Why Earn an Occupational Health & Safety Degree

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For people who want to work in occupational safety, you should know that occupational safety degree programs and jobs can carry a variety of different titles.

Occupational safety is popular profession that involves the sciences of biology, chemistry and physics, along with engineering and technology, all of which are used together to reduce the chances of various types of accidents.

Occupational safety workers are needed in all industries by many companies, and also by local, state and federal regulatory authorities to ensure the law and safety regulations are followed.

A high quality bachelor’s or master’s degree in occupational safety can provide you with the advantage and skills that you need for a good start in the profession, or the ability to advance your career to a higher level.

Career Paths in Occupational Safety

A degree in occupational safety can lead to many exciting careers, including these growing occupations:

Occupational Safety and Health Specialists

These professionals analyze the safety of many work environments and work processes in most industries in the United States. These specialists are usually responsible for inspecting workplaces to ensure that the companies are sticking to state and federal regulations on health, safety and the environment. They also devise programs to prevent injury and disease in workers.

Common duties for occupational safety and health specialists include:

  • Pinpoint any hazards in the workplace
  • Collect samples of any possible toxic materials for further analysis
  • Conduct inspections of different workplaces, practices and equipment for full compliance with government and corporate regulations regarding safety.
  • Design new and modify existing processes and procedures to protect workers
  • Investigate any incidents or accidents to identify the root cause
  • Conduct worker training on many safety related topics

These workers will typically examine potential safety hazards by reviewing major work systems and equipment, such as machinery, lighting, ventilation and materials. They are important in increasing worker health and safety.

These inspectors often work closely with physicians and engineers to either control or remedy various hazardous situations in the workplace.

Some of the most common types of occupational health and safety specialists are ergonomists and industrial or occupational hygienists.

This field is expected to grow at a rate of 4% in the next decade, which is slower than average.

Construction and Building Inspectors

These inspectors are responsible for ensuring that construction is meeting both local and national building codes. The most common duties they have are:

  • Conduct reviews of plans to make sure the company is meeting relevant building codes, zoning regulations and contract details.
  • Approve any building plans that meet state and local regulatory requirements.
  • Monitor the construction site to ensure that compliance is being maintained
  • Utilize survey instruments, metering equipment and test equipment to do inspections
  • Verify the elevation, level and alignment of all structures that are being built
  • Issue any necessary violation notices and orders to stop work until the building meets regulations

No two inspections are exactly alike, but usually, the inspector will do a first check during the first part of construction and then do a follow up inspection throughout the entire construction project. When the project has been completed, he or she will do a final inspection and will provide a certificate of valid inspection if all regulations have been followed.

This field will experience a growth rate of 8% by 2024, which is about as fast as average. Public interest in the safety of structures is a very important factor that will create more need for construction and building inspectors.

Home inspectors also should see more growth, but it is anticipated that some states will reduce entry into the field and will only allow you to work in the field with state certification.

Different Types of Occupational Safety Degrees

Whether you are new to the field of occupational safety or have a experience, one of the below degrees can improve your career prospects:

Bachelor’s Level Degree Options

A bachelor’s degree in this field will offer you an exciting curriculum in occupational safety that will serve as a good introduction to safety and health theory, as well as the technology that is needed to maintain safety and health in most workplaces.

For students who want to start their career in occupational safety, a possible solid choice is the Bachelor of Science in Occupational Safety from Eastern Kentucky University. The core of this three year, online program offers a complete look at occupational safety concepts and how to best implement them.

You will study the role of OSHA, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, as well as its rules and enforcement policy. You also will learn to analyze and identify dangerous work hazards and risks. Also, you will learn about the most effective ways to keep all workers safe, by designing and implementing safety measures.

This program has been named as one of the best online bachelor programs by US News and World Report, and also as one of the top colleges in the country according to Forbes.

Required courses include:

  • OSH 110 Introduction to Safety Studies
  • FSE/OSH 200 Applied Fire and Safety Analysis
  • FSE/OSH 225 Legal Aspects of Fire Safety
  • OSH 261 Principles in Occupational Safety and Health
  • OSH 262 Principles in Occupational Safety and Health Legislation
  • FSE/OSH 305 Hazardous Materials
  • FSE/OSH 349 Cooperative Studies
  • OSH 366 Hazard Identification and Control
  • OSH 367 Human Factors in Occupational Safety
  • OSH 370 Process Safety Management
  • OSH 379 Construction Safety
  • OSH 390 Workers’ Compensation

Master’s Level Degree Options

A master’s degree in occupational safety is an advanced degree that is designed for students and professionals in the field who have a strong background in engineering, chemistry, biology, animal and related sciences.

A possible choice worth consideration is the Master of Science in Occupational Safety and Health Online at the University of Houston-Clearlake.

This program is made for professionals who want to gain more occupational skills but need to take all of their classes online. Many graduates in this two year program have gone on to work in this growing field and obtain professional certifications such as CIH, CSP and CHSM.

This program will enhance your skills in recognizing, evaluating and controlling many occupational hazards that can happen in the workplace that can lead to injury, illness or disability.

This program features at least 36 semester hours and has six hours that are dedicated to research or thesis.

Required courses include:

  • BIOL 5332 Toxicology
  • CHEM 5535 Sampling & Analysis of Environmental Contaminants
  • ENVR 5332 Environmental Law
  • INDH 4316 System Safety & Accident Investigation
  • INDH 5131 Control of Occupational and Environmental Hazards
  • INDH 5233 Recognition of Occupational Diseases
  • INDH 5333 Air Pollution
  • INDH 5334 Human Factors Engineering
  • INDH 5336 Safety, Health and Environmental Issues

Accreditation

As you look for a bachelor’s or master’s program, we advise that you check that the program has been accredited by the Institute for Safety and Health Management or ISHM. This is a highly respected, third party accreditation organization for occupational safety programs.

Summary

Occupational safety is an important and growing field in the 21st century. Getting your undergraduate or graduate degree in this field can lead to many excellent career opportunities in occupational safety and health in the public and private sectors.

Written by Robert Sanchez
Robert Sanchez is HealthGrad.com's Chief Editorialist. Robert Sanchez has over 10 years experience in the Healthcare field and more recently has become an avid writer advising on career and job topics in this exciting field.

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