A Day in the Life of a Health Science Educator

This blog is the seventh in a series of profiles of different clinical health professions represented by Health Professions Network member organizations. These profiles are intended to give students and those looking at prospective careers in health care an accurate, professional perspective on different health care fields, specialties and careers. "A Day in the Life of Health Science Educator" was developed by the National Consortium for Health Science Education, or NCHSE, an HPN member organization.

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What is a Health Science Educator? And where do they work?

What is a Health Science Educator?

Health science education is a field of secondary education that can be either a career and technology education (CTE) series of elective courses, or core science classes. A health science educator can be either a traditional science teacher who teaches courses like epidemiology and forensic medicine or a health professional who has transitioned to high school classrooms to engage young people in health careers.

These second career individuals are required to complete an alternative teacher certification route that varies from state to state. Health science teachers teach career skills and prepare students for certifications through classroom instruction blended with work-based learning experiences.

Health science curricula is focused on academic foundation along with hand-on skills that are practiced in a laboratory setting. Through teacher reinforcement, students are able to progress to a real-world supervised experience with actual patients.

A traditional science teacher may work with students interested in health professions through the Project Lead the Way™ Biomedical Science Program, which focuses on research and clinical laboratory activities along with epidemiology and forensic studies. 

A traditional CTE health science teacher uses work-based learning activities, patient care concepts and skills, anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, and other real-world skills to prepare students for job certifications while in high school.

Health science educators equip students with knowledge and skills to better prepare them for postsecondary programs.  Many students enjoy work-based learning in healthcare as a way to explore and experience health careers before investing in college education.

Where does a Health Science Educator work?

Health science educators who work in career and technology education programs may work in a high school environment with occasional supervisory duties in healthcare settings with students. Their programs may be located in comprehensive high school settings or CTE centers that serve several high schools.

These faculty positions require teachers to develop community partnerships and prepare students for a job-shadowing experience in their areas of interest. Certified nursing assistant programs in high school require students to do at least 100 hours in a skills lab followed by at least 40 hours of direct patient care before testing for certification. Afterwards, many CNA students can obtain employment at age 18 in physician offices, hospitals, and long-term care facilities.

In some states, nursing schools require CNA certification before entering nursing school.  Health science teachers often incorporate other certification pathways for students like EMT, pharmacy technician, patient care technician, medical coding, and medical office assistants.

Rewards of Being a Health Science Educator

Rewards of being a Health Science Educator

These teachers describe immense job satisfaction in being able to help students master complicated patient care skills and enter the workforce or college with sense of purpose and confidence in their abilities. Teachers also enjoy maintaining contact with healthcare settings and sharing patient care experiences with their students’ side by side.  

Students appreciate having instructors who can relate their experiences doing the jobs that the students aspire to have. Many students report entering college programs with a head start on other students who have not had job shadowing or patient care experiences.

Becoming a Health Science Educator

To become a secondary health science educator teaching core science classes, you must be a traditionally prepared science teacher with a minimum Bachelor of Science degree and teacher certification.

In most states, the career and technology education health science teacher candidates must have a current license in a health field such as nursing, respiratory therapy, dental assisting, or pharmacy. After these health providers are hired, state education agencies have required certification programs which will prepare them for success in the areas of classroom management, curriculum delivery and assessment—an on the on-the-job training, of sorts.

Salary & Job Outlook and Professional Resources

Teacher salaries range widely depending on the state, the location of the school district and the teacher’s level of education. This ranges from $35K for a new teacher to $50K for an experienced teacher.

The job outlook for health science teachers is excellent because health careers are high-demand, high-wage jobs. Student enrollment in health science pathways is consistently an area of high interest nationwide. However, the job retention rate for health science teachers is 50-75% because of the demands of teaching in public school versus the vastly higher pay available if they return to their former positions in healthcare.

Established in 1991, the National Consortium for Health Science Education (NCHSE) supports visionary state leadership, promotes best practices and speaks with a common voice to build, enhance and grow high-quality health science education programs and pathways that ensure career success for the next generation of health professionals. Through partnerships with state education agencies, publishers and educational resource providers, professional associations, certification providers and the Health Science Educators Association (HSEA), NCHSE is positioned as the national authority for health science education.

To support teachers, the NCHSE offers annual conferences each fall that includes a comprehensive series of professional development workshops. NCHSE implemented a teacher organization, the Health Science Educators Association (HSEA). The mission of HSEA is to support classroom teachers with resources and professional development and provide an avenue for teachers from across the nation and beyond to freely network and share best practices and concerns.

These professional learning communities provide connections for educators who are positive and excited about what and who they teach despite the incredibly difficult obstacles that may come their way. Teachers can also belong to a longtime established organization, the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE). ACTE provides educational leadership in developing a competitive workforce. ACTE strives to empower educators to deliver high quality programs that ensure all students achieve career success.

By: Katrina Haynes, HSEA President & Nancy H. Allen NCHSE Executive Director

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