Online Bachelor of Science: community health or health education and health promotion

February 03, 2020 · 6 min read · By ASU Online
Although the two programs seem similar, the online Bachelor of Science in community health and the online Bachelor of Science in health education and health promotion were designed with distinct outcomes.

The field of health care needs a variety of specialists to improve the lives of individuals and society. Doctors and nurses have their place, but equally important are the people who advocate for better health care initiatives and work directly with disadvantaged groups.

Individuals interested in communities and health may want to explore two potential degree options: an online Bachelor of Science in Community Health and an online Bachelor of Science in Health Education and Health Promotion. Although the degrees may share some classes, their core lessons and intended outcomes are distinct. Understanding what subjects they have in common, as well as where they differ, may help students decide which program is more aligned with their goals.


Learning health fundamentals

Both programs may contain courses in biology, nutrition, and human anatomy and physiology, giving students a solid foundation in the basics necessary for any career in health care. They could also include courses in psychology, which can introduce students to concepts of mental health that may prove useful.

The purpose of these classes is to ensure that students have a strong understanding of fundamental health care principles. With these essentials understood, students will be better prepared to pursue a more specialized area of health education.

A community health worker meets with a patient.

Online Bachelor of Science in community health

Community health supervisors oversee administrative and executive tasks, including budget preparation and allocation, reporting, staff professional development and more. They may spend much of their working time in health care settings, such as hospitals and clinics. The American Public Health Association describes community health workers and supervisors as frontline advocates of public health who are trusted members of or have close relationships with the communities they serve.

Community health supervisors are passionate individuals who are trained to direct people working with various groups to improve health outcomes. Supervisors may help populations with specific health issues, such as diabetes or obesity, or operate in a distinct location. People suited for these positions are generally interested in adopting a leadership role that combines public work, social work and improved health care outcomes. Their ultimate goal is often to help communities become self-sufficient from a health care perspective, and they achieve this result by handling administrative and executive duties. A supervisor’s job may involve coordinating staff members, managing budgets and designing or overseeing new treatment protocols.

These health supervisors need an understanding of community structures and their effects on individuals to do their jobs effectively. For example, they should realize that patients living in affluent neighborhoods will have more resources that support a healthy life than those in low-income areas, and that understanding should influence their work. In fact, many community health supervisors operate in underprivileged communities or with marginalized groups lacking health insurance, living wages, foreign language assistance or other advantages. Supervisors must use their critical-thinking skills to create programs accounting for environmental factors and their effects on health. This means they need expertise in areas such as communication, critical analysis and leadership.

Students can obtain such a well-rounded education through an online Bachelor of Science in community health. Health care is the primary focus of such programs, but students may study sociology, public speaking and technology as a tool for innovation. They will also need to focus on using evidence-based practices and scientifically proven strategies to improve health care outcomes. As a result, students can gain a comprehensive understanding of different types of health care systems and how to best work within them.

Fortunately, for prospective students considering this path, the job outlook for community health professionals, including entry-level and supervisory roles, is appealing, as it is estimated to increase 18 percent from 2016 to 2026. This gain would add 10,400 positions to the industry, growing it from 57,500 in 2016 to 67,800 a decade later.

Online Bachelor of Science in health education and health promotion

The U.S. Department of Labor defines health educators as those who provide and manage health education programs that help individuals, families and communities maximize and maintain healthy lifestyles. Their responsibilities include assessing individual and community health needs; planning health education strategies, interventions and programs; evaluating program results and more.

Health educators work in a variety of settings. Some lead community health initiatives or work in traditional health care settings, but beyond that, graduates become counselors in health clubs, work with national organizations, such as the American Heart Association, join local or national nonprofits that focus on community health or work at government agencies.

The importance of health education cannot be understated as our aging population continues to grow and health challenges in the U.S. evolve. Those who feel passionately about helping individuals and populations improve and maintain their physical, mental and emotional health may be a perfect fit for this program.

Employment of health educators is expected to grow 14 percent between 2016 and 2026 — a faster rate than the national average for all occupations. This pace means the number of positions will increase by 8,900, from 61,000 to 69,900, over that time period, resulting in many opportunities for students earning their degrees in health education and promotion. Jobs for graduates include fitness and wellness coordinators, HIV/AIDS counselors, health administrators and more.

To best prepare students for these types of roles, educators often teach Bachelor of Science in health education and health promotion programs in ways that open students to flexible career options, with courses focusing on program management and administration, methods of health education, stress management for wellness and others. Additionally, students may have an opportunity to take electives in areas such as human sexuality, HIV/AIDS prevention, conflict mediation and more to personalize their education and better prepare for their desired careers.

Such programs may also be designed to give students the knowledge and qualifications needed to become Certified Health Education Specialists. Likely taught by CHES-certified faculty who have practical experience in the field, students will study the exam’s Seven Areas of Responsibility verified by the Health Education Specialist Practice Analysis project:

  1. Assess needs, resources and capacity for health education/promotion
  2. Plan health education/promotion
  3. Implement health education/promotion
  4. Conduct evaluation and research related to health education/promotion
  5. Administer and manage health education/promotion
  6. Serve as a health education/promotion resource person
  7. Communicate, promote and advocate for health, health education/promotion and the profession


With this training, students of a health education and health promotion program can graduate well prepared to become a CHES.


Making a choice: community health or health education and health promotion

Choosing between a degree in community health or health education and promotion can be difficult, as both are designed to help students enter the field of public health. Similarly, they both provide a variety of career opportunities in public and private sectors. Graduates from each program may even start their own businesses or nonprofits.

That said, the programs are distinct for a reason. A community health degree may be appropriate for people who:

  1. Are interested in learning more about health care systems.
  2. Want to work with disadvantaged or marginalized communities.
  3. Prefer to work with groups rather than individuals .
  4. Prefer to work in a health care setting.


Meanwhile, a degree in health promotion and education may be appropriate for people who:

  • Are comfortable working in a variety of settings.
  • Are comfortable working with individuals or groups.
  • Are looking for flexible career options related to wellness.
  • Want to become a CHES.


Earning a Bachelor’s in health from ASU Online

Health care is an innovative field with a unique impact, touching both the lives of individuals and transforming communities. If you’re interested in improving public health, ASU offers two programs online that can help you pursue this passion: a Bachelor of Science in community health and a Bachelor of Science in health education and health promotion. Regardless of which program may be a better fit, you can receive a comprehensive, flexible education that fits into your schedule.

Community Health Center Administrator Salary by PayScale
Health Supervisor by
Health Educators and Community Health Workers: Occupational Outlook Handbook by the Bureau of Labor Statistics
Community Health Workers by the American Public Health Association
Responsibilities & Competencies by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc.
ASU Online — Online Bachelor of Science in Community Health
ASU Online — Online Bachelor of Science in Health Education & Health Promotion


A group of people sit in a row of chairs at a community health event.


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