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Health Educators - What They Do

How to Advance (Advancement)
Health educators may choose to become a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES), a credential offered by the National Commission of Health Education Credentialing, Inc. The certification is awarded after candidates pass an examination on the basic areas of responsibility for a health educator. The exam is aimed at entry-level educators who have already completed at least a bachelorís degree in health education or are within 3 months of completion. In addition, to maintain certification, health educators must complete 75 hours of approved continuing education courses or seminars over a 5-year period. Some employers prefer to hire applicants who are certified, and some States may require health educator certification to work in a public health department. However, many employers do not require their workers to have the certification.

A graduate degree is usually required to advance past an entry-level position to jobs such as executive director, supervisor, or senior health educator. Workers in these positions may spend more time on planning and evaluating programs than on their implementation but may need to supervise other health educators who implement the programs. Some health educators pursue a doctoral degree in health education and may transfer to research positions or become professors of health education.

Health educators held about 66,200 jobs in 2008. They work primarily in two industries, with 51 percent working in healthcare and social assistance and 23 percent working in government. In addition, a small percent of health educators work in grant-making services and social advocacy organizations.

Job Outlook
Employment of health educators is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations, and job prospects are expected to be favorable.

Job Growth
Employment of health educators is expected to grow by 18 percent, which is faster than the average for all occupations through 2018. Growth will result from the rising cost of healthcare.

The rising cost of healthcare has increased the need for health educators. As healthcare costs continue to rise, insurance companies, employers, and governments are attempting to find ways to curb costs. One of the more cost-effective ways is to employ health educators to teach people how to live healthy lives and avoid costly treatments for illnesses. There are a number of illnesses, such as lung cancer, HIV, heart disease and skin cancer, that may be avoided with lifestyle changes. Health educators are necessary to help the public better understand the effects of their behavior on their health. Other illnesses, such as breast and testicular cancer, are best treated with early detection, so it is important for people to understand how to detect possible problems on their own. The need to provide the public with this kind of information will result in State and local governments, hospitals, and businesses employing a growing number of health educators.

Demand for health educators is expected to increase in most industries, but their employment may decrease in secondary schools. Many schools, facing budget cuts, ask teachers trained in other fields, such as science or physical education, to teach the subject of health education.

Job prospects for health educators are expected to be favorable, but those who have acquired experience through internships or volunteer jobs will have better prospects. A graduate degree is preferred by employers in public health and for non-entry-level positions.

Median annual wages of health educators were $44,000 in May 2008; the middle 50 percent earned between $33,170 and $60,810. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,210, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $78,260.

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