Occupational Health and Safety Specialist Education Requirements

Occupational health and safety specialists are responsible for keeping work environments safe. Find out more about this career, including education requirements and job duties, to determine whether it is the right one for you. Schools offering Healthcare Management & Public Safety Leadership degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career at a Glance

Occupational health and safety specialists study work environments and create programs that protect workers from injury and disease. Read below to discover more about this career.

Required Degree Bachelor's degree; some jobs may require a master's degree
Education Field of Study Occupational health, environmental health, biology, chemistry, engineering, other related field
Key Skills Technological, analytical, detail-oriented, problem-solving, communication, physical stamina
Certification Certification optional, but encouraged by many employers
Job Growth (2016-2026) 8%*
Median Salary (2018) $69,370*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Are the Job Duties of an Occupational Health and Safety Specialist?

An occupational health and safety specialist's primary duty is to keep work environments safe for employees. This involves conducting safety inspections, testing machines, and checking the workplace for any safety hazards. Occupational health and safety specialists evaluate the possibility of accidents and develop programs to reduce or eliminate the risk. After an accident, they will investigate the cause and propose solutions to prevent another occurrence. They ensure that the workplace follows all safety, environmental, and health regulations, and will design procedures to bring non-compliant sites up to code. Occupational health and safety specialists may also write reports and educate employees about workplace safety.

What Are the Education Requirements?

An occupational health and safety specialist should have at least a bachelor's degree in occupational health or a related field, including chemistry, engineering, public health, and environmental health. Some employers prefer candidates who have a master's degree in fields such as occupational health or industrial hygiene. Occupational health programs typically include courses covering topics such as environmental law, health hazards, occupational safety management, and safety chemistry. Depending on the program, it may also include an internship or final capstone project.

Is Certification Required?

While certification is not required, many employers encourage it. There are several professional organizations that offer certification for occupational health and safety specialists, including the Board of Certified Safety Professionals, American Board of Industrial Hygiene, and the American Indoor Air Quality Council. Specific requirements vary among the organizations, but generally include obtaining a degree, gaining work experience, and passing an exam. To maintain the certification, occupational health and safety specialists may need to take a re-certification exam or complete continuing education credits.

What Other Skills Are Needed?

Occupational health and safety specialists must have the technological skills needed to handle complex testing equipment. They must be detail-oriented to understand and stay updated on all safety and government regulations. Physical stamina is important because occupational health and safety specialists may need to travel between locations, stand up for long periods of time, and work in uncomfortable conditions. They should have strong problem-solving skills to design programs to help workers, and strong communication skills to explain complicated procedures to a nontechnical audience.

Where Do Occupational Health and Safety Specialists Work?

Occupational health and safety specialists work in many different settings, including factories, construction sites, manufacturing plants, and offices. One of the largest employers of occupational health and safety specialists is the government, according to BLS. They can also be found working in hospitals, scientific organizations, and management companies. Most occupational health and safety specialist jobs are full-time positions and may require travel. Occupational health and safety specialists may need to work evenings and weekends during emergencies.

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