What Is a Health Educator?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Take a look at the role of a health educator and details on how to get health educator jobs. Get answers to “What do health educators do?” and look at responsibilities, duties, and typical employers.

[Feature Image]:  A Health Educator wearing a blue shirt is talking to members of the community about health wellness issues.

A health educator works with groups in community settings or with individuals to help them understand how to live a healthy lifestyle. Part of the role is assessing the needs within a community, developing programmes to meet those needs, and educating that community on how to address unhealthy behaviours and lifestyle choices, such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. 

In this guide, you'll learn more about what a health educator does, the skills you need to be an effective health professional, where you might work, the education and training you'll need, and how to get started.

What do health educators do? Duties and responsibilities

The health educator's role is varied and vast, involving working with children and adults and being committed to instilling healthy habits into communities and individuals. As a health educator, your typical duties and responsibilities often include:

  • Assessing the needs of the community you serve

  • Helping people access relevant information relating to health concerns

  • Working with people to manage existing health conditions

  • Developing and facilitating workshops and programmes to address the health needs of patients

  • Disseminating relevant information about health and wellness to those in the community 

  • Offering one-on-one support to those with the greatest needs

  • Consulting with education professionals, physicians, and medical centres 

  • Collecting and analysing data on a particular community to inform future programmes and services

The health concerns will vary depending on the community a health educator represents. Some common areas of education include HIV/STDs, drugs, high blood pressure, pregnancy, and diabetes.  

How to become a health educator

Becoming a health educator involves a high level of education and relevant experience, especially if you want to specialise in a particular area. The following are essential to qualify for a health educator job:

Education and training

To become a health educator, you must complete a Diploma in Health Education as a minimum requirement. You may also benefit from having a bachelor's degree depending on the role, ideally in public health, health education, health promotion, or a similar subject. Always pick classes and a major that prepares you for this route. 

Common issues relating to the health of communities, policies regarding public health, understanding the reasons (social and behavioural) for poor health within communities, and health informatics will likely be included in the curriculum. All these can help you learn how to research and analyse data. Additional typical modules you'll take include psychology and human development.  

Further education following a degree will be helpful and give you an advantage. A Master of Public Health will be valuable for qualifying for specific jobs or advancing your career. If you want to specialise in health education, a degree or modules in a hyper-relevant subject, such as physical education, teaching, or nutrition, will benefit you. 

Work experience

To work as a health educator, you need some relevant experience. Look for opportunities to shadow a health educator to gain experience in a public health setting, education, or community work, even in a voluntary capacity. Working in a school is an excellent experience, as is any role in a community setting.

Building relationships and having good communication skills are critical, so experience working with people is essential. Any experience demonstrating leadership is also a plus, along with sensitive roles to cultural diversity. 

What skills do you need to be successful as a health educator?

Health educators hone various skills, from interpersonal to organisational to technical. To land a health educator job, work on gaining and improving the following skills and qualities:

  • Communication (written and verbal)

  • Problem-solving

  • Critical thinking

  • Cultural and diversity awareness

  • Patience and empathy

  • Public speaking

  • Teaching 

  • Time management 

  • Organisation and prioritisation 

  • Computer skills (internet, database, and relevant software)

  • Leadership

  • Understanding cultural diversity

  • Ability to speak an additional language 

Work environment

A health educator’s work environment is as varied as the communities they represent. The role involves assessing the community's health and well-being needs, so the breadth of the role will depend on the community's needs.

Most health educators have an office as a base. Still, they spend a lot of time off-site within the community, meeting with relevant organisations and delivering workshops and programmes in community venues. When in the office, you will collect and analyse data, make contact with referrals, evaluate services, file reports, and devise programmes and interventions. 

A health educator spends time in the community meeting service users, delivering programmes, and making individual visits. They typically work eight to nine hours daily and five or six days weekly. They may also occasionally work weekend and evening hours per the community’s needs. 

Where do health educators work?

Health educators work in various settings, including hospitals, health care centres, and NGOs.

Job outlook

The job outlook for health educators is positive, and COVID-19 has focused more on health issues. As such, there is likely to be an increase in the need for these services. 

Career advancement to a more senior role, such as a senior health educator or supervisor, is possible with experience and the proper education. You can also specialise or become a self-employed consultant. Health educator earns around ₹5,00,000 annually [1].

With additional training, health educators have a good grounding to move into roles such as high school teachers, wellness specialists, and nutritionists.

Next steps

To begin your career as a health educator, enroll in a bachelor's programme in public health or a related field. Suppose you’ve already earned a bachelor's degree. In that case, you can increase your job prospects by enrolling in a Master of Public Health programme, such as the one from the University of Michigan on Coursera. If you're still deciding whether this is the right career choice, consider taking Yale's Health Behavior Change: From Evidence to Action online course to understand the social factors contributing to health-related decisions and behaviours. 

Article sources

  1. National Career Service. “Health Educator, https://www.ncs.gov.in/content-repository/Pages/ViewNcoDetails.aspx?List=8db9be14%2D2b47%2D4f30%2D97fb%2D5de315d871c0&ID=5256&ContentTypeId=0x01003FEA8C7117A78D4F93DC52780D878B2F0015F91119E23A874E9006B0F068F1089C.” Accessed February 4, 2024. 

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