What Is a Health Educator? A Complete Guide
Updated July 24, 2023
A woman in a wheelchair draws figures on a white board next to a list with the title "Health Educator Work Sectors" and these items:
1. Health care
2. Community and nonprofit
If you have a strong interest in the health and wellness industry and like the idea of positively impacting the health of others, you may be interested in a career as a health educator. Health educators work closely with individuals and large groups to help them develop and maintain healthy habits. Learning about some of the primary responsibilities of health educators can help you determine whether this career could be a good fit for you.
In this article, we discuss what a health educator is, primary responsibilities, average salary, educational requirements and what sectors you can work in as a health educator.
What is a health educator?
A health educator is a health professional who teaches both adults and children how to incorporate healthy and positive habits—like diet and exercise—into their lives. Health educators develop materials and programs to promote wellness, gather statistical data and educate communities about healthy habits and health risks.
What does a health educator do?
Health educators have a wide variety of responsibilities, including:
Evaluating the needs of the communities they serve
Developing events and programs to teach people about a variety of health topics
Creating and distributing educational materials like pamphlets and posters
Helping community members get access to information and health services
Gathering and analyzing data to learn more about the audience they're working with and steps they can take to improve their health programs
Evaluating the effectiveness of their materials and programs
Advocating for better health policies and resources for members of their community
Teaching people how to manage their existing health conditions
Supervising staff members who are responsible for implementing health programs
Educating the public about the importance of health care services like cancer screenings
Offering informational health counseling and social support
Advocating for the needs of individuals and the community as a whole
Work environment for health educators
Most health educators work full-time in offices and health care facilities. They may work in public health departments, private businesses and nonprofit organizations. They may sometimes work at night or during weekends, particularly if they need to attend meetings or health-related events. Depending on their specific role, they may spend a large portion of their time outside of the office meeting with community members and supervising programs.
Five sectors for health educators
Health educators can apply their comprehensive knowledge of health and wellness, disease prevention and community outreach and advocacy to several different sectors and roles. Below are the five most common sectors with their respective career titles in health education. Please note that many of these roles can overlap in which sector they serve, based on funding and program.
1. Health care
Health educators work in health care settings such as hospitals, outpatient clinics and community outreach programs. There are several roles to consider in health care, each with its own health education responsibilities, including:
2. Community and nonprofit
Outreach and communication of health information are also needed in the community and nonprofit organizations—especially for underserved populations that might not be able to afford proper traditional health care and education. Health educators working in community nonprofit roles include:
Health educators work in public and private schools, as well as for universities and colleges. They can work in public and private roles for grades K-12 in roles such as:
Health educators at the higher education level can be employed as:
Health education is an ongoing need in civil service, with health department roles at the municipal, state and federal levels. In government health education careers, you can fulfill a public need but are limited by government funding and organization. Health educators can fill roles in government as the following:
Large companies often either directly hire or liaison with health education professionals to provide their employees with health services to include health prevention, wellness and educational programs. Health educators can work for businesses as:
Average salary for a health educator
The national average salary for health educators is $62,612 per year, though salaries vary considerably depending on location, education, sector and responsibilities. Certain cities tend to pay higher salaries than others. The highest-paying cities for health educators are Atlanta, Los Angeles, Houston, Pittsburgh and Frisco, Texas.
For the most up-to-date salary information, visit Indeed Salaries, where you can search by geographic location and health educator career title.
There are a number of requirements to qualify for a position as a health educator:
Health educators must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in health education or another related degree. Within these programs, students learn about health education and methods and theories of health behavior. Most of these programs include an internship opportunity to shadow a health educator and gain hands-on experience.
Depending on the role you are pursuing, you may be required to pursue an advanced degree like a master's or doctorate. A graduate degree is particularly common in school health education, community health education or public health education.
Some employers may require or prefer candidates who are Certified Health Education Specialists (CHES), a credential that's offered by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc. To obtain this credential, candidates are required to have a minimum of a bachelor's degree and pass a certifying examination. To maintain the certification, you are required to complete 75 hours of continuing education every five years.
Skills for health educators
Here are the most important skills to have as a health educator:
Social skills are essential for interacting effectively with other people, whether individually or in a group. Interpersonal skills include communication and active listening, empathy, mentoring and instructing skills as well as an overall positive attitude.
Health educators need to be able to listen closely to the person with whom they are speaking and understand nonverbal cues. They also need to use negotiation and persuasive skills to help others understand the importance of maintaining healthy habits.
Health educators use problem-solving skills to identify specific challenges that individuals may be experiencing and uncover strategies for resolving them. They also need to be able to brainstorm creative solutions for improving the overall health and well-being of their communities.
Health educators need to have strong written and verbal communication skills. They need to be able to communicate about complex health issues in a manner that's clear and easy to understand. They also need to be able to create written materials that convey health information. Some health educators may also need to be able to create written proposals to apply for funding.
Part of the job of a health coordinator is to gather information. They must then be able to analyze that information to determine the highest needs of the community and develop programs that address those needs.
Because health educators are frequently required to lead educational programs, facilitate discussions and teach classes, they need to have strong instructional skills, particularly public speaking skills.
Health educators need to have strong computer skills to develop materials with health information, apply for funding and research health-related topics.
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