Military families face unique challenges in their everyday lives that most civilian families could never imagine. Because of this, health educators and community health workers are very important to the military community, and you can use your firsthand knowledge of military life to excel in this profession.
Health educators and community health workers typically do the following:
- Assess the needs of the people and communities they serve
- Develop programs and events to teach people about health topics
- Teach people how to cope with or manage existing health conditions
- Evaluate the effectiveness of programs and education materials
- Assist people in finding health services or information
- Provide training programs for other health professionals or community health workers
- Supervise staff who implement health education programs
- Collect and analyze data to learn about their audience and improve programs and services
- Advocate for improved health resources and policies that promote health
If you are considering a career as a health educator or community health worker, review the Research Occupations tool on MySECO. You should also take the Strong Interest Explorer and Myers-Briggs assessments to make sure your skills and interests align with this career path.
Education and training
Once you have made the decision to pursue a career as a health educator or community health worker, you can explore the many tools and resources on MySECO to assist you in achieving the education requirements necessary to practice in your profession. Entry-level requirements for health educators include, at minimum, a bachelor's degree in health education or health promotion. Many employers also require the Certified Health Education Specialist credential. Some positions, such as those in the federal government or in state public health agencies, require a master's degree or doctorate. Community health workers typically have a high school diploma, although some jobs may require postsecondary education. Education programs may lead to a one-year certificate or a two-year associate degree and cover topics such as wellness, ethics and cultural awareness.
College Scorecard is a great starting point for researching and selecting an education institution. When you visit College Scorecard, select the program/degree, location and size you are looking for to find a program of study near you. You can also use the Scholarship Finder to assist with locating funding relevant to the military community to pay for classes.
Now that you've met the education requirements to become a health educator or community health worker, it's time to find a job in your occupation. One of the first places to look is the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Job Search. Hundreds of partner employers have made the commitment to recruit, hire, promote and retain military spouses in portable careers. A recent search of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Job Search provided job listings using the keywords “Health Educator or Community Health Worker,” including positions with Aetna, Humana and Federal Staffing Resources among others.
If you are looking for federal employment, the Department of Defense Priority Placement Program for relocating military spouses can assist you in pursuing a career in federal employment. If you are eligible for the Priority Placement Program, the program provides you with employment placement preference when applying for Department of Defense civilian personnel positions. Eligibility requirements include the following:
- Being the spouse of an active-duty service member
- Relocating due to a permanent change of station move to an active-duty assignment
- Having been married to the service member prior to his or her reporting date at the new assignment
- Applying for a position within commuting distance of your service member's new permanent duty station
- Being considered one of the “best qualified” job applicants for the opening
Consider volunteering, if possible, or doing an internship and proactively networking to build your contacts and gain experience. Tell family, friends, co-workers and all others that you are hoping to become a health educator or community health worker and ask for contacts they might have who can help you build and expand your network.
Professional organizations and networking
Another key to starting and progressing in your career as a health educator or community health worker is to make the right connections through networking. Consider joining a professional organization in your chosen field to gain a better understanding of current industry practices and policies. Professional organizations are great ways to continue your education through workshops and conferences, which will add to your transferable skill set as you move. Networking with other professionals in your industry will give you an edge in meeting the right people who may have the connections you need to obtain an interview at your new location. Remember, networking is the most effective job search method.
Read The Value of Professional Associations for more information on how becoming a member can help enhance your career.
To explore additional information related to starting your career, check out the Research Occupations tool on MySECO. Enter the keywords “Health Educator or Community Health Worker” to learn more about your specialty field. If you need additional information on obtaining the proper license or certification as part of your specialty field, visit the Advantages of Licensure article in the Licensures and Certifications section of the Education, Training and Licensing lifecycle stage of MySECO.
You can also speak with a career coach at 800-342-9647 to discuss any questions or concerns you may have. Coaches are available to review your resume, practice interviewing, discuss networking or assist you in understanding employer requirements for this field.