Complete Guide to an Online Health Education Degree
Health education degrees are available at the associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and certificate levels. The field of health education is interdiscplinary and encompasses a wide variety of strategies used to educate individuals and communities about improving health. Health educator may work with a group of people who have a particular disease assisting them with care and treatment, or they may work in preventative education, teaching people how to stay healthy and ward off illnesses.
Prospective health education students should select a regionally accredited institution. Additionally, those who are pursuing a health education teaching degree as a means to working as a certified teacher within the public school system will need to look for a program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). This will allow them to be sure that they are getting a teaching education that will prepare them for their future careers. For information about the top online colleges offering health education degrees, check out our 2017 ranking list.
Comprehensive List of Accredited Online Schools - Health Education Degrees (135)
Online Health Education Degree Overview & Career Information
Our guide to a health education degree covers associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and certificate programs. An associate degree takes two years to complete and prepares graduates for some entry-level jobs, as well as to transfer to a bachelor's program. At the bachelor's level, students will spend four years on their education and will be prepared upon graduation to enter a wide variety of entry-level positions in such places as wellness centers, advocacy groups, and community centers. A master's degree will allow a professional to move into management and leadership roles within the industry. Those who choose to earn a doctorate will be able to find work teaching at the university level, researching, or in top management or consulting jobs.
At the associate level, students are most likely to find programs in community health or health education designed to prepare them for transfer to a bachelor's program. An associate degree will not be enough to find work teaching in the school system, but graduates of a program in a subject such as community health may be able to find work in some community services facilities, commercial wellness centers, or in administrative roles within a healthcare facility. During their programs, students will take general education courses as well as program-specific courses in the areas of public health, youth development, nutrition, psychology, anatomy, and others. Programs typically last two years and are made up of 60 credits of coursework. An associate degree in this field can be found at community colleges, with tuition varying depending on the school. Typically, a student can expect to spend less than $8,000 a year on tuition at a community college.
Bachelor's degree programs in health education are widely available at colleges and universities and usually take four years and around 120 credits to complete. Students in these programs will gain the skills and knowledge they need to be able to work in a variety of settings providing education to individuals and groups on the topic of health. While a bachelor's degree alone won't qualify someone to teach health classes in a public school setting—unless the program includes a teacher certification component, it can provide a foundation upon which aspiring teachers can build to pursue teaching certification later, or to move on to master's-level work in the field of education and teaching. Coursework covers such topics as health communications, grant writing, healthcare ethics, creating health education programs, and more. Graduates may find work with health advocacy organizations, community centers, wellness programs, and medical facilities. Job responsibilities will include teaching people how to maintain good health and how to prevent illness and injuries. Depending on the program, an individual may also meet the qualifications to become a Certified Health Education Specialist. Tuition will vary depending on the program, and will likely fall between $10,000 and $20,000 a year.
A master's in health education prepares students for leadership roles within the industry. These professionals will work in a variety of settings such as non-profit groups, businesses, hospitals, schools, and health departments to create educational programs that teach individuals and groups how to maintain good health and prevent diseases. A master's degree program will teach students how to figure out what the needs of a group are and how to design a program that will fit those needs. Courses that students will take include healthcare statistics, environmental health, epidemiology, assessing community needs, public health administration, and grant writing. This type of program will typically take a year and a half to two years to complete and can be found at colleges and universities. Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree as well as work experience in the field. Tuition varies by program but students can expect to pay at least $11,000 year.
While not as widely available, there are doctoral programs in health education for those that wish to devote extended time to research and advanced study of the health education field. By earning a PhD, professionals may be qualified for top leadership roles, consulting work, independent research, and teaching at universities. Potential course titles include healthcare economics, leadership and ethics, instructional design and program planning, quantitative and qualitative reasoning and analysis, and assessing community needs for health education. Students will also complete a dissertation. The time it takes to complete a doctoral program will vary but students should expect to dedicate at least three years to this educational pursuit. In order to be admitted to a doctoral program an individual will need to have a master's degree. This can be in a related field or a different field, but students who have a master's in health education may be able to complete their PhD faster than those who have a master's in an unrelated field. Other admission requirements include letters of recommendation and a resume. A doctoral degree in health education can be pursued at universities, and tuition can run anywhere from $11,000 to $20,000 a year or more, depending on the program and how many credits a student is able to transfer.
