Certified Occupational Health Nurse Education Requirements

Sep 08, 2019

Certified occupational health nurses can start out as registered nurses (RNs) or nurse practitioners (NPs) before they take exam offered by the American Board of Occupational Health Nurses. To qualify for the exam, only experience as an occupational nurse is necessary.

Essential Information

A certified occupational health nurse is responsible for the health and safety of the workers in a number of industries. They are normally employed by corporations and may be registered nurses who have associate's or bachelor's degrees in nursing, or they may be nurse practitioners who have earned a master's degree.

Required Education For RNs: an associate's degree, bachelor's degree or diploma in nursing
For NPs: a master's degree in nursing
Other Requirements 3,000 hours of occupational health nursing experience and nursing license required
Specialization Options For RNs: Certified Occupational Health Nurse
For NPs: Certified Occupational Health Nurse-Specialist
Job Outlook (2018-2028)* For RNs: 12%; For NPs: 28%
Median Annual Salary (2019)** $71,000 (for all occupational health nurses)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

Job Description for a Certified Occupational Health Nurse

A certified occupational health nurse works to minimize health and injury risks for workers in various industries. A certified occupational health nurse is a registered nurse who has additional specialized training and education in preventing the negative health effects of hazardous work environments from affecting employees.

To do this, a certified occupational health nurse must be able to understand the adverse health effects of different occupations and know the methods of treatment and prevention necessary for each one. Important parts of this job include observing the worker and the work environment and having an understanding of engineering controls, industrial hygiene and the protective equipment that is necessary in the workplace.

A certified occupational health nurse must also monitor a worker's medical history and frequently must be able to perform a physical examination and diagnostic screening tests. From these screenings, nurses identify abnormalities and determine which are caused by adverse work conditions.

Educational Requirements

The educational requirements for a certified occupational health nurse vary according to the different positions available in the field. Some occupational health nurses working in an entry-level position have the most basic level of academic training necessary to obtain licensure as a registered nurse. This may be either an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree - or, in some special cases, a diploma from a clinical nursing program - and a passing score on the NCLEX-RN examination.

Others are certified nurse practitioners, having obtained the equivalent of a master's degree. Some occupational health nurses work as clinical nurses, clinical nurse managers, corporate nurses, nurse educators and nurse consultants. A certified occupational health nurse may also receive training in the field from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. All certified occupational health nurses must receive licensure from the state in which they are practicing.


Regardless of their level of education and training, in order to officially be called a certified occupational health nurse or a certified occupational health nurse-specialist, nurses must obtain certification from the American Board of Occupational Health Nurses (www.abohn.org). This requires passing a 3-hour, 150-question multiple choice certification examination. There are also certain levels of occupational health nursing experience (such as 3,000 hours) required for each certification.

Occupational nurses focus on health and safety in the work place in different industries. They must have an understanding of the different hazards and risks associated with various work environments. Certified occupational nurses can focus their education on basic nursing programs, in the case of RNs, or they can pursue a master's degree and obtain nurse practitioner status before applying for certification.

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