Online Health Communication Degree programs are often designed for at-work adults who want to conveniently study topics such as health education and public advocacy.
The World Health Organization recognizes health communication as relevant to “virtually every aspect of health and well-being, including disease prevention, health promotion and quality of life.”i Distance students could thus explore the significant link between top communication and both local and global health outcomes.
written by Rana Waxman
At the graduate level, online Health Communication degree seekers could work towards a masters or doctorate degree, or opt to enroll in a certificate program. Health communications is based on the best practices theories and methods of how messages are exchanged, transmitted, and received. In this dynamic field of study, health communication students could study topics that draw on science and research into the various environmental, social and psychological influences on behavior and health.i
In some universities, online HCom graduate students could expect to have a good deal of scheduling flexibility. When courses are 100 percent online and asynchronous, there are no specific days or times required for your presence in the virtual classroom.
Each class might require weekly deadlines though, which means students are likely to interact with classmates on a regular basis. This is great news for those who like to take part in a program with colleagues. Other programs may, of course, be self-paced. Either way, deadlines allow you to stay disciplined but still complete work when you have the free time.
Many online Health Communication Graduate Programs are offered through a university’s communication department. Both health communication science and health marketing share the goal of fostering change in health behaviors and attitudes. For instance, a campaign could encourage healthier school lunches to fight childhood obesity. Or, use science and consumer research to develop for a new walking app,
Ultimately, social marketing and health marketing create and use products, programs, and advertising strategies that try to get people to DO things like eat more fruit or get flu shots.ii Students who pursue an online health communication degree with an emphasis in health marketing could therefore learn about products, costs, target audiences, media channels, and public policy.
On the other side of the coin, some online Health Communication Graduate Programs offer programs affiliated with a university’s health sciences and/or public health departments. These programs tend to tackle Health Education. Health Educators are promoters of healthy lifestyles and behaviors. They assess the health challenges faced by communities, individuals and families. Then, they design programs that target important social health issues such as teen pregnancy, HIV and the spread of infectious diseases such as Hepatitis or Zika.
Consequently, these online health communication degree programs might offer fewer marketing courses in favor of courses in epidemiology and health sciences, management and health promotion strategies.
Some online Health Communication degree programs might be designed to reflect the Seven Areas of Responsibility for Health Educators outlined by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC). Upon successful completion of these programs, students might be eligible to sit for the national Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) and/or Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES) exams.iii If this is your goal, you should speak with a school advisor or the NCHEC to find out what is involved.
DID YOU KNOW?
Per the WHO, “health communicators have a unique opportunity to provide meaningful input in improving and saving lives.” i
Online Masters in Health Communication programs could award either a Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS) degree. While program lengths and course credits vary, students might expect to take about 30 to 36 credits of coursework and some type of final capstone. Full-time online students might need about two years to complete these requirements. Some schools also offer part-time program formats.
Some online Masters in Health Communication programs might have multiple start-dates during the school year. Applicants to most programs need an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution, possibly with any major. In addition to transcripts, a minimum GPA, and letters of recommendation, candidates might need to furnish GRE scores and a resume. Keep in mind that each school sets its own admissions requirements.
An online Master of Science in Health Education could help students prepare to address the health challenges faced by communities, individuals, enterprises and families. For instance, they might learn how to collect and analyze data, and plan, implement, monitor and evaluate health programs. Additionally, students often take courses that could help them to critically read through and understand medical information, write a grant proposal, administer finances or focus on patient care.iv
Aside from coursework, students may take part in an internship designed to build practical skills. In some online programs, there could be a Clinical Placement Team in place to help students find a health organization where this could be completed. Typically, the school needs to approve the location and could send an onsite preceptor and university faculty member to evaluate student performance.
Finally, some MS in Health Education programs could entail a final thesis or capstone. This original work is a way for students to showcase the skills and knowledge they have synthesized.
While by no means a complete list, below are some examples of possible topics that students who pursue an online MS in Health Education degree might explore. Please refer to individual schools for more information.
An online Master of Science in Communication program with a focus on health communication could help students build the skills and knowledge to launch an ethical health campaign or brand health services. Some online MS in Communications programs come with a series of core (required) courses that could help students build general marketing, public relations and advertising knowledge. Then, emphasis courses in health communications explore ways this knowledge could be specifically applied to the healthcare field.
Below are some samples of what one might study in an online MS in Health Communications program. As these are examples, please refer to individual schools to check out their syllabus.
An online Master of Arts in Health Communication could explore health promotion from the standpoint of coaching and holistic wellness. Students might therefore study integrative modalities to healing and learning. These tend to make use of meditation, yoga, guided imagery, mind-body techniques, whole foods nutrition, exercise and movement, and stress management.
Health Coaching: Some online MA programs might also prepare students to work towards a certificate in Integrative Wellness Coaching and Integrative Wellness Management. This might necessitate specific required courses and an internship related to alternative and complementary healing.
An online Certificate in Health Education could be designed to enhance knowledge in public health topics. Students might use the certificate as a stand-alone credential, or possibly transfer earned credits to a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree. Either way, in about four courses, students could strengthen their grasp of how to lead health promotion activities, initiatives and programs for diverse settings.
The application process for certificate programs in health education could vary. In some cases, students might want to apply into a masters program and pursue the certificate simultaneously. In other cases, students with a bachelors degree might be able to apply to the certificate program if they meet other school requirements. As the process varies, you should refer to individual graduate schools.
An online PhD in Health Communication is a research-oriented, terminal degree. Students might study to develop a broad grasp of issues in individual and population health, health behavior theory and behavior change. In addition, by conducting original health education-related research, PhD students might contribute new insight into their field.
Admission to an online PhD in Health Communication program could vary between schools and individual program topics. In some cases, students may need a Master of Health Education, Master of Public Health or other related graduate degree. Other required material could include work resume, transcripts, letters of recommendation and essay.
The coursework for an online PhD in Health Education and Promotion could consist of core courses, research courses, focus area courses and dissertation courses. Areas of emphasis might include behavioral health, global health, population health, management and leadership, and research.
While not a complete list, below are a few samples of course topics. Please refer to individual schools for a complete list, as course names vary.
Many regionally accredited traditional and online universities offer Online Health Communication Degree programs. To help you in your search, use the on-page tools to compare programs at the certificate, masters or PhD level. From there, easily contact schools directly. Don’t delay, the next start date could be very soon!
[i] who.int/bulletin/volumes/87/4/08-056713/en/ | [ii] cdc.gov/healthcommunication/healthbasics/WhatIsHC.html | [iii] nchec.org/mches-exam-eligibility [iv]onetonline.org/link/summary/21-1091.00 | [v] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/health-educators.htm