This degree guide takes a close look at the online master's in health education program, including the typical coursework and the time learners generally need to complete all curricular requirements.
We also provide the career options available to each graduate of a master's in health education online program and beyond. Through this guide, prospective students can gain a better understanding of what this advanced degree entails and how to go about choosing a school and program that best helps them achieve their goals.
Overview of an Online Master's Program in Health Education
Students of online master's in health education degrees can graduate with the skills to develop and implement educational programs that promote both healthy habits and environments. The following five courses are a sample curriculum of what health education students can expect to take during their advanced studies.
Common Classes and Coursework
Environmental Public Health
Students can explore environmental health and the issues that professionals deal with daily, including how to accurately measure pollutants, control hazards, and assess the potential of threats like climate change and chemical exposure. Learners can examine the methods of environmental health experts and take core concepts like toxicology, exposure assessment, and epidemiology in an examination of contemporary problems.
Community Health Assessment
In this advanced course, students can focus on the theory and practice of community assessment in the context of public health. Through community assessment, professionals measure a community's health status and its ability to improve in vulnerable areas. To carry out assessments, enrollees must become proficient in understanding the determinants of health, including the social and economic environments, physical environment, and individual behavior.
Intro to Epidemiology
This course introduces epidemiology, a field fundamental to public health and its efforts. Epidemiology centers on the determinants, distribution, and frequency of disease, and specifically examines who gets sick and who does not. Through quantitative and qualitative methods, epidemiologists can gain insight into areas such as disease, mortality, hospitalization, quality of life, health, status, and disparity.
Advances in Health Promotion
Students in this hands-on course can examine the various aspects of health promotion and what goes into the planning of interventions. Learners will explore the factors that could impact current health promotion planning, including past research, culture, and public policy.
Applied Health Behavioral Theory
In this course, enrollees can learn about the concepts fundamental to understanding human health behavior and how they ultimately inform which interventions to take. Learning about interventions helps individuals and communities adopt changes in their behavior that will positively impact their health, such as leading a more active lifestyle or eating a more balanced diet.
Skills You Will Gain
An accredited online master's in health education program will equip each graduate with the skills and core competencies needed to work in public health, private organizations, and the nonprofit sector. Health educators today provide services in all areas of healthcare, including government agencies, community-based prevention clinics, businesses, and schools.
Online health education master's programs teach students how to use qualitative and quantitative methods to determine the needs of individuals and populations at large to create programs that will engage, motivate, and support necessary changes
Health educators help individuals live healthier lives. They achieve this through the design, planning, implementation, and assessment of existing health programs and proposed interventions. Through efforts in disease prevention and improved quality of life, health educators, along with health promotion specialists, help to reduce healthcare costs and influence the overall health of populations.
Online health education master's programs teach students how to use qualitative and quantitative methods to determine the needs of individuals and populations at large to create programs that will engage, motivate, and support necessary changes. Graduates become experts in the concepts, theories, issues, and trends of health education and promotion.
A graduate of a master's in health education online program will gain highly transferable skills, including analytical, instructional, and interpersonal skills. The very nature of their work makes health educators problem-solving leaders who must know how to manage the unexpected or pushback from those they seek to help. Health educators are also strong communicators and proficient writers.
Average Degree Length
Typically, an online master's in health education requires each student to complete 30-36 credits. While courses vary by school and program, the core curriculum should be similar, with classes covering the seven core responsibilities of a health educator, as outlined by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC).
Program length for a health education degree also differs by school, so an advanced degree in health education could take as little as one year to complete or up to 4-5 years to meet all requirements. The length of a program also depends on a student's schedule and time commitment.
an advanced degree in health education could take as little as one year to complete or up to 4-5 years to meet all requirements
For a master's in health education online program, students can choose from three program timelines: accelerated, full time, and part time. For health educators, accelerated programs are usually part of a combined 4+1 bachelor's and master's program, which allows them to finish their master's in one year after earning their undergraduate degree.
Full-time students, meanwhile, who enroll in a non-accelerated program typically spend two years on their master's education. Part-timers, especially those who continue to work full time, tend to take 4-5 years to graduate. Most schools will require students to complete all credits within 6-7 years.
How to Find a Top Program
Students comparing online health education master's degree programs should consider common factors like accreditation, graduation rate, and curriculum strength. A top program will help learners achieve their academic goals and prepare them to land a job after graduation.
This metric reveals the difficulty of getting into a school/program and gives each prospective student an idea of what they will need in their academic profile should they apply. Typically, more prestigious schools report lower acceptance rates.
This rate provides quick insight into how long it takes students to graduate from a program and the percentage of learners who do. A master's program, for example, may compare degree attainment for students with full-time or part-time course loads.
Given the structure of online learning, many classes can accommodate larger groups of learners. However, a school's reported average class size still reflects what the majority of courses are like, and a smaller number typically means students receive more individualized support.
Academic programs should continuously evolve and update to reflect new developments in the field. For example, the best online health education master's degree programs should account for contemporary issues facing the nation and teach NCHEC's seven fundamental responsibilities for health educators.
Accreditation is a voluntary peer-review process. Accreditation status reflects an institution's commitment to meeting and exceeding the quality standards established by accrediting bodies, such as the nation's six regional accreditors. A school that is not accredited, has lost accreditation, or currently has a pending status should be a red flag to prospective students.
