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Elementary school children eat apples as part of a nutrition lesson.
Teaching Careers Updated November 14, 2017

Health Teacher Careers: Job, Education and Salary Information

By Room 241 Team October 4, 2012

Elementary school children eat apples as part of a nutrition lesson.Health teachers instruct pupils on good hygiene, safe sex, effects of drug or alcohol abuse and why physical fitness is a must for a healthy life. They may take students to farms to show them where their milk comes from or how they get their eggs. They may take students to a dairy or bakery to show them how milk is processed or how they get cupcakes or daily bread.

Health teachers often talk to students about why recreational drug use can turn into addiction (and once a student is addicted, how hard it is to get clean). The health teacher will probably talk about sex education and help students separate fact from fiction.

They’ll probably emphasize the benefits of physical education. More progressive schools may allow their health teachers to instruct on meditation, yoga and Pilates.

If that sounds like kind of teaching you would like to do, read on for job descriptions, salaries and educational requirements for health teachers in elementary, middle and high schools.

At-a-glance
> Who makes a good health teacher?

Teaching at the various levels
> Elementary school
> Middle school
> High school

Professional development
> Continuing education
> Professional associations

Related careers
> Jobs beyond teaching

Best of the Web
> Sites and Twitter handles to follow

At-a-glance: health teachers

Elementary school Middle school High school
Education Bachelor’s degree and state-issued teaching certificate Bachelor’s degree and state-issued teaching certificate Bachelor’s degree/ master’s preferred and state-issued certification
Typical study time 4 years 4-5 years 4-5 years
Median salary $54,500 $55,860 $57,200
Job growth outlook +6% +6% +6%

Overall, health educators earn a median annual salary of $56,690.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Who makes good health teachers?

Health teachers should radiate health and wellness.

They are expected to:

  • Project a fit appearance
  • Stay physically active
  • Understand nutrition
  • Lead and project a positive, balanced lifestyle
  • Use imaginative, resourceful teaching styles
  • Help students understand the value of staying healthy and fit

Health teacher job description

Health teachers promote a comprehensive understanding of health and wellness strategies so students can make good choices that prevent illnesses, obesity and addiction.

A health teacher’s curriculum typically covers:

  • Sex education
  • Nutrition
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Benefits of exercise
  • Benefits of moderation
  • Good hygiene

These are some of the specific jobs health teachers do:

  • Handing out pamphlets or suggesting groups outside of school that might be helpful to students
  • Organizing health events or school outings emphasizing health and wellness
  • Supervising class projects
  • Administering and grading tests
  • Holding parent/teacher conferences
  • Attending teacher planning days

Teaching at the various levels

Elementary health teachers

Elementary school health teachers can teach younger children the basics of building healthy habits. They also introduce students to the joys of good food and exercise.
Continue reading to learn more about elementary school health teachers

What do elementary health teachers do?

Elementary health teachers do a great variety of things, including:

  • Lecturing on good nutrition and exercise
  • Introducing topics such as sex education and drug abuse (depending on the school district)
  • Taking children on field trips
  • Helping individual pupils cope with health or lifestyle concerns

Educational and certification requirements

To teach health, teachers in an elementary school generally are required a have a bachelor’s degree, a teaching certificate and additional training in health, wellness and nutrition.

Master’s degrees and doctorates are usually not necessary to teach at the elementary level. However, a bachelor’s degree, teaching credentials and student teaching in the subject are usually qualifications just to be interviewed for the job.

Salary and employment projections

Career-related websites estimate the following annual salaries for elementary school teachers:

  • BLS: $54,550 (median)
  • PayScale.com: $41,706 (median)
  • Glassdoor.com: $46,967 (average)
  • Salary.com: $55,083 (average)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects job growth for elementary school teachers is 6 percent.

