The health field is expanding and providing career opportunities as never before, resulting in more employment opportunities for those with credentials as a health education specialist. Such a highly trained individual conveys important information to the community about behaviors that affect health and wellness. Projected job growth for Health Education Specialists is expected to be faster than average through 2022, rising 21% by then, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As advocates for healthier lifestyles and living conditions, Health Education Specialists impact the lives of people in every walk of life.

What Does a Health Education Specialist Do?

Perhaps the most important function of a Health Education Specialist is to raise public awareness about the dangers of certain behaviors on general health. People often lack recognition of habits that may be hazardous to their well-being, such as making poor dietary choices, smoking, neglecting to exercise, or over-indulging in alcohol. Health Education Specialists provide people with information about the effects of such behaviors on their health and emphasize prevention practices for disease and disability issues. By doing so, Health Education Specialists help communities reduce the medical costs associated with debilitating health conditions such as diabetes, lung or heart disease, chronic allergies, cancer, prenatal conditions, arthritis and obesity, according to the Society for Public Health Education.

Health Education Specialists also have other responsibilities, depending on where they work. Many create and implement preventative healthcare programs for public health departments or private care facilities. Some assist community members with healthcare management or help them access appropriate medical health care. Still others may be involved in employee training and supervision.

What Training and Qualifications Are Required To Become a Health Education Specialist?

The Society for Public Health Education states that a health education specialist must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited post-secondary program to work as an entry-level practitioner. Many health education specialists obtain a master's or doctoral degree, allowing them to work in managerial, administrative, clinical research, or teaching positions.

In addition to holding the appropriate degree, certification also plays an important role in employment opportunities. While some employers only require that new hires hold an accredited degree, many more want their employees to hold professional certification credentials. The National Commission for Health Education Credentialing outlines two options for certification as a public health provider:

  • The Certified Health Education Specialist, or CHES, is a competency-based measure that verifies the candidate has a comprehensive understanding of the Seven Areas of Responsibility of Health Education Specialists. A CHES designation signifies that the holder has mastered basic professional competencies in the field and is dedicated to further professional development. No work experience in the field is necessary to take this exam.
  • The Master Certified Health Education Specialist, or MCHES, is a more advanced credentialing exam. In addition to holding the appropriate academic qualifications, examinees must also have five years of continuous work experience in the profession. MCHES certification means the holder has demonstrated advanced professional competencies and is a leader in professional development opportunities.

Where Do Health Education Specialists Work?

Job opportunities for Health Education Specialists span public and private workplace settings, including: medical practices, government agencies like the Center for Disease Control, educational institutions, senior care facilities, public health departments and non-profit organizations. The scope of job specifications also varies, ranging from entry-level positions as research assistants or data collectors, to management level jobs as instructional supervisors. Since Health Education Specialists interact with numerous other health care professionals, their jobs may be integrated into existing hospital or public health community programs.

Related Resource: Work for the CDC

As the demands for quality healthcare programs increase, so do the demands for qualified personnel to meet healthcare needs. For those who are innovative thinkers with good communication skills and the desire to promote community wellness, becoming a Health Education Specialist is an occupation to consider.