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Occupational Safety Degrees by Degree Level

Depending on previous education, those interested in occupational safety could apply to certificate, bachelor's, master's, or doctoral programs looking at workplace safety conditions and the proper operation of workplace equipment.

Essential Information

Bachelor's-level students might participate in internships for hands-on experience. A master's degree program in occupational safety provides advanced education for experienced professionals who want to increase their knowledge of safety engineering, fire protection and toxicology. Students learn management and technical skills, such as how to operate machinery to test its usability and how to prevent workplace fires.

With safety protocols in place for practically every industry, occupational safety specialists need to be qualified and trained to visit sites to find code violations, understand chemicals, analyze accidents and know how to handle situations involving hazardous materials.

A high school diploma or equivalent is required for bachelor's programs, while bachelor's degrees are typically required for master's and/or advanced programs. These programs last four years for a bachelor's degree and two additional years for a master's degree.


Bachelor of Science in Occupational Safety

A bachelor's degree program in occupational safety prepares students for real-world experiences that require them to anticipate, solve and monitor conditions that are unfit or illegal for workers. Students are exposed to a range of topics, including how to use protective equipment. Often, students are required to complete an internship in occupational health and safety and learn about workers' compensation. Typical courses include:

  • Accident prevention
  • Safety engineering
  • Environmental issues
  • Safety, health and the law
  • Employment relations
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards

Master's in Occupational Safety

While undergraduate degree programs serve as introductions to the field of occupational safety and health, the master's degree program focuses on preventing and solving safety and health dangers. Students in the graduate degree program are often already experienced in the field and enroll in the program to advance in their career opportunities and strengthen their leadership skills.

Once in the field, graduates may train workers and employers, implement new safety and health practices for violators, perform on-site inspections and design emergency response plans. The master's degree in occupational safety curriculum concentrates on the techniques to make decisions, how to reduce workplace violations, conduct audits and promote workplace safety. Students develop the skills needed to be a leader in the occupational safety industry through classroom assignments and case studies on topics like:

  • Advanced toxicology
  • Research methods
  • Accident prevention
  • Safety engineering
  • Occupational ergonomics
  • Fire protection

Popular Career Options

Individuals with a bachelor's degree in occupational health and safety have the knowledge to work in a variety of fields, from insurance to business, or for federal, state or local government. Popular careers include:

  • Loss prevention specialist
  • Environmental protection officer
  • Occupational health and safety inspector
  • Ergonomist
  • Industrial hygienist

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a projected 4% increase in employment of occupational health and safety specialists was expected from 2014-2024; the majority of these jobs were anticipated to be for loss prevention professionals (www.bls.gov).

The same source reported that in May 2015, there were 70,300 occupational safety and health specialists working in the United States. The median salary for these professionals was $33.75 per hour, or $70,210 annually.

Continuing Education

Individuals seeking further education can complete a doctorate in occupational health and safety, although these degrees aren't incredibly common. With a bachelor's degree in occupational safety, graduates may apply for an optional professional certification. The Board of Certified Safety Professionals offers a Certified Safety Professional designation, which tests knowledge of the safety standards via a computer-based examination (www.bcsp.com). Recertification requirements need to be met every five years.

Students interested in occupational safety can find relevant degree programs offered at most academic levels. These programs delve into a multitude of workplace safety considerations, preparing students for careers in loss prevention, safety inspecting, environmental protection, and more, depending on one's interests and goals.

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