Students receive a broad education that includes courses in science and mathematics, behavioral and social sciences, humanities, health, diseases, program planning and evaluation, health behavior and research methods.
During the course of study, students attend seminars and lectures; participate in Wellness Center activities; attend and plan professional health conferences; assist with the Red Cross Bloodmobile and work in a variety of health agencies. Students become proficient in written, computer and oral communication and become adept in the skills of group dynamics. The highlight of the public health program is the semester-long (12 semester hours) internship during the senior year, at a site selected by the student with the approval of the Program Director.
This real-world work experience allows the student to put classroom theory into practice. Successful internships often lead to job placement.
Upon successful completion of the requirements for a Bachelor of Science degree in public health, graduates are competent in the following seven areas of responsibility adopted by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC), and thus are qualified for entry level positions as public health educators. Working with individuals, groups and organizations, the entry-level health educator:
A Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) is an individual who is credentialed as a result of demonstrating competency based on criteria established by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc., (NCHEC). Graduates of the Public Health/Health Promotion Program are eligible to take the credentialing examination to become Certified Health Education Specialists. The examination is offered through the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc. Some students may be eligible to take the examination during their last semester in the program. Once certified each individual will need to maintain certification through obtaining 75 continuing education credits every five years.
The Department of Health prides itself on giving individual attention and advisement to each student. A faculty member is assigned to advise a student who majors in public health promotion. The academic advisor helps students set goals for their college work, helps them choose courses, and encourages them to seek professional experiences during their college years. The advisement sheet shown here indicates recommended and required courses for this degree. Each student is primarily responsible for keeping track of his/her academic progress based on this document and should bring it to meetings with the faculty advisor.
A number of rewarding career opportunities are available for graduates of the Public Health/Health Promotion Program in the Department of Health at West Chester University. Graduates complete the program with knowledge and skills that are adaptable to many settings including: federal and state agencies, voluntary health agencies, hospitals, health maintenance organizations and worksite settings. The terms public health educator, health education specialist, health promotion specialist, and health educator are often used to describe the job titles for graduates. It important to note that health educators are rarely in employment situations where only one skill is needed. A combination of skills and the ability to work as a member of a team ensures success at working in the following settings:
Health educators attempt to prevent illnesses by informing and educating individuals and communities about health-related topics, such as proper nutrition, the importance of exercise, how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases, and the habits and behaviors necessary to avoid illness. They begin by assessing the needs of their audience, which includes determining the appropriate topics to cover. For example, they may hold programs on self-examination for breast cancer to women or may teach classes on the effects of binge drinking to college students. Health educators must take the cultural norms of their audience into account. For example, programs targeted at the elderly need to be different from those aimed at a college-aged population.
After assessing their audiences' needs, health educators must decide how to meet those needs. Health educators have a lot of options in putting together programs. They may organize an event, such as a lecture, class, demonstration or health screening, or they may develop educational material, such as a video, pamphlet or brochure. Often, these tasks require working with other people in a team or on a committee. Health educators must plan programs that are consistent with the goals and objectives of their employers. For example, many nonprofit organizations educate the public about one disease or health topic, and, therefore, limit the programs they issue.
Next, health educators need to implement their proposed plan. This may require locating funding by applying for grants, writing curriculums for classes, or creating materials that would be made available to the public. Also, programs may require dealing with logistical tasks, such as finding speakers or locations for the event.
Generally, after a program is presented, health educators evaluate its success. Methods of evaluation vary based on the program in question. For example, they may ask participants to provide feedback using a survey about the program. Through evaluation, health educators can improve plans for the future by learning from mistakes and capitalizing on strengths.
Although programming is a large part of their job, health educators also serve as a resource on health topics. This may include locating services, reference material, and other resources and referring individuals or groups to organizations or medical professionals.
Even though all health educators share the same overarching goal, their duties can vary depending on where they work. Most health educators work in medical care settings, colleges and universities, schools, public health departments, nonprofit organizations, and private business.
Employment of health educators is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations, and job prospects are expected to be favorable.
Employment change. Employment of health educators is expected to grow by 18 percent, which is faster than the average for all occupations through 2018. Growth will result from the rising cost of healthcare.
The rising cost of healthcare has increased the need for health educators. As healthcare costs continue to rise, insurance companies, employers, and governments are attempting to find ways to curb costs. One of the more cost-effective ways is to employ health educators to teach people how to live healthy lives and avoid costly treatments for illnesses. There are a number of illnesses, such as lung cancer, HIV, heart disease and skin cancer, that may be avoided with lifestyle changes. Health educators are necessary to help the public better understand the effects of their behavior on their health. Other illnesses, such as breast and testicular cancer, are best treated with early detection, so it is important for people to understand how to detect possible problems on their own. The need to provide the public with this kind of information will result in State and local governments, hospitals, and businesses employing a growing number of health educators.
Job prospects. Job prospects for health educators are expected to be favorable, but those who have acquired experience through internships or volunteer jobs will have better prospects. A graduate degree is preferred by employers in public health and for non-entry-level positions.