Occupational Health Nurse School

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. These programs are specifically designed for practicing registered nurses (RNs) and teach them how to develop wellness, health and safety programs for workers in business and industry.

How to Choose an Occupational Nursing School

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. 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. Credentials awarded include Certified Occupational Health Nurse and Certified Occupational Health Nurse-Specialist. Students may complete certificate programs in occupational health nursing as well as degrees. Some programs allow credits from the certificate program to transfer to a degree program. Occupational health nurses work for businesses and industries across a wide range of fields. The following items may be considered when choosing a nursing school:

  • Occupational health nursing (OHN) certificate programs are designed for practicing registered nurses with an interest in this specialty.
  • Most programs include 1-2 years of practical experience in an occupational health setting.
  • 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.

Occupational Health Nursing Program Overviews

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. 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. 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

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.

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. 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

Top 10 Schools with Nursing Programs

College/University Institution Type
University of Pennsylvania 4-year, Private
Johns Hopkins University 4-year, Private
University of California-San Francisco 4-year, Public
University of Washington 4-year, Public
University of Pittsburgh 4-year, Public
Duke University 4-year, Private
New York University 4-year, Private
University of Maryland--Baltimore 4-year, Public
University of Michigan--Ann Arbor 4-year, Public
Emory University 4-year, Private

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