Pros and cons of being an elementary school health teacher

Pros

  • Children get lifestyle education that they might not get at home
  • Children learn several lifestyle strategies
  • Children learn valuable nutrition and hygiene options

Cons

  • Children might be embarrassed by the topics being taught to them
  • Children may resist being taught different ways to live
  • Children may want to follow teachers’ guidance but lack money or opportunities to pursue it

Middle school health teachers

Middle school is an important time in a student’s life, and having access to facts about health and wellness often has a huge impact on their well-being. Because of the influx of non-English speaking families, middle school health education teachers may have to reteach units that are generally taught in elementary school.
Continue reading to learn more about middle school health teachers

What do middle school health teachers do?

Middle school health teachers give students enough information about healthy options so they can make informed decisions about their lifestyles.

Middle school health teachers’ duties usually include:

  • Leading classes on topics such as hygiene, introductory sex education, eating disorders and their impact on the body, or nutrition and its effects on the brain
  • Presenting fitness options
  • Gathering pamphlets from community-based health organizations
  • Overseeing class projects or going on field trips to places like community gardens and fitness centers

Educational and certification requirements

To become a middle school health teacher, you must have a bachelor’s degree, a state-issued teaching certificate, student teaching experience and courses in health and fitness.

To be better prepared, a bachelor’s degree in health is an option.

If you choose to advance in your career, a master’s degree is almost certainly required.

Salary and employment projections

Estimates of middle school teacher annual salaries:

  • BLS: 55,860 (median)
  • PayScale.com: $43,528 (median)
  • Rileyguide.com: $53,430 (average)

The expected job growth rate for middle school teachers is 6 percent.

Pros and cons of being a middle school health teacher

Teaching middle school health can be challenging.

Pros

  • You help give students accurate and complete information and help clear up their confusion.
  • You can make it fun and interesting to learn difficult or uncomfortable subjects.

Cons

  • With an influx of people from other cultures, you may find strong resistance to what you’re teaching.
  • Children may scoff at what you say or treat your material with scorn.
  • Students may not want to listen to what you have to say.

High school health teachers

High school health teachers provide more advanced insight on health and wellness.
Continue reading to learn more about high school health teachers

What do high school health teachers do?

Their duties usually include:

  • Talking more about the physiology of health and wellness.
  • Making sure students are knowledgeable about basic hygiene and disease transmission.
  • Giving students a greater understanding of drug abuse and its effects on the body and brain.

Educational and certification requirements

Health teachers in many states are required to have bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, teaching credentials, student teaching experience and courses in health and wellness.

To advance in education, a teacher might also get a degree in school administration or management.

A master’s degree in psychology can be a huge help because teachers must work with many personality types in the classroom.

Salary and employment projections

Annual salary estimates for high school teachers:

  • BLS: $57,200 (median)
  • Glassdoor.com: $50,000 (average)
  • PayScale.com: $45,889 (median)

The job growth projection for health educators is 6 percent.

Pros and cons of being a high school health teacher

Pros

  • You may save a student from taking drugs.
  • You may instill new lifestyle habits.
  • You may teach students skills they can use to fit more comfortably in society.

Cons

  • Students and parents alike may be angered by the subject matter you are teaching.
  • Students who are not English language speakers may require additional tutoring.

Professional development for health teachers

Continuing education

Health teachers have the option to go back to school to gain additional education in several areas.

Health teachers can receive additional degrees or certifications in the following areas:

  • Health
  • Psychology
  • A language such as Mandarin, Spanish or an Indian dialect
  • Special education

A health teacher can also pursue a PhD in school administration.

Professional associations

Related careers

Jobs beyond teaching

Health teachers have many choices after they have a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate.

  • Community health educator: Helping communities understand health issues and find resources.
  • School administrator: Working up to a management position in an individual school or school district.
  • Non-profits: Working for the federal government, the United Nations or NGOs (non-government organizations) to spread health and wellness awareness around the globe.
  • Corporate wellness. Helping corporations keep their workforce healthy and holding down health costs.

Best of the Web

Websites for health teachers

Twitter handles to follow

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