Certificate programs in health education are available to those who aren't interested in or aren't ready to commit to a full graduate degree program. Certificates are typically found at the graduate level, meaning that a prospective student will need to already have a bachelor's degree in order to apply. Additionally, students who earn a graduate certificate may be able to transfer those credits to master's degree programs if they choose to to pursue one at a later time. Courses that make up a certificate program include administration of health education programs, health communications, cultural context of health, and public health education methods. Upon earning their certificates, graduates will be able to work in a variety of settings, such as social services groups, non-profits, and medical facilities, assisting with the design and creation of health education programs. A certificate can typically be earned in less than a year and usually consists of 12 to 18 credits. Tuition varies depending on the school attended; students may spend $10,000 or more on tuition.
When choosing a degree program it is important for the prospective student to keep accreditation in mind. The first type of accreditation that they should look for in a school is regional accreditation. Regional accreditation is when a non-profit, regionally-based organization evaluates a school as a whole to make sure that it meets certain quality standards. Regional accreditation is given to two and four-year colleges and universities that grant degrees. When a student attends a regionally accredited school they know that they will receive a quality education, and they can also have confidence that their degree will be accepted as valid by future employers. Also, credits from a regionally accredited institution are much easier to transfer to other institutions than credits from non-accredited schools.
There are also organizations that accredit specific programs. For example, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)--the new collaboration between the former accrediting agencies NCATE and TEAC--accredits teaching programs. While not all health education programs will be accredited by CAEP, individuals who are looking for a health education program that focuses on working as a teacher within the public school system will want to find a program that is. CAEP accreditation means that the program will fully prepare students to be successful teachers upon graduation. Also, teachers who graduate from CAEP-accredited programs will be more competitive in the job market, as employers can hire them with confidence, knowing that they have received a quality education.
Careers in Health Education
Those who work in the field of health education spend their days teaching others about the importance of good health. This can mean anything from working with a patient to better understand how to address a new diagnosis, to leading workshops on good health for a business's employees. When they are not actively teaching others they are working in communities and within organizations to evaluate health education needs and to come up with programs to help address these needs. Jobs for healthcare educators are available in a variety of locations, including hospitals and clinics, private businesses, schools, non-profit organizations, and the public health department. In order to work in entry-level positions an individual will need at least an associate, and probably a bachelor's, degree. Those seeking advanced leadership positions, teaching jobs at the university level, or research positions, will need to pursue a master's or doctorate. In order to work as a certified teacher within the public school system, the aspiring teacher will need to seek a degree that specifically addresses teaching health classes at this level, and will need to pursue teacher certification.
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- Detailed Tuition and Fees. University of Alabama at Birmingham. Accessed November 2, 2016. http://www.uab.edu/students/paying-for-college/detailed-tuition-and-fees.
- Doctor of Health Education Degree Online. A.T. Still University. Accessed November 2, 2016. https://www.atsu.edu/doctor-of-health-education-degree#admissions.
- Health Education. Ashford University. Accessed November 1, 2016. http://www.ashford.edu/degrees/online/ba-health-education.htm.
- Health Education and Health Promotion (BS). Arizona State University Online. Accessed November 1, 2016. http://asuonline.asu.edu/online-degree-programs/undergraduate/bachelor-science-health-education-and-health-promotion.
- Health Education AS Major. City College of San Francisco. Accessed November 1, 2016. https://www.ccsf.edu/dam/ccsf/documents/OfficeOfInstruction/Catalog/Programs/HealthEducation/HealthEducationMajor.pdf.
- Master of Science in Health Education. Kaplan University. Accessed November 2, 2016. http://www.kaplanuniversity.edu/health-sciences/health-education-master-degree.aspx.
- MS in Health Education and Promotion. Walden University. Accessed November 2, 2016. https://www.waldenu.edu/masters/ms-in-health-education-and-promotion.
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- Online Certificate in Health Education and Promotion. Benedictine University. Accessed November 2, 2016. http://online.ben.edu/programs/health-education-cert.
- Online Health Education Graduate Certificate. University of Alabama at Birmingham. Accessed November 2, 2016. https://www.uab.edu/education/humanstudies/chhs/certificate-in-health-education.
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- What is Regional Accreditation and Why is it Important?. Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. Accessed November 2, 2016. http://www.wiche.edu/knowledge/14295.
- Why It Matters. CAEP. Accessed November 2, 2016. http://caepnet.org/accreditation/about-accreditation/why-it-matters.