How to become a health educator (with job specifics)
Health educators are individuals with specific certifications and industry knowledge whose careers focus on educating people. It's necessary for them to possess an advanced understanding of complex psychological, anatomical and lifestyle concepts and the ability to teach children, adults or vulnerable individuals in an easy-to-understand and relatable way. If you're interested in pursuing this educator role, you may benefit from reviewing the necessary skills and requirements. In this article, we explain what a health educator is and how you can become one, list their key duties and skills and describe their work environment.
What is a health educator?
A health educator is an individual who advises clients, teaches classes and helps patients optimise their lifestyles to promote healthy habits and decisions. They can work in various environments, such as in clinical settings, classrooms and community centres or as advisors in government programmes. Their duties and everyday work life vary depending on what type of educator they are, where they work and what target audience they deal with. For example, they might work with children in schools or with adults in a government programme.
Your primary duties may vary depending on your work environment, location and experience. Some responsibilities you can expect in the role include:
developing educational materials to assist with teaching sessions
communicating with classes, clients, peers and other parties on health-related topics
creating programmes to help individuals and groups improve their health and develop healthy habits
helping create policies to inform the public on health-related topics
attending health-related events, such as conferences and presentations
assisting teams with the creation of promotional materials for health causes
consulting organisations and government bodies to develop policies or legislation
helping organisations form strategic partnerships with third parties to promote health education
assisting vulnerable individuals in clinical environments with their recovery process
performing administrative duties, such as recording activities and meetings and taking notes
How to become a health educator
There are various ways you can obtain this role, depending on where you live, your educational background and the hiring organisation. Here's a guide that can assist you with your career development in the health education field:
1. Acquire a relevant degree
The minimum requirement for this role is a relevant bachelor of science degree. There are plenty of universities that offer various courses, each with unique benefits, such as specialist teaching staff, facilities and learning resources. Suggested courses include public health education, health science, nutrition or human services. Your degree can impact the type of educator you become and your work environment.
You can also choose to pursue a relevant master's degree, though it's not essential for the role. Such a degree might enable you to obtain a more senior role and a higher starting salary due to your level of theoretical knowledge. A master's degree can also introduce you to professional connections and further career-related opportunities.
2. Seek an internship or part-time opportunities
As you're completing your degree, you can opt to participate in internship opportunities to help bolster your CV for an entry-level role. Internships can give you an advantage over other candidates, as they provide initial experience that you can use when you obtain a health education position. You might apply for internships that are indirectly related to the role, for example, as an assistant or as a team member within an organisation. You can also apply for part-time roles in the general health education field to help you build your CV and gain experience.
3. Develop your professional skill set
The role requires a mixture of soft and hard skills. Soft skills are qualitative and tend to focus on personality and character. Hard skills are quantifiable, technical skills that you can display in your workplace. As you gain work experience, you can add these skills to your CV so that your employer can see your eligibility for the role.
4. Tailor your CV
Once you're ready to seek a role in health education, ensure that you maintain an updated CV to reflect your current professional status. Try to tailor your CV to the specific job for which you're applying. For example, if a hirer seeks a candidate with a minimum of two years of experience in administrative work, you might highlight that you worked as a secretary for that period of time with your previous employer.
Necessary skills for the role
Here are a few skills that can help you succeed in a health education role and develop your career:
In this role, you spend much of your time communicating with groups of people in various scenarios. Some educators may work in clinical settings to help teach nurses valuable recovery information or assist in-patients with general lifestyle changes. Other educators can work in government settings where they collaborate with marketing teams and legislators to promote healthy habits to the public.
Communication skills can include active listening, collaborating and educating individuals in a clear manner. Those in educational roles can acquire communication skills by observing others in the field, gaining practical experience through trial and error and developing their own style of teaching and communicating. Your communication style can depend on who you're talking to and your work environment.
The education field requires teachers and educators to have an intimate knowledge of the subject matter they're discussing. Teaching, consulting or promoting health-related ideas can significantly impact people's lives, so staying updated with the latest industry developments and best practices ensures that you can educate the public effectively. You can find Continuing Professional Development courses in the health, medicine and public health sectors to help you as you develop your career.
Creative thinking helps these educators deliver effective messages to their target audience. Those working with children might condense important health information in a way that's easier for this age group to understand, for example, by playing games. Similarly, public health campaigns might benefit from catchy and concise information that the general public can easily comprehend. Creative thinking requires solid problem-solving skills and a deep understanding of various target audiences.
Creating educational materials is an important part of this role. To produce these resources, it might be necessary for you to have an advanced understanding of certain word processing and presentation software or industry-specific applications. Computer skills may also be important for other administrative purposes, such as recording meetings, taking notes or developing lesson plans.
Health educator work environment
This role is a versatile one that can contribute to impactful campaigns, provide direct teaching for various groups and develop materials for general use. Here are a few environments you might work in:
Government roles: These educators can work with local or national government bodies to help develop public health campaigns. This may include consulting marketing teams on how to communicate information effectively or developing technical documents to help the government's project.
Hospitals or care centres: You might work in a clinical setting that seeks to help rehabilitate patients and improve their overall lifestyle. This may include teaching group sessions or providing guidance to individuals to help them develop healthy habits.
Educational institutions: You can also work in an educational facility, such as a school or university. You might teach younger students about nutrition and exercise, or you could be a professor teaching health science.
Non-profit organisations: Non-profit organisations seek to create public campaigns that raise awareness of public health issues, such as smoking. In your role, you might contribute by developing relevant materials, directing campaigns or networking for the organisation.
Freelance: These individuals might work in a freelance or self-employed setting, where they might host a podcast, social media page or conferences on health-related topics. They may discuss fitness, nutrition or other niche topics that they have expertise in.
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