Health Education: Milestone Map
Receiving an online degree in health education is the first step towards a satisfying career in the public health sector. The following map outlines some important milestones that may await those in the field.
Took a special interest in math, science and health, volunteered at a local hospital
Majored in public health with a minor in psychology
Worked as the health education assistant at a university student health center
Online Master’s Degree
Completed an online master’s in public health with an emphasis in epidemiology.
Become a health education specialist in a state department of health
Assisted in a national advertising campaign against obesity.
The Online Health Education Experience
Health educators stand as the primary communicators of the latest health information to the public. With such an important task at hand, receiving an outstanding education is an invaluable tool. Since the traditional brick-and-mortar college is not the best option for everyone, there are a variety of online programs for undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees in health education. These programs allow students more flexibility in creating their course schedules and can often cost less tuition.
Whatever your educational and professional aspirations, when it comes to online health education degree programs there is no shortage of options. Most online health education programs, regardless of degree type, focus on honing in on the skills necessary to excel in the field. An affinity for science, statistics and the community involvement serve as the basis for any online health education program.
Prospective students can expect to be using digital video chat, web conferences and online classroom forums. Though it is sometimes required by certain programs to have occasional in-person meet-ups, it is not common in online undergraduate health education programs. Be sure to double-check the programs of your choice to ensure that the course structure suits your specific needs. The tools for success aren’t solely limited to the curriculum, online programs tout national networks of alumni that make for a multitude of networking opportunities.
Degree Options for Health Education
There are several different online health education programs that suit the diverse needs of students. Deciding on which program is the right one comes down to the goals, previous academic and professional experience, and financial and scheduling needs of the individual. When it comes receiving an online degree in health education, there are three main degree options: Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate.
It’s not always feasible to put one’s life on hold to attend a four-year university. Though online bachelor’s programs require the same time commitment as its brick-and-mortar counterparts, flexible scheduling and affordability make this an ideal option for students that have just graduated high school or are transferring from a two-year program. An online degree is particularly helpful for those that have to work full-time or would otherwise prefer a distance learning approach. Students will learn the ins and outs of the field with courses ranging from medical law to health promotion and planning. An online bachelor’s program typically lasts four years and requires an average of 120 credits.
Professionals who are looking to make the next step in their careers are often helped in great part by receiving a master’s degree, but taking time off from work isn’t always an option for busy professionals. However, there are a variety of online programs for master’s degrees in health education. Most programs recommend previous experience in the field, and some programs are open to transferable credits. If a student desires to capitalize on credits taken at another institution, those credits must be approved by the current school. These programs typically last approximately two years and require about 50 total credits. It is also important to keep in mind that the rigor of the course schedule is left up to the discretion of the individual.
Receiving a doctorate in health education is the highest level of prestige that a health educator can achieve. The program is best suited for professionals looking for more career advancement and a detailed understanding of the various societal and professional nuances of practicing in the health education field. Most doctoral programs align carefully with accreditation standards and are specifically engineered for highly driven individuals looking for top-level employment. Doctorate programs are often completed entirely online, and generally take about two years to complete with 78 to 84 credits. Students in this program can expect to study advanced courses in the theory of health education, biostatistics and program development.
Typical Online Curriculum for Health Education
Though courses in health education will vary depending on the degree level and possible concentrations, there are some common courses that students can expect to take. Below are a few examples of vital courses sure to broaden your professional skill base.
Methods of Community Health Promotion
Spreading the word about disease and health isn’t always easy, but this course allows students to learn best practices and the most effective ways to inform the public of vital health information. There will be a focus on the theoretical and practical issues that face the public health field and how to use that knowledge to create solutions to individual, group and community health challenges.
Socio-Ecological Perspectives on Health
Tackling the issues that face public health requires an in-depth knowledge of the various social and ecological problems that afflict individuals, groups, communities, regions and even public policy. This course gives students the necessary tools necessary to reduce morbidity and mortality due to major diseases. Though many of these theories can be applied globally, this course will focus specifically on the United States.
