How to Become a Health Teacher

Four Methods:Deciding to Become a Health TeacherApplying to CollegeCompleting your StudiesBecoming a Teacher

A health teacher works in an elementary, middle school, or high school to educate students on a variety of health topics including: exercise, nutrition, personal hygiene and sex education as well as diseases and disease prevention. In some school districts, health teachers are also part of the physical education department and lead and design exercise programs for students. Being a health teacher lets you make a difference in the lives of your students by giving them the tools to live a healthy lifestyle.

Method 1
Deciding to Become a Health Teacher

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    Figure out which level you want to teach. You will need to decide between elementary, middle school, and high school. Think about whether you like working with the smallest children, or whether you want the older students and more complicated discussions. Each level has a different set of requirements so you should decide as early as possible. [1]
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    Determine a second area of interest for your degree. Very few people are employed only as health teachers. They typically have other educational duties. Sometimes the health teacher is also expected to teach the physical education courses, and in other districts he or she has a separate academic specialty. [2]
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    Search for colleges and universities that offer education degrees. Think about whether you want a big or small school, urban or rural. You should also make sure that the college you attend allows you to get a certification or concentration in health education. The classes you will take will include topics like nutrition, human sexuality, anatomy, and child development and behavior. [3]
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    Think about where you want to teach. It often makes sense to attend college in the state in which you plan to become a teacher. The curriculum will then be targeted to the teaching certification exam in that state. Faculty will also be familiar with the kinds of jobs available in that state and their requirements.
    • If you are not sure where you wish to teach, contact the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) for information on certification requirements for each state. [4]
    • Knowing the requirements will give you an idea of the degree requirements -- Bachelor's or Master's -- and how much coursework you would need to do for each state. It will also give you an idea of how much additional coursework, if any, you might need to complete if you move from one state to another.
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    Reach out to your own health teacher for advice. Where do they think you should apply? What do they think you need to know? What do they wish they had known when they were in your position? As the person doing the job you hope to have, they can have insight that you may not.

Method 2
Applying to College

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    Familiarize yourself with the requirements for admission of the different colleges and universities. There are elements of the application that all schools will require, but there are also parts that might be specific to each college or university. Get your materials together early. [5]
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    Take the SAT or ACT exam in your junior year. This test is a requirement for the vast majority of schools. Take it early so that you can retake it if your score is low. Check on the website of the colleges to which you are applying to see the range of scores and if yours fits into it. [6]
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    Work early and hard on your personal essay. Most schools require it, and to make it good typically requires multiple drafts. Have your guidance or college counselor read it and offer suggestions. [7]
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    Determine whether your grades are strong enough to be admitted to your top choice school. Like test scores, most schools will post the GPAs of admitted students. If yours is significantly lower, you might want to look elsewhere to apply -- it will probably be very unlikely that you are able to gain admission.
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    Complete the FAFSA and other financial aid documents. The FAFSA is for government grants and loans, and some schools have additional paperwork to determine your eligibility. Most students will apply for some kind of financial aid. Be sure to fill out all of the documents in plenty of time and ask for help from parents or your guidance or college counselor for help. [8]
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    Talk to teachers to see if you will need a graduate degree. In some states, it is difficult to get a teaching job without a Masters of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree. Talk to teachers in your district about their own background to determine whether you will be able to get a job with a college degree or if you will need to plan for more school. [9]

Method 3
Completing your Studies

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    Be aware of the requirements for becoming a health teacher as determined by your university. Choose a major that will allow you to become a teacher -- it may be education, but some states don’t require it. Most schools have a grade point minimum for students -- if your grades are too low you will not be able to continue in the education program. If you are worried about your grades, meet with the professors to ask for help in raising your scores. [10]
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    Meet frequently with your advisor. Every student in college has an advisor, and he or she is there to help you get through and be successful. Advisors help you choose your courses and make sure that you’re on track to graduate. If you are having trouble in a class, an advisor can also help you figure out ways to improve. [11]
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    Be engaged in your courses. Don’t let the work get away from you, especially the courses you find difficult. Stay current with your assignments and readings. These classes are to help you achieve your goal to be a health teacher, and all of them are important. Even if they are general education courses, all of them contribute to the GPA that can keep you from achieving your goal. If you are not as strong in some of your classes, find help through the tutoring center on campus or through your professor. [12]
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    Meet with your professors. Even if you aren’t having difficulties in your classes, get to know the faculty. These will be the people writing you letters of recommendation and helping you find a job after you graduate. You also might find a professor that can be a mentor to you and help you long after you have left school. A mentor would be there to help in your early years of teaching when you have questions or concerns. [13]
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    Look for extracurricular and volunteer opportunities that relate to your studies. All schools have different clubs and groups, and they are a great way to meet like-minded students. Some groups might be involved in health outreach into the community or volunteering in the schools. Look for the ones that most appeal to you. These groups and opportunities can help you further refine your career interests and goals. [14]
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    Complete your student teaching component. Most education degrees require students to work with a veteran teacher in the schools. You might be asked to prepare and teach different units or assist the main teacher in grading. These assignments typically last a semester or a year, and are usually at different levels within your chosen focus area. It’s a great way to get hands-on experience and start to narrow down exactly where and what you want to teach. [15]

Method 4
Becoming a Teacher

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    Familiarize yourself with the requirements of your state for becoming a teacher. To begin, most require a B.A. in education with some focus on health, while others provide more leeway in your choice of major. Almost all states have professional development requirements that you are expected to complete in your first years as a teacher. [16]
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    Take the certification exam in the state where you want to be a teacher. All states have different requirements, so be familiar with what your state wants. Study hard for these exams -- they are what will allow you to become a certified teacher. [17]
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    Look for jobs as a teacher. Get a sense of what different districts want. Since health teachers typically teach other things as well, determine whether you are prepared to apply for these positions. Your ability to get a job immediately after becoming certified will depend upon the state or region in which you live. [18]
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    Prepare your application. Most states will ask for a typical resume -- make sure yours is strong. Some larger districts might also ask for extra essay questions that deal with your philosophy of teaching or why you wanted to become a teacher. [19]
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    Sign up to substitute teach if you are not hired as a regular teacher. Substitute teaching can allow you to get a variety of experiences as you continue to look for full-time positions. Make contact with teachers in different districts as you go through the job search.


  • If you do end up having to get a graduate teaching degree, you will have more choice about your undergraduate degree. If your interest in health is strong, you might want a major in health sciences.
  • Keep trying for jobs even if you’re unsuccessful at first. You never know when a district might have an unexpected opening.

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Categories: Teaching