What Is a Health Educator?


What is a health educator? An advocate for a healthy lifestyle. Here are some facts about the profession.

Wellness is the keyword when it comes to health education. Fundamentally, health educators teach others about what constitutes a healthy lifestyle—and the methods for getting there.

That means promoting practical, viable advice on diet and exercise while unraveling all the myths and misunderstandings that surround crucial nutrition and fitness information.

It’s not just showing people what to do, though. It’s also steering them away from what not to do. Health educators provide tools that reduce the chances of developing health problems. These might include smoking-cessation and drug and alcohol awareness programs.

The Role of Health Educator

Health educators also serve as data collectors. They assess the needs of their target community: children and families, the elderly, at-risk populations—all of the residents of their geographic area.

They use the data to inform the programs or events a health educator puts in place. And that’s just the start of the number-crunching: Program evaluations—and decisions on whether to stick with the status quo or pivot to a different approach—depend on the information that is gathered after the fact.

  • Was the information conveyed in a clear way?
  • Did it reach a critical mass?
  • Did it generate change within the community?

All the while, health educators advocate for their constituents. They might lobby a lawmaker for policy changes or address their local school board about recess time or school lunches. They will also likely interact with health care professionals. That could involve, for example, presenting to hospital executives or doctors on the need for better post-treatment resources.

Jobs for Health Educators

That said, the day-to-day duties of health educators usually vary depending on where they work. There are 62,000-plus health educators in the United States, and the majority are employed at hospitals or in government settings. But a large subsection works at colleges, nonprofits and even private companies.

Health Educators: At a Glance

Number of Health Educators
in the U.S.
Median Salary
in 2018
Projected Job Growth,
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Some spend most of their time in an office. But most mix in plenty of off-site fieldwork, too. If you join the profession, you can count on attending plenty of meetings and public events. Those are almost always within the scope of the job.

As the health industry has become more culturally aware, health educators have responded by designing programs tailored to a particular community’s needs rather than taking a cookie-cutter approach. Bilingual health educators are in high demand, especially in cities with large immigrant populations.

Health educators are riding a boom as wellness takes on greater importance in most people’s lives. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field is experiencing 10% growth, faster than the average of all occupations. The median salary in 2018 topped $54,000.

How Do I Become a Health Educator?

For starters, get familiar with the educational requirements for the profession.

Most health educators earn their bachelor’s degree in public health, health education or health promotion, taking courses focused not just on physical health but also on psychology and human development. Certification is not required, but many employers seek candidates who have become certified health education specialists through the National Commission for Health Education.

Some also choose to go after a master’s degree, such as a master of public health (MPH), or a program in community health education, school health education or health promotion.

Regardless of the educational path, all health educators will find they need a set of soft skills to be successful at promoting healthy lifestyles:

  • Interpersonal abilities: teaching in an engaging way; listening to the needs and desires of their clients and community.
  • Communication: public speaking; writing plans and proposals.
  • Problem-solving: identifying and avoiding obstacles; gathering and analyzing data.

Study Public Health at Elmhurst University

Have you heard? Elmhurst University launched a new undergraduate program in public health.

You’ll learn how to analyze new health findings and turn them into actionable advice that improves people’s well-being. You can also choose to pursue an advanced degree via Elmhurst’s master of public health program.

Request more information using the form below!

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