The education needed to become a health and safety specialist usually requires a bachelor's degree in occupational safety and health, although some employers prefer hiring specialists who have completed a master's degree in industrial hygiene, health physics, or other related discipline. Responsible for ensuring that the health and safety of the environment, workers, and public are upheld, these professionals are employed in many different industries, such as mining, manufacturing, or government.
Health and safety specialists can work in many environments, such as mines, manufacturing facilities or offices. They help maintain the safety and health of workers, the general public and the environment. A bachelor's degree is the standard requirement for working in the field, but some jobs require a master's degree. These professionals should possess exceptional observational and analytic skills.
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree; some employers may require a master's|
|Other Requirements||Specified on-the-job training depending on work environment; various certifications are available|
|Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)*||4% for occupational health and safety specialists|
|Average Salary (2020)*||$78,110 for occupational health and safety specialists|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Education Requirements for Health and Safety Specialists
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), health and safety specialists are typically required to have a bachelor's degree in occupational safety and health (www.bls.gov). Coursework in these programs may include topics such as health and safety program management, industrial accident prevention, hazardous materials, environmental laws, fire prevention and engineering hazard controls. Programs may include an internship or cooperative learning experience.
Some employers require a master's degree. Many schools offer master's degree programs in safety and health management, industrial hygiene or health physics. Students in these programs may focus on such topics as ergonomics, radiation physics, epidemiology for public health, industrial hygiene analysis, public policy, industrial leadership and systems safety engineering. Completion of a capstone project, comprehensive exam or internship may be required.
Health and Safety Specialist Job Description
Health and safety specialists help prevent worker accidents by examining machinery and equipment to make sure they are in good repair. Certain health and safety specialists, known as industrial hygienists, look at other factors affecting the workplace, such as lead or asbestos exposure, noise level, diseases or pesticides. Ergonomists are other specialists who ensure that workstations are designed for employee safety and comfort.
Some health and safety specialists may work as loss prevention specialists for insurance companies. Others, known as environmental protection officers, oversee the cleanup of environmental contaminants and the storage of hazardous waste materials. Some specialists are known as health physicists, working to prevent harmful exposure to radiation. The BLS stated that local, state and federal government agencies employ about 22% of occupational health and safety specialists in 2019.
Based on reports from the BLS, a 4% increase in job opportunities is projected for occupational health and safety specialists between 2019-2029. In May 2020, the BLS estimated that these professionals received a mean salary of $78,110.
Certification for Health and Safety Specialists
Several organizations offer voluntary certification. The Board of Certified Safety Professionals offers a number of credentials, including Occupational Health and Safety Technologist, Construction Health and Safety Technician, Certified Safety Professional and Certified Loss Control Specialist (www.bcsp.org). Other certifications are offered through the American Indoor Air Quality Council, the American Board of Health Physicists and the American Board of Industrial Hygiene. Candidates must generally meet certain education and experience requirements to be qualified for these credentialing exams.
A bachelor's degree is required to work in this field, and many employers call for a master's degree. There is also voluntary certification available for health and safety specialists, offered through a variety of organizations. While government agencies employ a large number of health and safety specialists, many of these professionals often find work for private companies, like insurance or environmental protection organizations.