Degrees for aspiring industrial hygienists are offered at the bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. levels. These programs address occupational and biological hazards, pollutants, toxicology and health regulations.
To become an industrial hygienist, you will need to take bachelor's level courses in chemistry, biology and physics. To become certified, you may need to obtain a master's degree. Doctoral studies prepare graduates to pursue research or academic careers. It generally takes two years to complete a master's program; a doctoral program could take 2-3 times as long to complete. Program specializations include workplace safety and risk management.
Prerequisites for a bachelor's degree program include a high school diploma or GED, where an undergraduate degree is required for admission to graduate level programs.
Courses and programs in industrial hygiene are available online.
Bachelor's Degree in Industrial Hygiene
Bachelor's degree programs for prospective industrial hygienists include training in an array of disciplines. Industrial hygiene students must become fluent in the physical and biological sciences, in addition to learning about public health and environmental regulations and laws. They prepare for entry-level employment in the field by learning to test work environments for problems such as air pollution, physical dangers and chemical hazards. Applicants to industrial hygienist bachelor's degree programs should have a high school diploma or the equivalent. Many programs also require submission of ACT or SAT scores.
Students in industrial hygienist bachelor's degree programs study chemistry, biology and public health law. These topics are then integrated into the study of workplace safety through courses such as the following:
- Occupational health and safety
- Airborne pollutants
- Sampling and analysis techniques
- Industrial toxicology
- Industrial ventilation
- Evaluating physical hazards
Master's Degree in Industrial Hygiene
Master's degree programs in industrial hygiene are often intended for health and safety professionals seeking career development and advancement; however, some programs are open to those with little experience in the field. Students are trained to evaluate workplaces for various hazards and legal violations. Most programs include courses that specifically prepare students for industrial hygienist certification exams.
Industrial hygienist schools offering master's degree programs require applicants to possess a bachelor's degree. College-level coursework in chemistry, organic chemistry, biology and physics is typically required. Some programs require documentation of work experience in industrial hygiene or a related field. Most programs require the submission of Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores.
Students in industrial hygiene master's degree programs learn to analyze and manage a variety of hazards affecting workplaces, in addition to examining ways to reduce risks. Common courses include the following:
- Occupational health regulations
- Fundamentals of toxicology
- Radiological health
- Air pollutant analysis
- Epidemiological methods
- Risk assessment and management
Ph.D. in Industrial Hygiene
Ph.D. programs in industrial hygiene primarily prepare individuals for careers in research and education. Students spend extensive time researching with the intention of contributing to the field of workplace safety. Many programs encourage specialization in areas such as ergonomics, environmental law or epidemiology. Industrial hygienist Ph.D. programs require applicants to possess at least a bachelor's degree, with most requiring extensive prior coursework in science, mathematics and other related fields.
Students without a master's degree in industrial hygiene may be required to take master's-level coursework before beginning their doctoral studies. Coursework at the Ph.D. level might include the following:
- Exposure assessment
- Airborne particles
- Biological hazards
- Principles of toxicology
- Research methods in industrial hygiene
- Environmental law
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Industrial hygienists, along with other occupational health and safety technicians, held approximately 15,100 jobs in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). This included individuals employed by the government, public hospitals, private companies and independent contractors. Employment opportunities in the field are projected to grow 9% between 2014 and 2024. This growth is expected as a result of overall growth in business, changing regulations, and an increased demand for safe workplaces. Industrial hygienists and other occupational health and safety technicians had median annual wages of $48,070 in 2015.
Most employers require a bachelor's or master's degree for work as an industrial hygienist. Certification is often preferred, though infrequently required. The leading certification organization is the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH), which offers certification as both a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) and Certified Associate Industrial Hygienist (CAIH). While both certifications require experience, formal training and successful completion of an examination, the CAIH requirements are less stringent and mandate less of a background in science.
Bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs in industrial hygiene are available for individuals interested in the field. While bachelor's programs prepare students for entry-level positions, master's programs are intended for professionals in the field who are seeking career development and advancement. Doctoral programs prepare graduates for careers in research and education.