I often lie about my job when I meet strangers; teacher, Master’s in Public Health, and health educator are my preferred fibs. Personal shame is not my motivation. I just know how jumpy people get when they hear The S-Word.
Despite attempts to mask my line of work, I love what I do. Interested in being a sex educator? Here’s a handy guide.
Education and Training
The first step to becoming an educator is to become educated yourself. It’s important to remember that sexuality studies is a field not a discipline. The knowledge is specialized and a good education involves understanding sexuality through the lens of different disciplines.
You don’t need to get a doctorate and become Dr. Sex Advice to be an educator though. There are lots of options.
Cost: Pricey. Be prepared to spend several thousand dollars on tuition alone. Depending on where you attend (private, out-of-state, international) the cost can skyrocket into the 5 or 6 figure range.
What You Get: A well developed mind, prestige, connections. Not all programs focus on the same aspects of sexuality, so if you want to learn more about biology be sure that your program gives you ample training in that area.
How To Get There: Apply to a University! The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS, commonly referred to as Quad-S) has a good university resource list.
Cost: Low ($100-$150), but doesn’t include courses/experience needed to qualify for certification.
What You Get: Clout, inclusion in a directory.The two big ones to know about are AASECT (American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors Therapists) and CHES (Certified Health Education Specialist).
How to Get There: Education and Experience. This is something that can be tricky if you want to bypass obtaining a formal degree because of time or money. One option would be to take classes from a local community college that fulfill requirements. If you are in the process of obtaining a graduate or undergraduate degree, meet with an advisor and work with them to construct courseloads that fulfill certification requirements.
**Locally, there is San Francisco Sex Information, an excellent volunteer run non profit organization that trains sexuality educators and provides free, non-judgmental sex information to the public. If you live in the Bay Area I strongly encourage you to go through SFSI training.
This is the big catch-22: you want to become a sex educator but in order to do that you need experience as a sex educator. How do you get around that? Volunteer. Try searching for local HIV counseling centers, STI clinics, rape crisis hotlines, or LGBTQ centers.
Any place related to sexuality is a fine place to start. Once there start talking to people paid by the organization. Find mentors, ask questions and get as much experience as you can.
There are many incarnations of sex educators because there are many ways to disseminate sex information. Writers, bloggers, professors, contract workers, program managers, public speakers, and even filmmakers. You can pave your own path or join up with a trail blazer you admire.
Research organizations in your area that address sexuality. Possibilities include: non-profits working with youth, HIV-prevention programs, sex toy retailers dedicated to sex-positivity and education, women’s health organizations, and universities addressing sexuality topics. Then apply your little heart out.