Certified Health Specialist Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a certified health specialist career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a certified health specialist is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Being Certified Heath Specialist

A certified health specialist plays a role in helping people develop better practices to improve their health and safety. Determining the pros and cons can help you decide whether or not working in this field is best for you.

Pros of Being a Certified Health Specialist
Can improve safety in the workplace (occupational health specialty)*
Can help promote disease prevention awareness (health education specialty)*
Satisfaction from helping clients reach fitness goals (fitness health specialty)*
Strong job growth in some specialties (e.g., education and fitness health)*

Cons of Being a Certified Health Specialist
Must have a degree to become certified*
Can be exposed to hazardous chemicals (occupational health specialty)*
Significant travel to meetings required (health education specialty)*
May work night, weekend and holiday shift (fitness health specialty)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Job Description

Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES)

As a CHES, you would create awareness programs and educational materials on topics, such as diseases and prevention, healthy lifestyle choices, nutrition and substance abuse. As noted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you can also work in a variety of settings in this field.

For example, you can work at a health facility helping patients understand their diagnosis and teaching healthcare workers how to interact with patients. On a college or university campus, you may serve young adult students by developing programs on relevant topics, such as sex and drug abuse. At a public health agency, you may provide health updates in emergency or disaster situations and conduct campaigns.

Certified Health Fitness Specialist (CHFS)

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), a CHFS is responsible for duties like conducting health risks and physical fitness assessments, developing and implementing exercise regiments and explaining test results to clients. The goal of your job would be to help clients integrate healthy behaviors into their lifestyle. You would work with clients who are presumably healthy and those who have medical conditions that limit their health.

Occupational Health and Safety Technologist (OHST)

Professionals in this field are also called occupational health and safety specialists, according to the BLS. Those who are certified by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) are given the OHST credential. In this role, your primary responsibility is to ensure employee safety in the workplace by assessing potentially harmful working conditions, such as biological, radioactive or toxic chemicals, broken equipment and poor ventilation.

Some other duties you would have include collecting samples to perform testing, investigating incidents to determine the cause and providing safety recommendations. If you have a government position, you would also perform routine inspections and issue fines to establishments that are in violation of safety regulations.

Job Outlook and Salary

The BLS reported that from 2012-2022, employment for health education specialists is expected to increase at a faster-than-average rate of 19%. During this time, occupational health and safety specialists are projected to have a sluggish job growth of only seven percent. The employment rate for personal fitness instructors, which can include fitness specialists, is expected to increase by 13% over the same decade, which is about as fast as the average.

In 2014, the BLS reported that health educators earned an average salary of about $55,000. Fitness instructors earned about $39,000, while occupational health and safety specialists averaged around $70,000 in the same year.

What Are the Requirements?

CHES Requirements

You would need at least a bachelor's degree to become a certified health specialist in the fields mentioned, according to the BLS. Some positions, such as health education specialists who work at government agencies, need a master's degree. According to the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc. (NCHEC), you are eligible to take the CHES certification exam if you have at least a 4-year degree in a health education discipline or have completed 25 semester hours of related coursework. To maintain the CHES designation, you must earn a minimum of 75 continuing education credits every five years.

CHFS Requirements

You are eligible to take the CHFS credential exam in the last semester of your senior year. You must earn a bachelor's degree in exercise science or a closely related discipline from an accredited institution to become certified. In addition, you must have current CPR certification from the American Red Cross or American Heart Association. You must earn a minimum of 60 continuing education points, maintain your CPR certification and pay a fee to remain certified.

