The COVID-19 pandemic made it clearer than ever that health educators fulfill a vital role in the community. The pandemic has impacted millions of people and gripped communities, both large and small, in fear. Community health educators have made it possible for accurate and up-to-date information to be disseminated expeditiously. They have been instrumental in organizing vaccine distribution, educating communities on the benefits of social distancing, and more. However, health educators have been working diligently long before this pandemic. They’ve worked in schools helping to educate teenagers on the dangers of alcohol and drugs. They’ve helped educate newly diagnosed diabetics on how to manage their illness. They’ve assisted nurses, doctors, researchers, and more in the pursuit of creating a healthier world. But how does one become a health educator and make a difference? One possible pathway is to earn a bachelor’s in Health Science.
First: What is a Health Educator?
Health educators work help develop policies, procedures, and interventions that benefit the health outcomes of their community members and clients. Health educators work in a variety of settings that may include hospitals, clinics, schools, universities, corporate offices, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and more.
Types of Health Educators
For those who wish to help improve the overall health of their community, working as a health educator should undoubtedly hold some interest. However, there are a variety of specialties and career options available to those who wish to become health educators. Here is just a small sample of career paths accessible:
Community Health Educator
Community health educators teach members of their community about behaviors they can change or undertake that promote wellness. They discuss health concerns with community members, educate people about the importance and availability of healthcare services, and collect data to identify community health needs. They may organize and conduct outreach programs (including vaccine clinics, fitness events, etc.) and advocate for the health needs of their community. The median annual wage for community health educators was $42,000 in May 2020. The highest 10% of community health educators can earn more than $70,790 annually, though this figure depends on experience as well as education level.
Community Outreach Coordinator
Community outreach coordinators oversee and implement outreach strategies that connect people in a community with businesses, organizations, and individuals. In the case of a community outreach coordinator that specializes in health education, the job will likely entail organizing events to connect community members and individuals with doctors, health educators, nurses, and researchers. They’re responsible for preparing an annual budget for community outreach activities. They also provide up-to-date education and information on programs and services to healthcare professionals including physicians and caregivers. The median annual wage for community outreach coordinators in 2020 was $69,600 in 2020. The highest 10% earned more than $115,800.
Health advocates act as intermediaries between healthcare providers and clients or patients. They provide their clients with one-on-one help with navigating the more complicated aspects of the American healthcare system. They can help patients in their decision-making process and help explain diagnoses and treatment options. They can coordinate care for complex medical issues and help research and locate treatment providers. They may assist patients to resolve insurance claims or help simply by scheduling tests and appointments. The average base pay for health advocates is $40,121 annually. However, the average general salary is $64,678 annually, depending on experience level.
How to Become a Health Educator
In order to become a health education specialist, prospective health educators must meet certain educational and professional requirements.
Earning a bachelor’s degree is typically the bare minimum requirement for aspiring health educators. Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Health Science offers students the opportunity to specialize in a variety of areas, including Community Health Education, Exercise and Fitness, and Nutrition. Additionally, students can specialize in a Pre-Professional track which prepares them for graduate admission. For students who wish to become health educators, the best choice is, of course, the Community Health Education track.
The health science curriculum, with an emphasis in Community Health Education, provides students with a strong foundation in general education, as well as STEM courses including classes in chemistry, biostatistics, research, epidemiology, and medical terminology. Additionally, students in this program complete an internship course which provides them with the experience and training they’ll need to enter the field upon graduation.
Some employers require prospective health educators to be certified. However, even if your dream job doesn’t require certification, taking the time to earn professional credentials may provide you with a competitive edge or growth opportunities.
You can earn certification by taking the Certified Health Education Specialist Exam (CHES) offered by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC) after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences. You will need to submit your transcripts to the NCHEC to determine your eligibility, however, graduates of University of Bridgeport’s bachelor’s degree program in Health Sciences, with a specialization in Community Health Education, are eligible for this examination.
Become a Health Educator Today
Wherever they are needed, health educators have risen to the occasion. A global pandemic has made it clear that they are not only needed but essential. In fact, employment of health educators is expected to grow by 17 percent between now and 2030. If making a difference interests you now is a wonderful time to consider applying to a health science school. This degree is the first step towards embarking on a career as a health educator and towards becoming an instrumental force for good in your community.
Curious about the Bachelor of Health Sciences program? Ask for more information about University of Bridgeport’s unique offerings by contacting us here.