Occupational health and hygiene professionals work to protect people and the environment by analyzing business practices and inspecting workplaces. They often design and deliver programs, procedures, and trainings to organizations and businesses that help prevent disease and injury to workers and damage to the environment.
Occupational health and hygiene graduate programs require students to complete core classes, electives, and a thesis, dissertation, or another final project, some programs may require students to pass a comprehensive exam at the conclusion of their studies.
Graduate students in occupational health and hygiene programs are usually required to complete both core and elective coursework. Some examples of common core subjects include:
These course subjects and others may offer students a well-rounded exploration of the field of occupational health and hygiene.
In addition, many students may elect to study the above subjects and others in greater depth through particular departments. This allows students to concentrate their graduate work on areas of study that they find the most interesting. In many graduate programs, students may also learn about best practices in industry management and top research methodology strategies.
Whether or not occupational health and hygiene graduate students need to complete a practicum or internship depends on the program and desired occupation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, some employers may prefer to hire students who have participated in internships. Students might want to consider utilizing campus and department resources to secure internships during their academic programs.
In addition, graduate students who hope to pursue careers as professors or researchers in occupational health and hygiene may want to explore opportunities to participate in assistantships, fellowships, and teaching positions while enrolled in their programs.
Certification is optional in the field of occupational health and hygiene but it may be valued by certain employers. Typically, to take any of the exams for certification in the industry, students must have completed an accredited academic program and acquired experience in the industry in which they want to be certified. Certification can be earned through a variety of organizations depending on the industry in which the professional works.
There are numerous professional organizations and industry resources throughout the United States and world that occupational health and hygiene specialists and students may join or consult for industry information:
In addition, the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) lists a more exhaustive list of professional organizations by specialization here.
Areas of Specialization in the Field of Occupational Health and Hygiene
Occupational Health and Hygiene professionals may specialize in a variety of areas of expertise. Some include:
These and numerous other specializations exist above even more sub-categories of increasingly defined specializations.
Potential Career Opportunities for Occupational Health and Hygiene Graduate Students
Occupational health and hygiene specialists with graduate degrees might pursue careers as researchers, educators, managers, analysts, inspectors, engineers, and investigators. They work in a wide variety of industries and settings in public and private sectors for small, medium and large for-profit and non-profit organizations, institutions, and businesses. They often work fulltime in offices but spend the majority of their time traveling locally, nationally, or globally depending on their specializations, responsibilities, and industries.
The following chart shows the annual median wage for professionals in the field of occupational health and hygiene.
|2012 Median Annual Salary Information for Select Occupations for Environmental and Occupational Health Professionals|
|Industry||Median Annual Salary|
|Occupational Health & Safety Specialists||$66,790|
|Environmental Scientists & Specialists||$66,530|
|Health & Safety Engineerss||$76,830|
|Occupational Health & Safety Technicians||$47,440|
|Construction & Building Inspectors||$53,450|
|Fire Inspectors & Investigators||$53,990|
|Sources: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/fire-inspectors-and-investigators.htm; http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-health-and-safety-technicians.htm; http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical- and-social-science/environmental-scientists-and-specialists.htm; http://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and- extraction/construction-and-building-inspectors.htm; http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/health-and- safety-engineers.htm; http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-health-and-safety-specialists.htm|