Occupational Health and Safety Specialist: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become an occupational health and safety specialist. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Healthcare Management & Public Safety Leadership degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Occupational Health and Safety Specialist?

Occupational health and safety specialists evaluate workplaces in a wide range of industries to identify safety risks and environmental issues. They may run tests for toxicity, assess equipment to make sure it is in working condition, and monitor common work practices. In workplaces where an accident has already occurred, they investigate the cause of the event. Based on their findings, they design strategies that can solve existing problems and prevent any future health and safety problems. From there, they offer training programs for employees in order to implement the solutions they come up with.

The following chart provides an overview of the career requirements for occupational health and safety specialists:

Degree Required Bachelor's degree for entry-level positions; master's degree for supervisory positions
Education Field of Study Occupational health, safety, engineering, biology, or chemistry; master's degree in industrial hygiene, health physics, or a related subject
Key Responsibilities Test and evaluate workplace and identify hazards; ensure workplace environment, equipment and practices comply with health and safety regulations and standards; create and implement health and safety practices and procedures and train employees; investigate workplace accidents and injuries to determine cause and prevention
Certification Employers may prefer employees be certified
Job Growth (2018-2028) 6%*
Median Salary (2018) $73,020*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Do as an Occupational Health and Safety Specialist?

Working as an occupational health and safety specialist, you may be employed with the government or in the private sector to ensure the safest possible working conditions. Generally, you are responsible for knowing and enforcing safety regulations, inspecting working conditions and recommending improvements to prevent injury or disease. You may also design safety systems and equipment for workers and the general public.

What Type of Education Will I Need?

For most jobs in the field, you will need a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as occupational safety and health, engineering, chemistry, biology or health physics. For many supervisory or leadership positions, you will need a master's degree in public health, mechanical engineering or in another concentration depending on your specific career direction.

Professional certificates offered through the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Training Institute Education Centers can help you gain specialized learning and additional credentials, which some employers require. Professional associations, such as the Board of Certified Safety Professionals and American Board of Industrial Hygiene, also offer additional credentials and certification.

Where Can I Work?

You may find work with the government or within the private sector, such as manufacturing companies. You may also choose to work as a consultant, either self-employed or through a private firm. Your working conditions can be as varied as the conditions of the jobs you study. For example, you may do field work in corporate offices studying ergonomics, in mines measuring air quality or factories recommending safety procedures.

What is the Job Outlook and Salary?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a 6% growth rate for occupational health and safety specialists between 2018 and 2028 (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported that the median annual salary for these specialists in 2018 was $73,020. In the same year, the BLS noted that the top-paying industry was accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services, with a mean annual salary of $101,080.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are interested in promoting health and safety, you could choose a more specific job as a fire inspector. These professionals evaluate buildings in order to make sure that they comply with fire codes and to detect any potential fire hazards. They also investigate fires after they have occurred. The minimum educational requirement for this job is a high school diploma. Alternatively, you might also be interested in becoming an environmental health specialist, where you would examine potential environmental hazards, such as water pollution and nuclear waste, and study their effects on human health. For this career, you would need to earn a bachelor's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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