Health Advocates


Education and Training Requirements

High School

If you are interested in working as a health advocate, take a broad range of classes in high school. Advocates need an extensive base of knowledge that covers medical, financial, emotional, and legal areas. Courses that are especially useful include business, mathematics, biology, health, and chemistry. Be sure to take four years of English as well as speech classes, because health advocates need strong oral and written communication skills. Learning a foreign language such as Spanish will also be useful. You may also want to take government, psychology, and computer science classes to prepare for this career.

Postsecondary Training

There is no single educational route to take to become a health advocate; the backgrounds that health advocates bring to the field tend to be as varied as their places of employment. Nevertheless, knowledge of health care systems and medical terminology is important for you to have. Most employers prefer health advocates to have at least a bachelor's degree. Some students choose to get degrees in health administration, premed, biology, or nursing. Helpful courses to take include communications, management, conflict resolution, and medical terminology. Some schools also offer classes in patient representation. As this profession has become more popular, schools are beginning to offer specialized programs of study. Sarah Lawrence College, for example, offers a master's degree in health advocacy. Course work for this degree includes nature of illness, position of the health advocate, health law, and ethics, as well as fieldwork.


Some colleges and universitiessuch as Assumption College—offer certificates in health advocacy. Contact schools in your area to learn more about available programs. 

Other Education or Training

The Patient Advocacy Community of The Beryl Institute offers webinars and other continuing education opportunities. Recent webinars included Framing the Field of Patient Experience: Refocusing the Heart of Healthcare, Key Communication Skills for Patient and Family Advisors: Enable Your Voice to Be Heard!, and Improving Patients' Experience through Culture Competence.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

There are no certification or licensing requirements for health advocates.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Experience as an intern, volunteer, or part-time employee at a hospital or health care facility is recommended for aspiring health advocates. 

The most important trait advocates can bring to this field is a sincere desire to work for the health and well-being of others. You can develop this commitment through community service, volunteer positions at hospitals, or caring for a loved one who has a serious illness. Because health advocates need to submit reports and interact with patients and peers, it is also essential to be an analytical thinker and have strong writing and oral communication skills. You must be able to communicate with a variety of people, including patients; doctors and nurses; hospital administration; and insurance representatives. Though knowledge of the health care system is important, you can't do your job as an advocate unless you have the skills to convey that information in a convincing way to your audience, whether that audience is a medical ethics board or an insurance company clerk.

For health advocates, getting results requires not just persistence but also strong problem-solving skills. Advocates must combine their medical and health administration expertise in creative ways, devising new negotiation strategies all the time. Often, obtaining the best possible outcome for patients means developing a specific plan for each new situation.