Health Safety Degree and Certificate Program Overviews

Health safety is generally a field that encompasses workplace safety, public safety and environmental health. Those interested in pursuing a career in this field will typically need to complete a postsecondary education program.

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Essential Information

The most common degree and certificate programs available in health and safety are bachelor's degree, graduate certificate and master's degree programs in occupational safety and health and environmental health and safety. These programs prepare students to work as supervisors and managers who design health and safety programs, investigate potential hazards in the workplace and ensure the health and safety of employees who work under dangerous conditions. Some programs may be available online and certificate courses usually take 1 to 2 semesters to complete.


Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Occupational Safety and Health

Students enrolled in a B.S. program learn about hazardous waste, accident prevention, emergency planning and disaster response. Applicants need a high school diploma or GED certificate to gain admission to a program.

An undergraduate degree includes a management component that teaches students to be effective and ethical leaders in the health and safety industry. The curriculum consists of traditional courses, co-op experiences, research studies and an internship. Coursework also includes a survey of:

  • Worker limitations
  • Program development
  • Investigation methods
  • Radiation
  • Chemical hazards

Graduate Certificates in Health and Safety

Graduate certificate options include programs in environmental health and safety and environmental health and safety management. These programs are designed for working professionals who are looking to advance their careers and those who are pursuing master's degrees.

Certificate programs generally require 15-18 credits to complete and study areas include toxicology, health and safety investigations, management and workplace training methods. Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree and acceptable scores on the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

Graduate certificate courses prepare students to plan health and safety programs, resolve workplace conflicts and follow environmental safety and health regulations. Students will study topics such as:

  • Health and safety leadership
  • Compliance management
  • Injury reporting
  • Ecosystems
  • Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)

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Master's Degrees in Health and Safety

There are a number of master's degree programs related to health and safety, including a Master of Science (M.S.) in Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety and an M.S. in Environmental, Safety and Health Management. These degree programs are typically two years in length and consist of studies in management, regulatory compliance and health and safety program planning. Research-oriented, the programs conclude with a graduate thesis and research project. Admissions requirements are the same as in the graduate certificate program.

Coursework in the program teaches research methods, safety laws and safety issues in the workplace, including environmental hazards and employee violence. Other study areas are:

  • Professional ethics
  • Industrial hygiene
  • Industrial substances
  • Incident investigation
  • Program evaluation

Popular Career Options

Many graduates go on to careers in government, including jobs at federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Health, Safety and Security in the Department of Energy. Possible job titles for graduates include:

  • Environmental health and safety director
  • Corporate safety manager
  • Safety program coordinator
  • Occupational health and safety technician
  • Environmental health and safety specialist
  • Industrial hygiene safety specialist

Certification Information

Graduates with three years of work experience in the health and safety industry can sit for the Board of Certified Safety Professional's (BCSP) Safety Fundamentals and Comprehensive Practice exams, which results in the Certified Safety Professional (CSP) designation (www.bcsp.org). CSPs are required to complete 25 continuing education credits every five years to maintain certification.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

A master' degree qualifies graduates to work as occupational health and safety specialists, a field that includes job titles such as loss prevention specialist and environmental protection officer. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that jobs in this field are expected to grow 4% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). In 2015, the BLS reported that occupational health and safety specialists held 70,220 jobs in the U.S. and earned a median annual salary of $70,210.

Health safety degree programs are available at the undergraduate, graduate and certificate levels. Programs focus on relevant welfare topics and the necessary technical skills to be successful in the field.

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