Innovators Guide

Occupational Safety Specialist Training

Most jobs require a bachelor's degree in occupational health, safety, or a related field; some require advanced degrees. All specialists are trained in the applicable laws or inspection procedures through some combination of classroom and on-the-job training.

Education and training. Most employers require occupational health and safety specialists to have a bachelor's degree in occupational health, safety, or a related field, such as engineering, biology, or chemistry. For some positions, a master's degree in industrial hygiene, health physics, or a related subject is required. High school students interested in enrolling in a college program should complete courses in English, mathematics, chemistry, biology, and physics. College courses may include radiation science, hazardous material management and control, risk communications, principles of ergonomics, and respiratory protection. Course work will vary depending on the degree pursued. For example, course requirements for students seeking a degree in industrial hygiene will differ from course requirements for health physics degree seekers.

In order to become credentialed, most accrediting bodies require that specialists have attended either a regional or nationally accredited educational institution. Work experience is important in this occupation; it is typically beneficial for prospective students to select an education program that offers opportunities to complete internships.

All occupational health and safety specialists are trained in the applicable laws or inspection procedures through some combination of classroom and on-the-job training.

Certification and other qualifications. Credentialing is voluntary, although many employers encourage it. Credentialing is available through several organizations depending on the specialists' field of work. Organizations credentialing health and safety professionals include the American Board of Health Physicists; the American Indoor Air Quality Council; the American Board of Industrial Hygiene; and the Board of Certified Safety Professionals.

Requirements for credentials vary. Most require specific education and experience in order to be eligible to sit for the certification exam. Once certified, specialists are usually required to complete periodic continuing education for recertification. For information on credentials offered and requirements contact the credentialing organization.

People interested in this occupation should be responsible and enjoy detailed work. Occupational health and safety specialists also should be able to communicate well. Work experience as an occupational health and safety professional may also be a prerequisite for many positions.

Advancement. Occupational health and safety specialists who work for the Federal Government advance through their career ladder to a specified full-performance level if their work is satisfactory. For positions above this level, usually supervisory positions, advancement is competitive and based on agency needs and individual merit. Advancement opportunities in State and local governments and the private sector are often similar to those in the Federal Government.

Specialists with broad education and experience and those who are well versed in numerous business functions usually have the best advancement opportunities. One way to keep up with current professional developments is to join a professional membership society. These organizations offer journals, continuing education courses, and conferences, which provide learning and networking opportunities and can help workers and students to advance.

Typically an advanced degree and substantial work experience are needed to compete for leadership or senior roles

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition

Find related resources below:

Occupational Safety Specialist Employment
Occupational Safety Specialist Training
Occupational Safety Specialist Job Outlook
Occupational Safety Specialist Income


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