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Career Information for a Degree in Occupational Safety Technologies

Training in occupational health and safety typically covers accident prevention, industrial hygiene and ergonomics. Find out about the requirements of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for occupational health and safety graduates.

There are many careers in the field of occupational safety that require a degree in occupational safety technologies or in a related area of study. Occupational health and safety technicians need an associate's degree to qualify to work in their field. A bachelor's degree is required to become an occupational health and safety specialist or a health and safety engineer.

Essential Information

Ensuring physical and mental well-being in the workplace is the job of those in the safety technologies field. Potential job titles in this field include occupational health and safety technician, specialist or engineer. A safety technician needs an associate's degree, while a specialist or engineer requires a bachelor's degree. Certification programs are available for all 3 job categories.

Career Occupational Health and Safety Technician Occupational Health and Safety Specialist Health and Safety Engineer
Education Requirements Associate's degree Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 9% 4% 6% for health and safety engineers
Median Salary (2015)* $48,070 $70,210 $84,600 for health and safety engineers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Occupational Health and Safety Technician

These professionals visit worksites to collect information that is used by occupational health and safety specialists. They use scientific instruments to collect this information, which may include air and water samples, noise readings and radiation levels. They perform tests on equipment and machines while inspecting worksites and facilities. They also observe worker compliance with safety requirements. Many in this field are employed by government agencies.

Preparation for this career typically includes earning an associate's degree in occupational safety and health or a related field. Course subjects may include ergonomics, accident prevention and industrial hygiene. Others may pursue this career by gaining proficiency through work experience and on-the-job-training.

Those employed in this field may seek professional accreditation. The Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP), for example, offers certification to those who satisfy education, experience and testing requirements.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects jobs to increase by 9% for occupational health and safety technicians from 2014 to 2024. The median annual salary for these individuals was $48,070 in 2015 (www.bls.gov).

Occupational Health and Safety Specialist

These professionals analyze information collected from worksites to evaluate compliance with safety regulations and to formulate safety improvement plans. They study injury or loss patterns and advise changes to management to prevent recurrence. These changes may include improving workstation ergonomics, redesigning equipment floor plans and updating training materials. Occupational health and safety specialists may provide safety training to employees and advise managers on the cost and benefits of workplace safety. Many are employed by government agencies.

Professionals in this field commonly obtain a bachelor's degree in occupational health and safety or a related field. Coursework may include toxicology, hazardous materials and accident investigation. Some employers require a master's degree in this subject, which may include coursework in emergency management, safety engineering and research methods. The BCSP offers advanced certification for health and safety specialists.

The BLS predicts a 4% growth in career openings for occupational health and safety specialists for the decade 2014 to 2024. As of 2015, the median annual salary for these workers was $70,210.

Health and Safety Engineer

These professionals apply engineering and human performance principles to protect people and property from harm and loss. They identity and quantify risk of potential hazards at worksites and develop plans to mitigate these risks. These hazards may include fire and chemical contamination. They keep abreast of industry trends through government and professional publications and ensure worksites and operations comply with changes in regulations. They also train employees, maintain records and regulate procedures.

Employers typically require candidates for this position to have a bachelor's degree in engineering, though some accept bachelor's degrees in a discipline such as occupational health and safety. Employers may require related experience in an industrial or production environment, and some allow applicants to substitute significant work experience for a degree. Some employers prefer to hire a Certified Safety Professional (CSP), the highest certification offered by the BCSP.

The BLS predicted that health and safety engineers will see a 6% increase in job opportunities in the years 2014 to 2024. These engineers earned $84,600 as a median annual wage in May 2015.

Professionals in the field of occupational safety work to ensure workplace environments are safe for employees. They may conduct investigations, suggest improvements to safety plans, or find ways to eliminate risks to the safety of employees on a worksite. Job growth for occupational health and safety specialists is expected to be slow from 2014 to 2024, while health and safety engineers will experience average job growth rates during the same time period; the highest rate of job growth in these fields will be for occupational health and safety technicians.


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