Health Education Careers After Earning Your Master's
Graduates of an online master's in health education program can enter the workforce prepared to take on leadership and management positions across various industries. The advanced degree qualifies them to sit for the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing's master certified health education specialist (MCHES) exam, a credential denoting that the individual possesses competency, commitment, and versatility in the field.
Health educators can work in many settings, including healthcare and hospitals, government, business, the nonprofit sector, at the university level, and in K-12 schools. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the number of health educators and community health workers will grow by 16% in the decade between 2016-2026, which is much faster than the national average.
Each candidate will need a Ph.D. to teach at the four-year college or university level. With this said, an accredited education master's program in health education could qualify graduates for teaching posts at junior/community colleges.
Average Annual Salary: $78,470
Health educators teach people about health topics and how behaviors affect health and wellness. They develop programs, materials, and events and work with clients, patients, and communities at large to address health concerns. To work as a health educator, each candidate needs at least a bachelor's degree, though some positions will require a master's or doctorate.
Average Annual Salary: $46,080
Social and Community Service Manager
A community organizer focuses on public awareness and the overall health of a community, specifically the social service programs and organizations available to its members. To work as a community organizer, a professional will need a degree in social work, public health, or a related field, like health education and promotion.
Average Annual Salary: $65,320
Healthcare Information Analyst
An information analyst working in healthcare helps to foster educational campaigns and identify the shortcomings of existing initiatives. They primarily work with data and inform decision-makers on ways to improve outreach and the promotion of new health programs.
Average Annual Salary: $42,442
Wellness coordinators work with diverse clients and in a variety of settings, including healthcare, corporate, and college settings. Their primary goal is to promote healthy work environments. They help individuals understand how exercise and nutrition can improve their wellness.
Average Annual Salary: $45,569
Source: BLS and PayScale
Additional Certifications for Health Education
Certification signifies that the holder is proficient in a skill or knowledge, such as health education and promotion. Some jobs require certification, while others consider the credential as voluntary. In either case, becoming certified helps to set a person apart from other candidates during the hiring or promotion process.
Certified Health Education Specialist
The CHES is the first level of certification from the NCHEC and requires the candidate to hold at least a bachelor's degree in health education. Eligibility for the MCHES exam requires each candidate to possess a master's degree. Both tests contain 165 multiple-choice items, with 150 used toward the total score. Testers can take up to three hours to complete all questions.
Certified Health Data Analyst
The CHDA validates the holder's proficiency to acquire, manage, analyze, interpret, and transform big data into information. This credential can be especially useful to health information analysts. To qualify, candidates must meet one of five academic and work criteria, which includes a master's degree, such as from an education master's program, and one year of healthcare data experience.
Certified Health Worker
To work as a CHW in some states, professionals must meet training or certification standards. Nine states administer CHW state programs: Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York, South Carolina, and Washington. Meanwhile, six states require by law that CHWs hold certification: Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, and Texas.
Professional Organizations and Resources for Health Education Students
The following resources can help health educators and health promotion specialists at every stage of their careers, but especially at the start. The professional organizations on our list below offer such member benefits as job boards, continuing education, mentorships, and networking.
- American College Health Association Formed in 1920, ACHA serves as the voice of student health and wellness. The organization represents over 1,100 institutions and the collective health needs of 10 million college students.
- American Public Health Association APHA's mission to improve the health of all people and communities involves advancing prevention, reducing health disparities, and promoting wellness for all.
- American Society of Biomechanics Founded in 1977, ASB membership includes approximately 850 researchers, clinicians, scientists, and students working in the areas of biological sciences, exercise and sports science, health sciences, ergonomics, and engineering and applied science.
- American Society of Exercise Physiologists ASEP strives to secure recognition of exercise physiologists as healthcare professionals. Through ASEP-approved curricula in U.S. colleges and universities, this group works to establish and set standards for the profession.
- Council on Education for Public Health CEPH accredits public health schools and training programs at the postsecondary level. The independent agency, recognized by the Department of Education and founded in 1974, collaborates with organizational and community partners to ensure excellence in practice, research, and service in public health.
- National Academy of Kinesiology The National Academy of Kinesiology honors active, emeritus, and international fellows for their significant contributions to the field. The organization was formerly known as the American Academy of Kinesiology and Physical Education.
- National Commission for Health Education Credentialing This credentialing body promotes professional development and the enhanced professional practice of health education specialists through two levels of certification: CHES and MCHES.
- National Environmental Health Association NEHA serves over 5,000 professionals working in the field of environmental health, a branch of public health concerned with the environmental factors that affect human health and disease. The organization offers a registered environmental health specialist/registered sanitarian credential.
- Public Health Learning Network This comprehensive system, a collaborative partnership of 10 regional public health training centers and over 80 community-based partners, brings together public health educators, experts, and thought leaders for the advancement of public health practice and improved population health for all.
- Society for Public Health Education SOPHE, a nonprofit professional association, represents nearly 4,000 health education professionals and students in the U.S. and 25 countries. Its members work in diverse settings, including schools, worksites, voluntary organizations, and government agencies at the local, state, and federal levels.