Health educators play a vital role in the well-being of any community: they educate and advocate to keep their communities knowledgeable about maintaining good health. This field gives practitioners the satisfaction of both teaching and caring for others. The field also continues to see rapid growth: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, health educators can expect positions to grow 16% by 2026, double the national average for all professions. If working as an educator in this field interests you, consider a master's in health education.
Should I Get a Master's in Health Education?
Consider how your plans and expectations might align with pursuing a master's in health education. The ideal format for your degree depends on your specific needs as a learner. Do you plan to return to school as a working professional or as a college student? High school grads planning to transition directly into a position requiring a graduate degree often pursue an on-campus master's in health education program. On-campus programs offer learners multiple advantages, including networking with faculty and peers and additional course options. However, working professionals may prefer to earn an online degree, as the flexibility of taking self-paced courses part-time online helps busy learners switch careers or gain new credentials.
A master's in health education degree arms you with skills in teamwork, leadership, and verbal and written communication. While you earn your degree, your communication and teamwork skills help you network effectively with peers and faculty. Closer to graduation, your communication skills help you write compelling cover letters when applying to internships. Furthermore, writing compelling cover letters and making a great first impression in professional interviews makes you a competitive candidate, and your leadership and teamwork skills help you stand out upon hire. Your communication skills also help you excel at professional duties like grant writing, program planning and implementation, and assessing your community's needs.
What Can I Do With a Master's in Health Education?
Holders of master's in health education degrees work in the public and private sectors. The degree prepares graduates for education and leadership-oriented positions in their communities, where they plan and develop strategies to improve public health. For many, this means working directly to educate the public. With a teaching certificate, one can work as a postsecondary teacher in health topics. Alternatively, the degree can lead to a specialized career working as a dietician or nutritionist. That said, master's graduates do not always pursue degrees specifically in education. Some choose generalized work as managers in medical and health services facilities.
- Health Educator and Community Health Worker
These educators and workers interact with the public directly, educating, gathering data, and meeting with specific community members to share their findings. Sometimes known as health promoters, these professionals educate the public and develop long-term solutions to public health issues in their communities.
Median Annual Salary: $45,360*
- Medical and Health Services Manager
A master's in health education can equip you for work in a hospital, residential community, or other medical and health service facility. You might spend a typical day coordinating treatment plans or working with other managers to financially plan for your own, or other, departments.
Median Annual Salary: $98,350*
- Health Specialties Teacher
A master's in health education plus a teaching license can lead to a position as a postsecondary teacher specializing in health issues. You can teach courses on subjects like public health and epidemiology at a two- or four-year school.
Median Annual Salary: $76,000*
- Dietitians and Nutritionists
Dietitians and nutritionists counsel people on healthy eating habits in hospitals, community health centers, and residential communities. These positions typically only require a bachelor's, but a master's in health education with a concentration related to nutrition or dietary health can prepare you for a specialized leadership role as an educator.
Median Annual Salary: $59,410*
- Social and Community Service Managers
These managers plan and coordinate the functioning of social services for non-profit organizations and community groups. They also manage social service workers. A master's in health education can prepare you for a leadership position planning, coordinating, and managing public health initiatives for a nonprofit or community organization.
Median Annual Salary: $64,100*
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
How to Choose a Master's in Health Education Program
You need to consider several key factors before choosing a specific program. How long does it usually take to earn the degree? If transferring from another program, find out how many credits the school allows students to transfer to their master's. Transferring credits can reduce the time you spend on your degree. Find out, too, whether the program allows students to take classes full and part time. A part-time course load increases the time you spend on your degree, but for a working professional, this may serve as the only viable option. Remember that private and out-of-state schools often cost much more than public, in-state institutions.
Make sure your prospective degree offers a curriculum that interests you. Not all programs offer the specializations you might want to pursue. If the program's curriculum includes a residency requirement, consider the school's location, especially whether the area can offer you a job post-graduation.
Programmatic Accreditation for Master's in Health Education Programs
Programmatic accreditation refers to a form of accreditation that evaluates specific programs, departments, or schools within universities or institutions. This type of accreditation specifically applies to niche areas of knowledge like lawyering and medical and health services. Ideally, you should only pursue a degree from a program with appropriate programmatic accreditation from the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH). Attending a master's in health education program with programmatic accreditation ensures that your coursework will prepare you for work in the field.
