Careers | Health Education | Health & Behavior Studies

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Teachers College, Columbia University
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Health Education

In the Department of Health & Behavior Studies

Careers

PREPARATION FOR GREAT CAREER OPPORTUNITIES

What Will You Be Able to Do as a Health Educator or Community Health Educator? 

  • Health Educators Enjoy a Broad and Exciting Scope of Work

   Consistent with the description provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, 2015, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Health Educators and Community Health Workershttp://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/health-educators.htmhealth educators perform the following duties:

  • Assess the health needs of the people and communities they serve
  • Develop programs and events to teach people about health topics
  • Teach people how to manage existing health conditions
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of programs and educational materials
  • Help people find health services or information
  • Provide training programs for community health workers or other health professionals
  • Supervise staff who implement health education programs
  • Collect and analyze data to learn about a particular community and improve programs and services
  • Advocate for improved health resources and policies that promote health (BLS, 2015, para 2)
  • The Work of Health Educators Varies by Setting. The BLS (2015) elaborated, as follows:
  • Furthermore, the BLS (2015) describes how the functions of health educators/ health education specialists vary by setting, going into detail, below:
  • In healthcare facilities, health educators may work one-on-one with patients or with their families. They teach patients about their diagnoses and about any necessary treatments or procedures. They may be called patient navigators because they help consumers find out about their health insurance options and direct people to outside resources, such as support groups or home health agencies. They lead hospital efforts in developing and administering surveys to identify major health issues and concerns of the surrounding communities and developing programs to meet those needs. Health educators also help organize health screenings, such as blood pressure checks, and health classes on topics such as installing a car seat correctly. They also create programs to train medical staff to interact more effectively with patients. For example, they may teach doctors how to explain complicated procedures to patients in simple language.
  • In colleges, health educators create programs and materials on topics that affect young adults, such as smoking and alcohol use. They may train students to be peer educators and supervise the students’ delivery of health information in person or through social media. Health educators also advocate for campus-wide policies to promote health.
  • In public health departments, health educators administer public health campaigns on topics such as emergency preparedness, immunizations, proper nutrition, or stress management. They develop materials to be used by other public health officials. During emergencies, they may provide safety information to the public and the media. Some health educators work with other professionals to create public policies that support healthy behaviors and environments. They may also oversee grants and grant-funded programs to improve the health of the public. Some participate in statewide and local committees dealing with topics such as aging.
  • In nonprofits (including community health organizations), health educators create programs and materials about health issues faced by the community that they serve. They help organizations obtain funding and other resources. They may educate policymakers about ways to improve public health and work on securing grant funding for programs to promote health and disease awareness. Many nonprofits focus on a particular disease or audience, so health educators in these organizations limit programs to that specific topic or audience. For example, a health educator may design a program to teach people with diabetes how to better manage their condition or a program for teen mothers on how to care for their newborns.
  • In private businesses, health educators identify common health problems among employees and create programs to improve health. They work with management to develop incentives for employees to adopt healthy behaviors, such as losing weight or controlling cholesterol. Health educators recommend changes in the workplace to improve employee health, such as creating smoke-free areas. (paras. 5-9)

 

What Kind of Employment Opportunities Can You Expect as a Health Educator?

  • Health Educators Can Anticipate Favorable Growth Patterns—And, Those with a Master’s Degree Will be Competitive in Securing Employment

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, 2014, Job Outlook tab, paras 1-2), the employment of health educators “is projected to grow 21 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations.” Moreover, this growth “will be driven by efforts to improve health outcomes and to reduce healthcare costs by teaching people about healthy habits and behaviors and utilization of available health care services” (para 2). It is also anticipated that “Federal health reform will increase access to medical care, such as preventative screenings”—suggesting how health educators will be “needed to direct patients in obtaining access to healthcare services” (para 4).

The industries employing the majority of Health Educators have highly favorable projected growth patterns for the decade 2010-2020, given projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, 2012):

  • 60% growth is expected in Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations
  • 60% growth is expected in Social Assistance
  • 38% growth is expected in Health Care
  • 36% growth is expected in Educational services; state, local, and private
  • 9% growth is expected in Government

 

References

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, 2012). Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Health Educators. U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved from: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/health-educators.htm

Bureau of Labor Statistics  (BLS, 2015), Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Health Educators and Community Health Workers. U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved from:  http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/health-educators.htm

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