Health Education Degrees: Master's, PhD & Online Class Info

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What will you learn in a health education degree program? Read about program requirements, the pros and cons of a master's degree and a Ph.D., and potential careers.
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Studying Health Education: Degrees at a Glance

Master's degrees in health education can lead to a variety of positions in academia and government health agencies, including the United States Public Health Service, and other government and community organizations. The roles and responsibilities of health educators can vary greatly depending on the career path and place of employment you choose. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated job growth for health educators to be 37% from 2010-2020, which was faster than average.

A doctorate degree in this field will enable you to teach related coursework at the college level and conduct health research. The BLS estimated job growth for postsecondary educators to be 17% between 2010 and 2020.

Let's compare programs:

Master's Ph.D.
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in becoming a health educator or working in government health agencies Individuals interested in teaching at the college level, conducting health research or obtaining leading educator roles in health organizations
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) -Health educator ($52,000)*
Middle school teacher ($56,000)*
High school teacher ($57,000)*
-Postsecondary educator ($74,000)*
-Opportunities and advancement for health educators increase at the doctorate level
Time to Completion 18 months to 3 years, full time 3-5 years after master's, full time
Common Graduation Requirements - Approximately 52 credit hours
-Capstone or master's project
- Approximately 64-72 credit hours
-Comprehensive exam
-Doctoral dissertation
-Research internship or residency
Prerequisites -Bachelor's degree
-Some schools require previous coursework or demonstrated proficiency in specific subjects (like CPR, first aid, physiology, etc.)
- Master's degree (in a related field)
-Qualifying exams
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Master's in Health Education

A health education degree can lead to work in hospitals, community centers, corporations or in government settings. You can also teach health education in middle or high school. If you want to teach, teacher certification or licensure will likely be required in addition to your health education degree.

Health educators are responsible for creating and leading the health education and promotion standards, policies and programs where they work. This includes grant writing, research and managing programs.

Pros and Cons


  • Your job will involve improving people's quality of life
  • Job growth for health educators is much faster than average between 2010 and 2020*
  • As a teacher, the possibility of tenure can bring job security


  • Depending on where you work, resources, tools and current materials may not be available to you, which can cause you stress and frustration
  • Requirements of the health educator position may entail working nights and weekends
  • You may have to cope with unappreciative and/or uncooperative students

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

Courses and Requirements

Health education degrees are aimed at giving you the tools to create, modify, analyze and measure the effectiveness of health education and promotion programs. Additionally, you are taught leadership skills, professional standards and sensitivity to working in a diverse community.

Here are some examples of courses you might take while earning your master's degree:

  • Health care leadership
  • Health promotion and disease prevention
  • Current health issues
  • Health, environment and sustainability
  • Nutritional assessment
  • Biostatistics
  • Epidemiology

Generally you will also have a master's capstone project that demonstrates the knowledge you gained throughout the master's program. You may also have internships and/or colloquium requirements associated with the degree.

Online Degree Options

Accredited degree programs in this field are available in online and hybrid formats. However, it is important to note if you are intending on getting a teaching credential that you will likely have to complete internships and student teaching requirements in the field on-campus or through other in-person arrangements.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Health education students should prepare for and take the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) examination offered by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc. You can take the examination within 3 months of graduating with a bachelor's degree. Thus, if you haven't obtained certification, you should pursue it with your master's degree. Maintaining certification has a continuing education requirement of 75 hours every 5 years. If you are prepared and obtain certification prior to graduating with your master's degree, you can use your master's degree coursework to satisfy your first recertification requirement.

Graduate research and teaching assistantships may be available depending on your academic history and past working experience. These can be a great way to earn tuition assistance as well as to work closely with faculty and gain additional insight in health education.

Ph.D. in Health Education

Earning a doctorate in health education can lead to postsecondary teaching positions or other leading positions within government and private health agencies.

As a doctoral student, you can expect to spend a lot of time working with faculty on funded research projects and service projects. Your coursework and direction of study will be tailored to your specific goals and aspirations. Some programs accept those with a bachelor's or master's degree. Bachelor's degree holders must complete around 30 additional credit hours more than those who already have a master's degree to obtain the Ph.D.

Pros and Cons


  • As a postsecondary teacher, you will likely have summers off to work on research and other postgraduate interests
  • Teaching at the college level, you are likely to have students and peers around you who genuinely enjoy the subject matter, which can be rewarding and fulfilling
  • There is a recognition that comes with obtaining your Ph.D., and it will allow you to work on research that furthers health science and can consequently result in the improvement of the lives of people


  • Retention requirements for doctoral programs can have strict GPA minimums and standards
  • Ph.D. programs can be expensive and may not translate into earning potential after degree attainment
  • Some schools prefer to hire professors that already have teaching experience, and tenure-track positions for professors can be difficult to obtain

Courses and Requirements

You and your faculty advisor(s) will work together to design a health education curriculum that matches your long-term goals. Generally, your Ph.D. program will include classes similar to these:

  • Health education theory and scientific basis
  • Research in health communications
  • Health education administration
  • Statistical analysis
  • Methods of epidemiological research
  • Data collection, management and analysis

You may also have a research or other form of internship or practicum requirement as part of the degree program.

Online Degree Options

Accredited schools and universities offer online and distance learning degree programs in this field of study. These programs may be more expensive than taking credit hours in the traditional school setting and likely will not contain the same student teaching and practicum opportunities.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

If you plan to teach, participating in graduate teaching assistantships and student teaching programs can give you teaching experience, which may be required for certain postsecondary teaching positions.

If not already obtained at this point, you should pursue the CHES certification for health educators. Health education professionals generally obtain this degree after the bachelor's degree and continue their education to maintain it throughout their careers.

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