Health education professionals are skilled, compassionate individuals who can make a positive difference in the lives of others. Careers in health education and promotion are the reason we have community outreach programs, health counselors in our schools and safety coordinators in our places of work.
Public health educators generally focus their efforts on groups of people, from families to communities to workforces of large corporations. They develop educational campaigns and programs that promote healthy habits and environments, and their duties tend to be more research-oriented and project-based. They analyze data about target demographics and develop evidence-based programs that are specific to the groups they serve.
USC’s online Master of Public Health (MPH) program helps prepare graduates to be on the front line in the delivery of public health education services. Because of the balance of advisory and teaching duties, an MPH graduate can choose to pursue several career paths in health education and promotion. Before we delve into specific careers, let’s define health education and promotion.
What Is Health Education and Promotion?
Health education and promotion breaks down into two main components: (1) developing health education programs that discuss topics such as proper diet and nutrition, sex education, and transmissible disease prevention and (2) promoting those programs to do the most good. By educating the public about topics such as illness, personal fitness and proper sanitation, public health professionals can help community members live longer and healthier lives.
Health education and promotion can be as simple as teaching kids to wash their hands and extends to every industry and corner of the world. It would be difficult to find a school, corporation or government facility without a health education officer of some kind.
How to Pursue a Career in Health Education and Promotion
Studying health education and promotion can lead to careers that are critical to public health and disease prevention. Individuals who are interested in a career in health education can benefit from earning a focused bachelor’s or master’s degree in public health, such as USC’s Master of Public Health degree with its Community Health Promotion concentration.
Engaging in a degree program that focuses on health promotion prepares students to educate the public about specific health concerns. For instance, some health educators are devoted to teaching the public about immediate dangers such as emerging pandemics, while others collect data and develop programs around long-range health threats such as substance abuse and family planning. USC’s Community Health Promotion program helps students become resident experts in the behavioral and environmental changes that improve public health, allowing them to make a direct impact in their communities by encouraging people to make better decisions for themselves.
Because the scope of public health is so broad, students enrolled in this program can expect plenty of exposure to related fields, including:
● Biostatistics and epidemiology
● Global health
● Health services and policy
By gaining an education in a range of public health topics, graduates can pursue several different careers in health education and promotion. Some of the most popular roles include health promotion specialist, public health educator, and corporate wellness trainer, just to name a few.
In addition to getting a master’s degree in public health, another way to make yourself a more desirable candidate in the eyes of potential employers is by becoming a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES).
What Is the Certified Health Education Specialist Exam?
Those interested in careers in health education and promotion should also consider becoming certified health education specialists. While entry-level public health positions usually don’t require certification, advancing to senior levels will likely require you to sit for the CHES exam.
The CHES exam, which the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC) administers, tests knowledge in seven areas of responsibility:
● Area I: Assess Needs, Resources, and Capacity for Health Education/Promotion
● Area II: Plan Health Education/Promotion
● Area III: Implement Health Education/Promotion
● Area IV: Conduct Evaluation and Research Related to Health Education/Promotion
● Area V: Administer and Manage Health Education/Promotion
● Area VI: Serve as a Health Education/Promotion Resource Person
● Area VII: Communicate, Promote, and Advocate for Health, Health Education/Promotion, and the Profession
You must have a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree in the field of public health or a significant number of credit hours to take the CHES exam. Your transcripts will be evaluated by the CHES examination board to determine whether you have the required education to sit for the exam. Not every Master of Public Health program will qualify a student to take the CHES, however, the Community Health Promotion concentration offered through USC should provide sufficient preparation and eligibility.
4 Jobs in the Field of Health Education and Promotion
Public health includes a wide variety of rewarding careers, including the following.
1. Social and Community Service Managers
Social and community service managers develop programs and coordinate initiatives to support public wellness and increase education. They generally work with local communities or with specific groups that need education and support, such as in schools or at homeless shelters. Social and community service managers may cover areas such as mental health, substance abuse and vaccine promotion.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for social and community managers are expected to grow by 17% between 2019 and 2029.
2. Corporate Wellness Trainer
Corporate wellness trainers teach health and wellness best practices to business employees. Just as there are ways to mitigate risk and reduce the spread of illness in communities, the same applies to offices, warehouses, and other places where employees work in close proximity. Corporate wellness trainers may promote topics such as the importance of sanitizing public surfaces or how to sit in an ergonomically correct way to discourage back and neck issues.
With the advancement of technology, some corporate wellness programs use specially designed apps that incentivize their employees to make healthy choices such as joining a gym or quitting smoking. The end goal is for employees to be healthier, which in turn leads to higher productivity and less unplanned time off for medical visits.
3. Health Care Coordinator
Health care coordinators provide patient care and act as advocates to educate and assist patients in navigating the health care system. They’re responsible for the administrative aspects of patient care and typically work in health care facilities, such as hospitals, clinics and long-term care facilities, providing nonmedical support to nurses and patients. While they don’t provide care directly, they do help evaluate patients to determine what their specific needs are. This ensures that their patients have access to the type and quality of care that they need.
4. Health Promotion Specialist
If you have strong communication skills and an interest in influencing people’s health choices, consider a career as a health promotion specialist. Specific tasks may range from giving face-to-face advice to individuals to researching and developing strategic policies to promote better choices to a wider group, such as healthy lifestyle campaigns. Health promotion specialists can be found in a range of settings, including hospitals, local community groups, prisons, schools and workplaces.
The BLS includes health promotion specialists in the category of health educators and community health workers and expects jobs in the category to grow by 13% between 2019 and 2029.
Begin Your Career in Public Health Today
Health education and promotion professionals are in high demand, and the field is expected to continue to grow. While a bachelor’s degree is often the minimum requirement for entry-level positions, those with a master’s degree in public health and CHES certification can have more opportunities for specialization and to grow into leadership roles.
The online MPH program at the Keck School of Medicine of USC helps students learn the skills needed to motivate individuals and communities to achieve better health through behavioral and environmental changes. Take your first step toward an exciting and rewarding career today.