Be a Safety Coordinator: Education and Career Roadmap
Learn how to become a safety coordinator. Research the education requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career as a safety coordinator.
Do I Want to Be a Safety Coordinator?
Safety coordinators work to preserve and ensure workplace safety and conduct internal investigations when there are workplace accidents. These positions can be found in a number of facilities across a variety of industries, including manufacturing and engineering, healthcare, office environments and construction. Coordinators devise company safety procedures and often are responsible for training employees in workplace safety. They also supervise employees and facilities to ensure compliance with workplace-safety practices and regulations. Protective or safety equipment must sometimes be used to prevent injuries, and emergency situations may sometimes require these professionals to work weekends or nights.
Most employers prefer applicants who have a bachelor's degree and some experience. Several organizations offer optional certifications. The following table describes the general requirements to become a safety coordinator:
|Degree Level||Associate's or bachelor's degree*|
|Degree Field(s)||Safety management, occupational health and safety, environmental safety, engineering*|
|Licensure and/or Certification||Optional Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) trainer certification* **|
|Key skills||Communication skills - verbal and written, observation*, detail oriented, problem solving***|
|Computer Skills||Word processing, spreadsheet, slideshow presentation software*|
|Technical Skills||Investigative skills*, knowledge of technology or field for which the coordinator is responsible* **|
|Additional Requirements||Public speaking and training employees, detailed record keeping*|
Sources: *Careerbuilder.com job listings (December, 2012), **Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), ***U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Step 1: Obtain a Degree
Aspiring safety coordinators can earn certificate, associate, bachelor's or master's degrees in safety management, occupational health and safety or environmental safety. Most employers prefer safety coordinators who have a bachelor's degree. Employers also prefer candidates who have formal training in the field for which the candidate is applying, such as healthcare, engineering, construction or business. The choice of degree program should be based upon the desired career path.
Certificate and associate's degree programs in safety management-related fields are available at community and technical colleges. Some employers will accept a lesser degree for the candidate who has training or experience in the occupational field in which the business operates. Certificate programs typically last 1 year, associate's degrees take 2 years to complete and bachelor's degree programs take 4 years to complete. Regardless of the degree level, courses generally cover industrial hygiene, safety program management, legislative requirements, hazard analysis, accident analysis, fire safety and loss prevention/control.
- Earn OSHA training certification. Many employers desire safety coordinators to be certified to teach OSHA 10-hour and 30-hour safety courses. There are five fields offered by OSHA specific to the industry, and the prospective trainer will want to be certified in the industry represented by the company for which he or she works. The training takes 1 week, and trainers must be re-certified every 4 years. For re-certification, trainers must attend an update course.
Step 2: Build Work Experience
Whether or not workers choose to earn a degree, work experience in safety coordination is important. Laws, rules and regulations for workplaces change and safety coordinators must stay abreast of these changes. Obtaining work experience in the field can also better solidify a career path and help to define career goals. Entry-level positions as an assistant or other support staff to a safety coordinator will provide valuable on-the-job experience and facilitate advancement in this field.
Step 3: Consider an Advanced Degree
Whether a student obtained a certificate, associate's degree or bachelor's degree, there are more advanced degree programs available for those professionals looking to increase their career opportunities. Earning a bachelor's degree can provide access to a higher salary and more responsibility, while completing a master's degree program can make many government safety jobs available. Those with a master's degree can pursue positions of leadership in major corporations or even in the state or federal government.
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