Explore a Bachelor's Degree in Health Education
Online health education degrees are designed to equip students with the knowledge they need to educate the public on living a healthy lifestyle. Health education as a social science focuses on best practices proven to prevent disease, promote health, and even reduce premature deaths by encouraging target populations to make important voluntary changes in their behavior, from encouraging hand washing and immunizations to prevent the spread of flu to making dietary changes to prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes. Many online programs in health education are degree completion programs that allow students who have already completed an associate degree in an area of allied health or health studies to finish out a bachelor's degree.
Online bachelor's degrees in health education can typically be completed in four years of full-time study, although degree completion programs are often designed to be completed in two years, since they build on the foundation of an associate degree. However, program length varies from school to school, and the time it takes to complete a program can be lengthened if the student has not completed the necessary prerequisites to enter the program.
Students start out building a solid foundation for their major courses by taking courses in psychology, college writing, public speaking, mathematics, statistics, chemistry, human anatomy and physiology, microbiology, and medical terminology. Major courses are focused on teaching students how to develop, plan, implement, and evaluate health education programs, as well as how to gauge the health education needs of different communities and culturally diverse population groups. Major courses might include the following:
- Personal and Family Health. In this course, students survey the many key areas of personal health that are vital the overall health and well-being of individuals and families. Such areas might include psychological health, tobacco and drug dependency, fitness and nutrition, and preventing the spread of communicable diseases and sexually transmitted infections.
- Community and Environmental Health. This course explores the relationship between the environment and the health of a community, with a focus on current issues that affect communities today, such as poverty, population growth, access to medical care, and air pollution. Emphasis is often on strategies that can be implemented to influence the quality of the environment and therefore enhance the overall health of communities.
- Methods and Materials in Health Education. In this course, students learn how to develop instruction that is tailored to meeting specific objectives in health education, as well as how to evaluate instruction to determine its effectiveness. Emphasis is on research-based methods and tools that have been shown to be effective in meeting established objectives.
Many online programs in health education incorporate an internship. These internships take place in approved public health agencies or other health education settings and help students gain the experience and skills they need in program development, implementation, and evaluation to hit the ground running in their future careers. Students also gain crucial experience working with community organizations and utilizing the resources available through these organizations. Internships are arranged by your school's internship coordinator, and all internship experiences take place under supervision.
Building a Career
Health educators work in a variety of different settings, including healthcare facilities, colleges, public health departments, nonprofits, and private businesses, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Potential career titles might include health and lifestyle coach, public health educator, community health educator, prevention specialist, community outreach program manager, or community program assistant. Some health education positions will require or prefer additional qualifications, such as CPR certification or a registered nurse license.
To be qualified for entry-level work as a health educator, you will typically need a minimum of a bachelor's degree in health education or a related area. However, some employers will require job candidates to also be credentialed as a Certified Health Education Specialist though the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc., the BLS explains. The certification process requires you to pass an exam that measures the competencies of entry-level health educators.
The median yearly salary for health educators was $45,830, the BLS noted. Health educators working in hospital and government industries had higher median salaries, at $58,440 and $48,900, respectively. Employment for health education professionals is expected to grow at a fast rate of 37%, the BLS projects. Even so, employment in the field is not guaranteed; your ability to obtain work will vary based on where you live and the economy, while your salary is determined by your level of experience and education, the size of your employer, the complexity of your roles and responsibilities, and other considerations.