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African American students sharing time between classes

MPH Concentration: Community Health Education

Official CEPH accreditation badgeCommunity health educators use multidisciplinary theories along with behavioral and organizational change principles to plan, implement, and evaluate interventions that enable individuals, groups, and communities to achieve personal, environmental, and social health.

The community health education (CHE) program’s strengths include a multi-disciplinary perspective among faculty, a substantial number of community-based class projects where students gain practical experiences to prepare for the public health workforce, and opportunities for involvement with our innovative partner, the Knox County Health Department–through the UT-Knox County Academic Health Department.

Consider a career in community health education if you view yourself as a natural teacher, a skilled communicator, and a person who enjoys serving as a resource. Students come from a wide variety of undergraduate programs, including psychology, nutrition, human services, biology, communications, marketing, and more. The health educator is trained to use appropriate educational strategies and methods to facilitate the development of policies, procedures, interventions, and systems conducive to the health of individuals, groups, and communities. Health educators work in a variety of settings. Examples include, but are not limited to: communities, schools, post-secondary educational institutions, mental health agencies, public health agencies, governmental agencies, environmental agencies, rehabilitation centers, professional associations, work sites (both business and industry), medical care institutions, and voluntary health agencies or non-governmental organizations.


Points of Pride:

The First Accredited Public Health Program outside a School of Public Health

In 1969 the master of science degree with a major in public health education at the University of Tennessee was accredited by the committee on professional education of the American Public Health Association. It became the nation’s first public health education program outside a school of public health setting to be accredited. As the program has evolved into the current MPH degree with a CHE concentration, the exciting focus on education of individuals and communities to motivate behavioral modification for healthier lives continues after more than forty years of national accreditation. CHE graduates from the University of TN are working at the local, state, national, and international levels to provide health education and health promotion.

A community health education student develops the following competencies:

  • Demonstrates how fundamental social causes of health and disease produce differences in health and health inequity in specific health outcomes.
  • Identifies strategies designed to reduce structural bias and social inequities that produce health disparities.
  • Formulates specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART) research questions for behavior change interventions.
  • Explains key ethical issues and challenges to conducting research in communities.
  • Prepares a high-quality program grant proposal.


Note: The selected competencies were taken from “A Competency-Based Framework for Professional Development of Certified Health Education Specialists,” “Standards for Preparation of Graduate-Level Health Educators,” and the “Competencies Update Project.”

CHE student posing with African American boy with faces painted

Placement of CHE students in health education internships (also called the Applied Practice Experience) with an affiliated health organization for an equivalent of nine weeks is an essential component of the MPH degree program. The Applied Practice Experience (APE) site is selected by each individual CHE student in consultation with the APE coordinator and major professor. The intern typically functions as a staff assistant with a practicing health educator serving as mentor. Although rotating through several units of an organization provides opportunity for gaining orientation and general experience, the intern is assigned one or more specific projects for in-depth problem-solving. APE is guided by a set of learning objectives related to public health competencies. Learning objectives are mutually developed by student and supervising preceptor during the first week of the internship. Read more about the Applied Practice Experience by clicking here.

Become a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES)

Students completing UT’s MPH degree with a concentration in community health education are well-prepared to take the CHES exam. Some of the most rewarding jobs in public health are filled by Certified Health Education Specialists (CHES). In addition to being professionally prepared as a health educator, a person with CHES is credentialed after demonstrating competency-based criteria established by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc. (NCHEC).  The rate of successful completion of the exam by UT graduates is highly encouraging, and some graduates have gone on to achieve the MCHES (Master Certified Health Education Specialist) certification.