How does one become a Sexuality Educator? Is it really a legitimate field of study? Can I get a degree in Human Sexuality? It can be a pretty confusing road to travel if you don’t have some guidelines on how to break into the field. Well lucky for you, we have created this section to provide some tools to help you find your way to becoming a sexual health educator/sexuality educator.
So what do Sexual Health Educators do?
We create an environment in which people of all ages can gain information, skills, and motivation to become sexually healthy individuals. We educate on many aspects of sexuality, such as homosexuality, sexual orientations, sexually transmitted diseases, birth-control options, self-esteem, abortion, sexual violence, healthy and unhealthy relationships, masturbation, puberty, menopause, pregnancy, reproduction, decision making, communication, safer sex, parent-child communication, sexual harassment, body image, sexual pleasure, life skills, GYN care, and many other topics. We talk with as few people as 2 to as many as 400.
What skills will I need to succeed in being a sexual health educator?
Making people feel comfortable and safe is key in educating, especially in matters as personal as sexuality. A sexual health educator should be knowledgeable about their field, and open and supportive of the individuals they counsel. A sexuality educator should also be comfortable with and skilled in public speaking.
Still interested in becoming a sexuality educator? Here are some steps to help you break into the field. Remember, these suggestions are not the only way to become a sexuality educator; there are countless routes to becoming a sexuality educator, and most people end up just “falling into” the field. You can tailor these steps to your own life, going in your own order and with your own interests in mind.
- Shadow a Sexual Health Educator
Oftentimes the best way to know if you are interested in a job is to experience it yourself! Find a sexuality educator in your area and ask if you can follow them for the day, observing their day-to-day routine. By asking them questions, seeing them interact with audiences, and witnessing their skills in action, you can determine whether or not you would be interested in becoming a sexuality educator, as well as what you might be interested in focusing on.
- Get a Degree
Having at least a Bachelor’s degree is vital in becoming a sexuality educator, but more and more are getting a prized Master’s degree before starting. Education is key. You can really become a sexuality educator with a degree in any field, but there are some that are definitely more pertinent than others. Some people feel that they have to major in Human Sexuality to become a sexuality educator, but this major is offered at few colleges and universities, and is not the only route.
If you’re in college or considering colleges, look for bachelor degree programs in the following fields: psychology, biology, education, anthropology, sociology, women’s studies, public health, or other similar majors. Then look to see what courses are offered in each of these majors. In some colleges you can receive a major in any of the above, but focus your studies in Human Sexuality.
For those of you who are determined to receive a degree specifically in Human Sexuality, the options are not as wide the ones listed above. Colleges and universities that offer a major in Human Sexuality usually list it in the Education Department, the School of Medicine, Psychology Department or Sociology Department. Some say it is more difficult to receive a degree in Human Sexuality and be taken seriously by the scientific professional community unless you have a higher degree from another field. But it can be done if you are determined enough!
Please be warned that in some cases you will need to be accepted into these departments before you can be accepted into the Human Sexuality program. Remember to keep pursuing your dream, but do it by setting reasonable goals that you can accomplish. By getting a pertinent degree, you can enter the field of sexual education with the necessary information, so you will already have a leg up.
- Get Involved
While you’re on your way to getting your degree, why don’t you get involved in some organizations concerned with sexuality and education? These student and community run groups can teach you valuable information and skills in being an educator. See if your college has a Peer Education program. Peer Educators are individuals who teach people of their own age group and discuss sexuality matters, drug/alcohol information, and relationship issues. Peer education is effective because people are more likely to understand and apply information presented to them because it came from someone of their own age group. It also is empowering to the peer educators themselves! Once trained, peer educators then design workshops for their peers and present them at residence halls, fraternities, sororities, health weeks, and large events held on campus.
- Get a Mentor
A mentor is an individual who guides you through the process of getting into the field of human sexuality–someone who challenges your thoughts and piques your interest with new information. They are people whom you can bounce ideas, thoughts, and concerns off of. They can also bring you to major events and introduce you to important people in the field. Try to find a certified sexual health educator, counselor, or therapist in your area by looking in the phone book, newspaper, HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) directory, alternative newspapers, or ASSECT website.
AASECT is the American Association of Sexual Health Educators, Counselors and Therapists. AASECT is one of the most important organizations for those working in the field of Human Sexuality, as they are the people who give certification of being a reputable sexuality educator, counselor, and/or therapist. Anyone can say that they are a “sex educator” but to be backed by AASECT shows that you have undergone numerous requirements and that not only are you a sexual health educator, therapist or counselor, but that you are reputable.
Contact AASECT to get connected with a respected sexual health educator in your area! A certified sexual health educator, therapist, counselor can help you in numerous ways by linking you with all the right organizations, events, people, and issues that are taking place in the world of sexuality that you might not know of. Ask if you can donate your time to help them with their work (grading papers if they are a professor, scheduling appointments if they are a counselor, etc.).
Internships are a good way of opening the door into the field you want to work in. At the end of this section there is a list of organizations that are dedicated to the field of human sexuality. Write a letter to the organization you would like to intern for stating your interests, strengths and why you would like to intern there. Not only will you gain valuable skills, but you will also be adding experience to your resume! Entry-level jobs at sex-positive organizations will not pay much more than minimum wage, and might make you work early mornings, nights, and weekends, but the skills you will learn and connections you will make will be invaluable in helping you reach your ultimate goals.
- Experience a SAR (Sexual Attitude Reassessment)
A SAR is required if you are planning on becoming certified through AASECT.
A SAR is an intense professional learning experience in which you are “bombarded” with a variety of sexually explicit media (relating to a variety of sexuality issues). Then, with the assistance of skilled professional facilitators, you process your feelings, values, and experiences. SARS can last as few as two days and as long as 5. It is a way to put you in touch with your “trigger points” and identify your comfort level with different aspects of sexuality and sexual expression. You can find out where SARs are located in your area by contacting AASECT or SSSS (Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality).
- Join a Professional Society
Certain societies will only accept scientists with publications behind their names, but some of them accept interested lay people or students as well.
Some relevant professional societies include:
- American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT)
- American Board of Sexology (ABS)
- Association for Reproductive Health Professionals (ARHP)
- Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA)
- Sexuality Information Council of the United States (SIECUS)
- Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS)
- World Association for Sexology (WAS)
- Subscribe to a Journal
There is no better way to be on top of all the major issues taking place in the study of sexuality than to read about them. Some relevant professional journals include:
- The Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality
- The Journal of Sex Research
- Sexual Science
- The Journal of Sexual Medicine
- The Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy
- The American Journal of Sexuality Education
They can be accessed at a college or university library, or online.
There are a variety of ways to break into the field of sexuality education. Regardless of which path you choose or what environment you work in, you will be affirming that sexuality is a natural and healthy part of life. You will also be demonstrating that all individuals have the right to manage their own fertility and sexual health; through your work, you can help them access the knowledge, information and advocacy to realize that right.