Earning your bachelor’s degree in health education can prepare you for a fulfilling career with excellent job prospects. If you want to become a health educator, there are a number of steps you can take a high school student to begin preparing to earn this college degree. You might already expect that taking classes in health and science would be beneficial to your future career. It is also important for aspiring health education majors to take advantage of opportunities to develop their instructional and interpersonal skills both inside and outside the classroom, because these skills are crucial for future career success. Even before you start college, it’s a good idea to spend time researching your career options and the education and certification requirements for this occupation so that you can plan your education and career moves.
Balance Science, Math and Health Courses With Soft Skills
In any career path that involves health, it is typically a good idea to take classes in the life and physical sciences, such as biology, chemistry and physics. Courses in mathematics and statistics are also valuable. In addition to general physical education classes, many high schools offer health-related classes like introduction to health care, anatomy and physiology, exercise science, nutrition and first aid.
Developing a strong background in high school science, math and health courses will prepare you for college-level laboratory science and health education classes in subjects like epidemiology. However, as a health educator, your ability to share your knowledge of health with fellow community members, especially those without much science and health knowledge, is as important as what you know about these subjects. In fact, instructional skills, problem-solving skills, interpersonal skills and writing skills are among the most important qualities for community health educators, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). High school is the perfect time to start focusing on cultivating these skills.
Classes in English, literature and writing can help you develop writing and other communication skills. Courses in the liberal arts and sciences, along with any course that encourages class discussions, can help you develop the critical-thinking skills needed to solve problems. Often, high school students develop their interpersonal and instructional skills outside the classroom, through extracurricular activities. You can learn a lot about educating others by working as a tutor but playing team sports, signing up for the school band or playing an active role in any other interest club can help you develop the interpersonal skills to work with others.
While community health educators serve different roles than health and physical education teachers in schools, you can still learn a lot from looking at your instructors’ teaching methods. Ask yourself what teaching methods seem most effective with your peers.
Learn About Your Career Path
You may think that having already chosen your college major early on in your high school career puts you ahead of schedule. However, the sooner you begin thinking about what you want your career path to look like, the better. Otherwise, you could end up graduating with your bachelor’s degree but with no idea what to do next.
As you start your research into your future career, you should begin considering what work environment would be the best fit for you. Community health educators find jobs in hospitals, government entities, religious and civic organizations, outpatient care centers and individual and family services, the BLS reported. Your industry of employment will affect your job duties, professional credential requirements and earning potential.
Once you figure out what area of health education most interests you, the next step is to determine how to get there. Is a bachelor’s degree all that’s required, or will you need to go to graduate school? Some roles have no professional certification requirements, while others require the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential or even the Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES) credential. If you choose a field of community health education that requires a credential, you should know that continuing education is an important part of maintaining your professional certification and should plan to keep learning throughout your life.
The difference in salary between the lowest-paid and highest-paid industries for community health educators is considerable, with individual and family services paying a median salary of just $41,330, while the median salary at hospitals is $64,830.