Occupational Health Nurse School

Learn about graduate certificate and master's and doctoral degree programs in occupational health nursing. Find out about career options in this field.

Essential Information

Occupational health nurses provide emergency care, implement safety measures and develop programming aimed at minimizing health and safety risks or promoting general wellness at workplaces. Programs in occupational health nursing are offered at many colleges and universities at the graduate level, including graduate certificate, master's and doctoral degree programs, and they're designed for practicing registered nurses (RNs). Through these programs, RNs learn to develop wellness, health and safety programs for workers in business and industry.

Occupational Health Nursing Certificate Programs

Occupational health nursing (OHN) certificate programs are designed for practicing registered nurses with an interest in this specialty. Completion requires between 10-15 credit hours of coursework covering the development of occupational health programs and factors that influence health and safety of the work environment. Most programs include 1-2 years of practical experience in an occupational health setting.

Program Coursework

The curriculum for most programs follows the guidelines of the American Board for Occupational Health Nurses (ABOHN) and prepares students to sit for the occupational health nurse certification exam. Course topics include:

  • Toxicology
  • Epidemiology
  • Occupational safety
  • Industrial hygiene
  • Ergonomics

Job Outlook and Salary Information

While no data is available for specifically for the occupational health nurse specialty, registered nurses currently face excellent job prospects from 2010-2020. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), though the need for nursing and nurse specialties increases there are not enough qualified nurses to meet this need. Therefore, qualified registered nurses should find themselves in high demand. The BLS reports mean annual wages for registered nurses in all areas of specialty at $67,930 as of May 2012.

Certification and Continuing Education

Students who complete certificate programs in occupational health nursing might also be interested in pursuing graduate degrees in public health. Some programs allow credits from the certificate program to transfer to a degree program. Certification is available through the ABOHN. Credentials awarded include Certified Occupational Health Nurse and Certified Occupational Health Nurse-Specialist.

Master's Degree Programs in Occupational Health Nursing

Master's degree programs in occupational health nursing cover much of the same topics as certificate programs, but explore research practices in greater depth. Programs usually require two years of full-time study to complete, and qualify graduates for certification through the ABOHN or to continue their studies in a doctoral degree program.

Educational Prerequisites

A bachelor's degree in nursing is required for entrance into master's degree programs in this field. Some schools offer extended 3-year tracks to students who have bachelor's degrees in areas outside of nursing.

Program Coursework

Programs cover occupational health topics as well as research skills and advanced practice nursing topics. Some master's programs require a thesis. Course topics might include:

  • Advanced health and nursing practices
  • Health promotion
  • Risk assessment and reduction
  • Research methods
  • Current occupational health issues

Popular Career Options

Occupational health nurses work for businesses and industries across a wide range of fields. Job titles include:

  • Occupational health nurse
  • Case manager
  • Employee health nurse
  • Employee health specialist
  • Environmental health specialist
  • Clinical nurse specialist

Doctoral Programs in Occupational Health Nursing

At the doctorate level, occupational health nursing programs are aimed toward individuals interested in the theories and framework of this healthcare subset. Completion of such a program usually leads to academic, policy-oriented or research-centered careers. Graduates can earn a Doctor of Science in Occupational Health Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice with a concentration in OHN.

Educational Prerequisites

Most programs require students to be registered nurses who hold a bachelor's or master's degree in occupational health. Prior research experience may be helpful; admissions will also typically depend on previous academic aptitude as reflected through GPA and GRE scores.

Program Coursework

Students often pursue an area of interest during their doctoral studies, which is reflected in a dissertation or research project. Additional coursework may discuss:

  • Environmental health
  • Principles of public health
  • Toxicology
  • Epidemiology
  • Industrial hygiene
  • Statistical methods

Popular Career Options

Those with a doctorate in occupational health nursing typically pursue careers in public policy, academics or research. Career titles might include:

  • Professor
  • Public policy advisor
  • Public health specialist
  • Environmental health specialist

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