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Summer 2007 Vol. 51, Number 2

Health educators working for wellness
by
Colleen Teixeira


 

Employment and earnings

Full-time health educators generally work a standard 9-to-5 day, 40-hour per week schedule. As programs, events, or meetings require, however, they may need to work in the evenings or on weekends.

Health educators held 57,900 jobs in May 2006, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). They worked primarily in general medical and surgical hospitals, individual and family services, and local and State governments. In addition, a small number of them worked in outpatient care centers.

Median annual wages of health educators were $41,330 in May 2006, according to BLS. The highest earning 10 percent made more than $72,500, and the lowest earning 10 percent made less than $24,750.

Job outlook

BLS projects employment of health educators to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2014. Job growth is driven by the rising costs of healthcare, increased awareness of preventable diseases, the need for early detection of diseases, and an increasing recognition of the need for qualified health educators. People seeking work in this field should have favorable job prospects.

Insurance companies, employers, and governments are looking for ways to curb continued spikes in healthcare costs. Because teaching people about healthy living is less expensive than treating sick patients, health educators’ skills in preventing costly illnesses are in demand. Many serious illnesses—such as lung cancer, heart disease, and skin cancer—are linked to unhealthy but largely avoidable behaviors. As a result, BLS projects that State and local governments, hospitals, and businesses will hire health educators to teach the public about lifestyle choices.

Not all diseases are avoidable, of course. Many times, however, detecting an illness early increases the chances for successful treatment. Health educators teach people how to perform self-exams for some diseases that are more easily treated if detected early, such as testicular cancer. Therefore, health educators are increasingly sought to make the public aware of the advantages of early detection.

In the past, health education duties were often assigned to nurses or other healthcare professionals. In recent years, however, employers have recognized that health educators are better trained to perform those duties. As a result, demand has increased for workers who have a background specifically in health education.

All of these factors have led to job growth for health educators in most industries, but jobs may decrease in secondary schools through 2014. Cash-strapped schools frequently cut back on health education programs and ask teachers trained in other subjects, such as science or physical education, to teach health education.

Overall job prospects for health educators are expected to be favorable, however. Applicants who gain relevant experience through internships or volunteer jobs will have the best opportunities. Health educators who have at least a master’s degree, which is generally required only when working in public health, may have the best prospects. Although this occupation is growing strongly, it still employs relatively few people.

 

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Last Updated: February 15, 2007