Master's in Health Education Program Admissions
Remember that your application to an on-campus master's in health education program could entail an in-person interview with the school. Online admissions sometimes prove harder to navigate, as they require admission to both the on-campus and online programs. Otherwise, both admissions processes follow similar requirements, such as standardized application forms and requests for personal essays and letters of recommendations. Ideally, you should apply to between four and eight schools, including a mix of reach and safety schools, to bolster your chances of acceptance.
- Bachelor's Degree: Earning your master's requires you to first earn a bachelor's degree. Different programs require different prerequisites. Prerequisite course material can include topics such as biology or physics.
- Professional Experience: Many master's in health education programs encourage or even require experience in public health work, and some award credit for professional experience. Different programs set different expectations, but most accept entry-level learners.
- Minimum GPA: Most master's programs require a minimum GPA of 3.0, though admission requirements vary for different schools and programs. Some schools waive this requirement for students with exemplary GRE or MCAT scores.
- Application: It typically takes an hour to complete your application. You can complete the application either through a print-out or online. Most colleges use standard application forms such as the Common App, though graduate programs typically do not.
- Transcripts: You need to obtain transcripts of your undergraduate or any other relevant college work for graduate admissions. To do this, you must fill out a transcript request application and pay a small fee.
- Letters of Recommendation: Typically, one or two letters of recommendation, preferably from an education or work-related mentor, suffice. Give your writers at least two weeks to complete their letters.
- Test Scores: You need to include either your GRE or MCAT test score. Scores can be sent to prospective schools at the time you take the test.
- Application Fee: Your application entails a fee typically ranging between $50 and $80. Some schools waive this fee for applicants within a certain income bracket; it does not hurt to directly ask for a fee waiver.
What Else Can I Expect From a Master's in Health Education Program?
Offerings from master's in health education programs vary for different schools. Programs may feature different coursework, concentrations, and prerequisites. While you may want to pursue a concentration aligned with your future plans, remember that not all programs feature concentrations.
Concentrations Offered for a Master's Degree in Health Education
|Health Promotion||This concentration prepares you to educate people about public health risks as a social worker or educator. The concentration often appears in master's of public health programs and master's of health education programs. Courses may include topics such as public health and epidemiology.||Health educator, community health worker, social and community service managers|
|Healthcare Administration||Learners interested in using their health education degree in a social or health services managerial career may pursue this concentration. The concentration equips learners with the necessary skills for organizing, financing, and delivering medical and health services. Courses may include topics such as healthcare leadership and human resources management.||Medical and health services managers|
|Eating Disorders||Some master's in health education master's degrees offer a concentration in eating disorders. This highly specialized concentration prepares learners for social work related to mental health services like therapy. Courses may include treating modalities for eating disorders and nutrition education and counseling.||Health educator, dietitian, nutritionist|
|Workplace Wellness||This concentration may appeal to learners looking to apply their health education degree to a job in the private sector. Learners leave this concentration ready to educate employees on health and wellness practices in a corporate environment. Courses may include topics such as nutrition, physical activity and health, and practices in workplace wellness.||Health and medical services managers|
|Teacher Certification||Learners seeking to teach health-related topics at a postsecondary level often pursue this concentration, which culminates in earning a teaching certificate. This kind of concentration might involve a practicum or internship. Coursework could include topics such as classroom management and educational psychology.||Postsecondary teacher, health specialties|
Courses in a Master's in Health Education Program
Different programs feature varying curricula; if you choose to transfer, remember that not all programs offer equivalent course requirements. Nevertheless, certain themes reappear in different programs because of their importance to mastering the discipline. The list below includes common courses in a master's in health education.
- Public Health Promotion
A public health promotion course touches on many topics essential to the practice of promoting health in a population. Students investigate why health disparities exist among different races, genders, age groups, and economic brackets. They may also study the history behind health promotion and disease prevention initiatives in the U.S.
This course covers topics like study models used in epidemiology, population measures for health and disease, and risk assessment and preventative strategies. The course often focuses on the development of the science of epidemiology in addition to key concepts.
- Health Policy and Advocacy
In this course, learners study the role of advocacy in public health promotion, as well as strategies for advocacy in health education. The course prepares students with the knowledge and skills necessary to influence public health policy at the federal and state level. The course may culminate in drafting a bill on public health policy.
- Planning and Developing Health Education Programs
The course prepares students for the instructional design duties of a health educator career. Students gain skills in conducting situational assessments using various data collection tools, effectively identifying goals and target populations, and finding funding. The course may culminate in drafting a sample plan of a health education program, then critiquing classmates' plans.
