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
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
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
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