Qualitative Research Methods
Research is the driving force behind effective health education communications. With this being the case it’s important to have a strong understanding of the theory behind qualitative research methods as well as their implementation. This course teaches everything that a health education professional needs to know about designing a study, collecting and analyzing data, and reporting the results.
In understanding the patterns of disease distributions in populations, health education professionals are finding the sources of public health dilemmas and finding solutions. Courses in Epidemiology are found at all levels and focus on using research methods, sampling, interpretation of data and more to view the study of epidemiology specifically from a public health perspective.
Statistical Reasoning in Public Health
Much of the research conducted in the public health sector comes down to its interpretation and implementation. This introductory course to the various aspects of biostatistics is the comprehensive starting point for understanding the interpretation and conceptual foundation of statistical estimation and inference in regards to public health.
Finding the Right Health Education Program
With so many options for online degrees in health education, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. However, there are a variety of steps that one can take in an effort to streamline the decision process. Health education professionals in particular are faced with a growing number of options due to the rapidly increasing demand for jobs in the public health sector, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. To help mitigate the ever-increasing to-do list when beginning the search for online schools we’ve put together a list of helpful steps to help in deciding which online health education program is right for you.
- Take into account current educational and professional background and weighing those against professional aspirations. Make sure to pick the degree type and educational level that suits your personal goals.
- Another vital component to choosing the right program is ensuring that you meet the minimum requirements for the program in question. This includes everything from GPA to volunteer experience.
- As the search for the perfect program begins to narrow, it’s especially important to check the accreditation of online programs. Many jobs and professional networks require that programs are accredited by national or regional organizations.
- Many graduate and doctoral programs require some clinical or professional experience in addition to the necessary educational background. Be sure that if your top programs have these pre-requisites, you fulfill them.
- Ensure that the perfect program has all of the resources that you may need during the course of your academic career. This can include, but is not limited to, career education, technology education, on-campus resources and networking opportunities.
- Double-check due dates and deadlines for the FAFSA in addition to any other financial aid opportunities.
- Weigh the cost versus benefit of multiple programs against each other. Are the tuition costs are realistic? Do they offer a specific concentration that peaks your interest?
Accreditation for Health Education Programs
Choosing a program that has been accredited is of the utmost importance for students, especially for an online health education degree. The primary reason for this is that these accreditations ensure students that the program has been vetted for quality and is upheld to the standards that make their online education worth it.
When a student graduates from an accredited program they not only ensure that their education holds up to the same standards as brick-and-mortar institutions, but they also increase their chances at landing a job in their profession. The following are the main accrediting bodies for online and on-campus health education programs.
The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and accredits over 2,100 health education programs that span 28 professions. However, it is important to keep in mind that CAAHEP only accredits individual degree programs rather than the educational institution as a whole.
The Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) prides itself on being a systematic and consistent organization focused on both student success as well as the overall quality of the industry. The ABHES is recognized by the United States Secretary of Education and accredits programmatically, meaning that they accredit individual programs rather than the whole school.
The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) is an accrediting organization that is recognized by the US Department of Health in its work accrediting both health schools and programs. CEPH makes very clear distinctions between the two, which can be explored further on FAQ page. The organization touts itself as a values-driven organization that is collaborative, innovative and putting students’ best interest first.
While CAAHEP, ABHES and CEPH are the primary national accreditors of public health programs, there are also additional accrediting bodies at the regional level and for certain specializations within the field. The Association of Schools of Allied Health Professionals maintains a list of reputable regional and specialty accreditors in the public health sector.