- Alcohol and Drug Education
Many master's in health education programs feature a course on alcohol and drug education. Topics include alcohol and other addictive drugs' effects on mental and physical health and integrating alcohol and drug abuse programs into health education programs. Learners study intervention techniques and the psychology behind substance abuse.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's in Health Education?
Most master's in health education programs take two and a half years and around 35-50 credits to complete. Several factors influence the amount of time it takes to finish your degree. For one, your degree takes more time to complete if you study part time. Depending on how a school assesses tuition, part-time enrollment may cost you more, though working professionals may need to take fewer credits to fit their degree into a busy schedule.
You can reduce the time you spend on your master's by transferring credit from previous college education. Different schools hold different standards on the number of credits you may transfer. Additionally, many online master's in health education programs offer an accelerated curriculum that allows you to earn your degree in one year.
How Much Is a Master's in Health Education?
A master's degree can cost anywhere from $30,000 to $120,000. Several factors influence the ultimate cost of your degree: Annual tuition towards a graduate degree generally costs more than tuition towards an undergraduate degree. Public schools generally cost less than private schools, especially for in-state students. Transferring credits from previous education also cuts down on the cost of your education. Finally, you should consider the associated costs of an on-campus program, which includes textbooks, commuting, and technology fees. Online programs do not include these fees and often cost less than their on-campus counterparts.
Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Health Education Prepares For
- Certified Health Education Specialist
Upon graduating with a master's, you can take the CHES exam, which consists of 165 items and takes three hours to complete. The certification enables you to work as a health educator and remains valid for five years, during which you must accumulate 75 hours of continuing education.
- Master Certified Health Education Specialist
Upon graduating with a master's, you can to take the MCHES exam, which consists of 165 items and takes three hours to complete. The certification enables you to work as a health educator and remains valid for five years, during which you must accumulate 75 hours of continuing education.
- Certified in Public Health
If you graduate from a program with CEPH accreditation, you can take the exam for CPH certification. The certification enables you to work in public health positions and remains valid for two years, during which you must accumulate 50 hours of continuing education.
- Teacher License
Some master's in health education programs offer a concentration that prepares students for state's teacher licensure exams. Requirements vary from state to state, but you need state licensure in order to practice as a health specialties postsecondary teacher. With this license, you can teach subjects such as health promotion, health education, and epidemiology.
Resources for Health Education Graduate Students
Founded in 1950, SOPHE represents and advocates for health education professionals. The organization offers many awards, fellowships, and scholarships for health education students.
AUPHA promotes national representation for health administration professionals. The organization offers scholarships and awards to health administration and education students.
HCEA promotes excellence for health education professionals and students. The organization offers many professional development opportunities for health education students, including discounted entry to the HCEA national conference.
The APHA represents and advocates for health education professionals and students. It offers professional development programs and career services to students, including its internship at its Center for School, Health, and Education.
Membership in the National Health Education Honorary society, or ESG, offers many benefits, including grants, awards, and subscriptions to the organization's publications, including "The Health Educator Journal."
Professional Organizations in Health Education
Professional organizations can offer both fresh grads and seasoned professionals access to continuing education, career services, job boards, annual events, and numerous networking opportunities. Events like the American School Health Association's annual conference offer insightful workshops, exhibits, and presentations from the most respected professionals in the field. Additionally, networking opportunities can lead to mentorships and professional connections that can help start your career.
Founded in 1992, AAHB promotes excellence among health behavior researchers and scholars. The organization offers a number of awards, including a fellowship for mentoring professionals. Additionally, AAHB's annual conference offers networking opportunities and exhibits.
Founded in 1927, ASHA promotes and advocates for health education professionals. ASHA's numerous conferences, webinars, and self-study programs count as continuing-education credit for many organizations. Additionally, the organization's site offers a career center.
The NCHEC administers the CHES and MCHES certification tests. This organization also offers many continuing education opportunities like webinars and self-studies. Their website also features a job postings section.
The IUHPE promotes and advocates for health promotion and education internationally. The organization offers conferences on subjects such as sustainable development and health education of children. They also publish several journals on global health promotion.
SHAPE promotes and advocates for health and physical education professionals. The organization offers professional development workshops, grants, awards, and webinars. SHAPE's national convention offers continuing-education and networking opportunities.