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Occupational Nurse: Job Description, Requirements and Outlook

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an occupational nurse. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

Occupational nurses are required to complete a diploma, an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree in nursing and obtain their state nursing license. Occupational nurses can pursue voluntary certification through the American Board for Occupational Health Nurses as well. These professionals focus on health and safety in the workplace and seek to prevent injuries and illnesses in workplace environments.

Essential Information

Occupational nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who specialize in workplace health and safety. These nurses focus their efforts on the prevention of workplace injuries and illnesses. They help employers implement wellness programs within the workplace in an effort to keep workers healthy and healthcare costs down. All occupational nurses must be complete an accredited nursing program and be currently licensed as registered nurses. Beyond the educational requirements of becoming a RN, they may choose to earn a certificate in occupational health nursing. Advanced certification is optional.

Required Education Diploma, associate's or bachelor's degree in nursing; certificate program in occupational health nursing
Licensure/Certification State licensure; voluntary certification through the American Board for Occupational Health Nurses, Inc; available only to qualified nurses
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 16% for registered nurses
Median Salary (2015)* $67,490 for registered nurses

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description for Occupational Nurses

Occupational nurses work in various industries, such as construction, manufacturing and healthcare. Occupational nurses focus on promoting and maintaining the health of workers, identifying hazards in the workplace and preventing hazardous exposures on the job. They are also tasked with ensuring safe standards within the workplace to prevent injury. Some occupational nurses respond to job-related emergencies and provide on-site treatment to sick or injured workers.

Occupational Nurse Job Requirements

Occupational nurses must be qualified as registered nurses (RN), a title earned by completing a state-approved nursing program and passing a licensing exam. Prospective nurses can take several paths to achieve the title of RN, including a 4-year bachelor's degree program, a 2-year associate degree program or a 3-year diploma program. Those seeking to specialize in occupational nursing can chose elective courses that relate directly to occupational health. Students can also perform clinical practices in the specialty to gain hands-on experience. Additionally, occupational health nursing certificate programs are available to working RNs.

The American Board for Occupational Health Nurses, Inc. offers certification for nurses holding 3,000 hours of experience or to RNs holding an occupational health nursing certificate. The 150-question exam covers direct clinical care, as well as the advisor and manager roles of occupational nurses.

Job Outlook for Occupational Nurses

As with all nursing specialties, occupational nursing is a growing field, and demand for these types of nurses is expected to continue to grow faster than average. Employment for registered nurses is expected to outpace other occupations, with an estimated 439,300 new jobs anticipated from 2014-2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In May 2015, the median annual wage for a registered nurse was $67,490, stated the BLS. The BLS expects excellent prospects for registered nurses, especially in locations and employment settings that face shortages. Nurses who have a bachelor's degree will be more competitive in the job market, as will nurses who have education or certification in a particular nursing specialty, such as occupational health.

The strong rate of job growth expected for registered nurses from 2014-2024 means that applicants with their postsecondary diploma or degree in nursing and nursing license should have many job prospects. Occupational nurses specialize in preventing illness and injury in the workplace, and optional certification is available to those who wish to specialize in this field.


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