Next Step: Application Process
After deciding which programs best suit your lifestyle and career objectives, it’s time to apply. Though the process can be intimidating, creating a thoughtful and achievable timeline will lessen the stress that comes with applications and deadlines. Below is just one example of a timeline of key steps to take as you begin the enrollment process for an online bachelor’s degree in health education.
||Time to Complete
Begin researching the different programs available online
|1 to 2 years
Apply to online programs of preference
Apply to FAFSA, scholarships and other forms of financial aid available
Make a final commitment to the best online program for individual career goals and schedule
Graduate high school or earn GED equivalent, being preparing for bachelor’s program
These steps represent the basics towards pursuing an online degree in health education, but there is always something you can do to gain an extra edge in your career and in the admissions process. Volunteering and taking specialized courses are just a couple ways that prospective health education professionals can get a leg up on their peers.
- Volunteering at a local hospital or clinic is a great starting point for high school students looking to dip their toes in the medical field before beginning their undergraduate education.
- Excelling in advanced placement biology and statistics classes in high school can not only set students apart academically, but in course preparedness as well. Though it’s important to double check with the online program itself to ensure that they will accept AP credits.
- Though professional organizations are geared towards those already working in the field, many have student chapters that can be of great importance to motivated undergraduate students looking to network. Some good places to start are the Society for Public Health Education and the American Association for Health Education, but be sure to pick an organization that works best for you.
- It can be beneficial to try working as a receptionist in a clinic. This job doesn’t require higher education, but can give aspiring health education professionals a feel for workplace culture.
Opportunities in Health Education
Receiving a degree in health education opens the door to many different aspects of the public health field. Health educators are in greater demand than ever with the public health sector expected to grow 13 percent between 2014 and 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition to its rapid growth, there are career opportunities in the government, clinical settings, corporate, emergency health services and even in the public school system. No matter the career concentration, graduates of health education degree programs are expected to be high-level communicators, knowledgeable of research practices and the socio-economic factors that relate to public health.
Looking into the demands for certain careers as well as compensation are vital to choosing the path that will be right for you. Below is a comparison chart of some common career paths for an aspiring health educator with salary data and minimum education levels for each.
||National Median Annual Salary (2014)
||Minimum Education & Licensure
||Assesses the health needs of a population to create and implement community health programs and measure their effectiveness.
|Community Health Worker
||Community health workers are the ground level educators working with community members and providing variations of informal health counseling.
||Works as the liaison between patients and their care providers.
|Healthcare Social Worker
||Deals with providing the necessary counseling to patients and family members facing chronic, acute or terminal illness.
|Health Specialties Teacher – Postsecondary
||Deals primarily with teaching dentistry, pharmacy, public health, therapy medicine and other advanced areas of the medical field at the postsecondary level.
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2014)
ONET Online (2014)
Health Educator Licenses & Certifications
While working as a health educator does not require any specific licenses, some employers highly recommend, and sometimes require, a Certified Health Education Specialist or Master Certified Health Education Specialist credential.
Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES):
Granted by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, the CHES certification is given to those who pass the CHES exam. If one desires to obtain this credential, they must apply to take the exam. The fees to take the exam range from $240 to $330 for non-students and $210 to $265 for students, and vary by deadline.
Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES):
The MCHES is meant for CHES members who have been active for at least five years or hold a master’s degree or higher in health education. Applicants must ensure that they meet the minimum requirements before submitting their application. This exam is slightly more expensive with fees ranging from $250 to $340 for CHES members and $300 to $390 for non-CHES.
Similar Online Public Health Programs
Receiving an online degree in health education is incredibly versatile, but doesn’t fit everyone’s career goals or personality. The following provides a brief description of three similar public health programs that may better suit your academic and professional interests.
Online Health Services Degrees:
Students interested in the administration and management sides of the healthcare system would do well in an online health services program. These degrees prepare students with the organization skills and political knowledge necessary for managerial roles.
Online Nutrition Degrees:
Those concerned with influences of food and diet on health can pursue online degrees in nutrition. These programs center around the communications of health information in regards to nutrition, a realm of public health that has seen a significant jump in importance in recent years.
Online Health Science Degrees:
An online health science degree is perfect for students who are looking to move up in a variety fields such as cardiovascular technology, clinical laboratories, physical therapy, and surgical technology.