Health educator is a fast-growing and fulfilling career path, but attaining it requires a college education. While a bachelor’s degree in health education – the minimum requirement for this career path, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) – isn’t an exceptionally math-intensive program, students should be prepared to take some math coursework during their undergraduate studies. Studies in mathematics have a place in general education coursework and major coursework for the health education program of study. How extensively you use math in your career in community health education depends on your field of employment.
Understanding the Role of a Health Educator
There are many ways to make contributions to the field of healthcare, and roles in public and community health, such as health educator, are among the most altruistic. As the job title suggests, health educators teach people about health and wellness, but they do so in environments beyond an elementary or secondary school. Instead, they work in settings like hospitals and healthcare facilities, public health departments and nonprofit community organizations. While they aren’t healthcare practitioners themselves, they serve as a link between health professionals and patients, the BLS reported, and they focus on wellness as well as diseases. The median salary for health educators is $39,540 per year, and jobs in this field are growing at more than twice the average rate of job growth for all occupations, according to the BLS.
Of the 61,000 health educators working in the United States, 23 percent work for hospitals, 22 percent for the government, nine percent for organizations, eight percent for outpatient care centers and seven percent in individual and family services, the BLS reported.
Math Requirements in General Education
Regardless of your major, most undergraduate degree programs include general education requirements. Mathematics is just one of the course requirements students must fulfill, along with science, social science, humanities and communication. For community health education majors, a course such as Statistics for Healthcare Professionals, which introduces students to the basic concepts of statistics and the use of statistical methods in data and research analysis and interpretation, may fulfill this requirement and help in their future career.
The science coursework that students complete to fulfill their general education requirements also often involves a mathematics component. Expect to use your math skills to some degree in laboratory classes in physics, chemistry or biology.
The Role of Math in a Health Education Curriculum
Although health is the focus of a health education degree, this program of study is not a healthcare degree and does not prepare students to deliver healthcare services. Rather, the focus of the curriculum is on understanding health behavior theories and the methods of educating individuals and communities about health and wellness, the BLS reported. Health education isn’t as heavily science-focused as a healthcare degree program would be, but it does require coursework in scientific disciplines like epidemiology, the study of disease cause, distribution and prevention. Students also take classes in public health research and assessment, which cover topics such as research design, methods of data collection, assessment instruments and statistical analysis techniques used in public health research.
Students may also draw from their mathematics skills when taking courses in public health evaluation methods.
What Coursework Is Needed for a Health Education Degree?
If mathematics is not a primary area of study for health education majors, what is? Students take a variety of courses. Some classes focus primarily on the health aspects, such as communicable diseases, social and behavioral health and wellness across the lifespan. Other coursework emphasizes the development of skills used to educate, including public health program planning, program administration, health communication and advocacy.
Gaining hands-on experience, through an internship or capstone project, is a big part of preparing to work in the field of health education.
IMAGE SOURCE: Pixabay, public domain
How Health Educators Use Math
Some health educator roles and other positions in public health require workers to routinely apply mathematics, and particularly, statistics, in their studies of the prevalence of different diseases. Even in areas of community health education that would seem not to require such heavy use of statistics, such as teaching patients and their families about their medical conditions, it is necessary to understand how to evaluate new research findings and incorporate them appropriately into your educational materials and programs.