduate degree. Candidates with clinical healthcare experience will have the best opportunities at all levels.

According to the Occupational Information Network, 58% of health educators aged 25-44 had bachelor's degree or higher in 2008. 26% had some college, and the remaining 16% had a high school diploma or less.

As you might expect, the majority of health educators have a bachelor's degree or higher. Source: Occupational Information Network

Health educators are not required by most states to be formally certified, but many choose to earn the CHES distinction, through the National Commission of Health Education Credentialing, Inc. Candidates for CHES distinction generally have health education bachelor's degrees or higher. To maintain CHES certification, medical educators are required to complete 75 hours of continuing education over 5-years.

Health Education and Science Degrees Online

Degrees Possible: Bachelor's and Master's Degrees

There are a number of bachelor's and master's degree programs in health education online. The best online health education degrees will offer a rigorous and thoughtful education as good as those offered by local ground schools in a more flexible format that may be better suited to the working student.

As with any serious educational decision, do your research when picking an online health education or health science program: is the school accredited? Will credits transfer? What is the school's job placement rate? What are people saying about this school in general and this program specifically? You'll be able to find the answers to many of these questions on this family of Web sites, but don't be afraid to ask your admissions counselor the tough questions.

Health Education Skills and Abilities

Health educators are teachers; they must be good organizers, strong communicators and active listeners. They must have strong and comfortable command of the scientific data that supports their assertions, and be able to answer pointed or even hostile questions.

Because health educators work extensively with vulnerable groups like the poor, elderly, or immigrants, they should be sensitive to cultural and generational issues.

Because health educators must sometimes do their own research and put together their own lectures and presentations, rigorous academic abilities are beneficial. Health educators may use technology like Microsoft PowerPoint, Publisher, and Excel.

Health Education Qualifications and Advancement

Completion of a bachelor's degree in health education generally qualifies candidates for entry-level positions as Health and Wellness Educators.

Advanced positions, especially those in hospitals, government service, and educational institutions may require a master's or doctoral degree in health education.

Additional Information

The American Association for Health Education maintains a Web site at http://www.aahperd.org/aahe.