In a safety engineering program, students can learn how to investigate the causes of accidents or illnesses and work to reduce or eliminate them. They also design fail-safe back-up systems to prevent catastrophic results from system failure in infrastructure.
Online programs in safety engineering are available at the master's and doctoral degree levels. In some cases, schools offer safety engineering as an emphasis option within a systems engineering program. The curriculum typically covers engineering technology, design, physics and chemistry. Many programs can be completed entirely online but some may require an on-campus residency.
To be eligible for admission, master's degree programs require students to have a bachelor's degree, while prospective doctoral students should have a master's degree. Graduate-level programs may or may not require that the undergraduate degree be in engineering. Work experience in the field is also a common admissions factor, as are GRE scores and recommendation letters. Applicants should have mathematical ability, be detail-oriented and possess both analytical skills and stress tolerance.
Master of Science
This degree focuses on the senior-level duties of a safety engineer. Courses covering accident investigation and reconstruction, OSHA compliance and industrial hygiene are all common. Intensive engineering mathematics and industry specific software programs, like those used for nuclear reactors and the space program may be emphasized.
Doctor of Philosophy
Online programs for doctorate degrees in safety engineering typically concentrate on research into a particular area of focus. Courses of study may include health and safety law, emergency disaster preparedness or human factors in engineering. A major component of programs at this level is the completion of a dissertation, which requires extensive research and study. These comprehensive projects typically must be defended in person before a faculty committee.
Many programs in this field are offered totally online, but it's also common for there to be some on-campus training or residencies, especially at the doctoral level. Online coursework is delivered through a school's course management system, which creates a virtual classroom setting. Distance learners view lectures, participate in discussions and work on assignments within these environments. Web conferencing, message boards and chat rooms may be used for class interaction.
Graduates are prepared to work in a variety of fields, including aerospace, commercial airlines, air traffic control, public transportation systems and weapon systems.
Membership in the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), the Certified Safety Professional (CSP) or the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) may be the next step in a safety engineering career. These professional associations could be a source of continuing education and professional development.
While online master's degree programs in safety engineering provide advanced courses in engineering, doctoral-level programs give students the opportunity to conduct independent research in a particular subfield of interest. Graduates may apply their expertise within a wide range of industries that utilize risk-associated systems.