OHST Requirements

To obtain the OHST credential, you should have five or more years of experience in a job that involves technical duties related to occupational health and safety and pass the certification exam. If you don't meet all the requirements, you may still complete the OHST exam and be awarded the Associate Occupational Health and Safety Technologist (AOHST) credential upon achieving a passing score. You must also comply with recertification requirements and pay an annual renewal fee to remain certified, according to the BCSP.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Actual job postings are consistent with education requirements in that candidates must have at least a bachelor's degree. A few positions requested a master's degree as the minimum required. Most employers also requested that candidates have a relevant certification, such as the CHES, CHFS and OHST credential. Here are some job postings for various certified health specialist positions to give you an idea of what skills real employers were looking for during May 2012:

  • A Massachusetts company wants to hire a worksite health specialist to educate employees on health risks and conditions. This candidate must have a relevant master's degree, such as health promotion or public health, at least three years of experience and applicable certification, such as the CHES.
  • A healthcare company in West Virginia is seeking a health promotion consultant to work from a home office and travel to worksites to conduct presentations. This candidate will educate members on behavioral practices that can promote healthy lifestyle habits. This job requires two years of experience, a bachelor's degree in health education or other related discipline and a CHES certification, preferably.
  • A Georgia manufacturing company wants to hire a part-time health, safety and environmental specialist to help prevent workplace accidents, perform safety audits and train staff on safety procedures and regulations. This position requires a 4-year degree in industrial hygiene or other related field, three or more years of experience and relevant certification, such as the OHST credential.
  • A fitness center in Cincinnati, OH, is looking for a health fitness specialist to create wellness programs, perform health screenings and maintain gym equipment. This candidate must have a related bachelor's degree, at least six months of experience, CPR certification and be a certified personal fitness instructor or CHFS.

How to Stand Out

Since a bachelor's degree is the basic requirement for most positions, you can stand out by earning an advanced degree in your respective field. For a career in health education, you can complete a specialized degree program, such as a master's degree in community health education, public health education or school health education, according to the NCHEC.

To stand out in the field of occupational health and safety, the BLS noted that a master's degree in areas like health physics and industrial hygiene is required. You can advance your career in health fitness by earning a degree, such as the Master of Science (M.S.) in Exercise and Sports Medicine, M.S. Exercise Physiology or M.S. Clinical Exercise Physiology.

Other Careers to Consider

Dietician or Nutritionist

If you would like a career that focuses specifically on food as it relates to health, consider becoming a dietician or a nutritionist. In this position, you would evaluate the health needs of clients, create meal plans, monitor plan effectiveness and help clients develop more nutritional eating habits. You may perform these duties for individual clients or for a group.

According to the BLS, most professionals in this field have a bachelor's degree in areas like foods and nutrition, food service management or dietetics. You would also need a license to practice in most states. In some instances, you may become licensed by obtaining the Registered Dietician designation offered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. This BLS also reported an expected job growth of 20% from 2010-2020 for dieticians and nutritionists. As of May 2011, these professionals earned an average salary of approximately $55,000.

Health and Safety Engineer

If you have a strong technical and mechanical aptitude and want to use those skills to improve workplace safety, consider working as a health and safety engineer. This position also requires strong creative and analytical skills to develop design plans and ensure specifications meet safety requirements, according to the BLS. Some of your duties would include performing building and machinery inspections, installing safety devices on equipment and identifying potentially hazardous biological, chemical or physical agents.

To work in this profession, you must have a 4-year degree in an engineering discipline, such as electrical, chemical, mechanical, systems or fire protection engineering. The BLS also noted that employment in this field is expected to increase by 13% from 2010-2020. One of the contributing factors for this job growth is the newly developed field of software safety engineering. As of May 2011, health and safety engineers earned an average yearly wage of about $79,000, according to the BLS.

Popular Schools

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Johns Hopkins University

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Purdue University Global

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Saint Leo University

  • BS: Healthcare Administration

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The University of Texas at Arlington

  • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Nursing Administration
  • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Nursing Educaiton
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Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Healthcare Admin and Management
  • BS - Healthcare Admin and Management

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Grand Canyon University

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
  • MBA: Health Systems Management
  • BS in Health Care Administration

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The George Washington University

  • MSHS Clinical Operations & Healthcare Management
  • MSHS in Laboratory Medicine
  • BSHS in Clinical Operations and Healthcare Management
  • BSHS in Medical Laboratory Sciences

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Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Project Management
  • Bachelor: Health Care Management
  • Associate: Health Information Management
  • Diploma: Medical Office Admin

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