Occupational Health and Safety Specialists

Summary

occupational health and safety specialists image
Occupational health and safety specialists examine the workplace for environmental or physical factors that could affect employee health, safety, comfort, and performance.
Quick Facts: Occupational Health and Safety Specialists
2015 Median Pay $70,210 per year
$33.75 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2014 70,300
Job Outlook, 2014-24 4% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 2,800

What Occupational Health and Safety Specialists Do

Occupational health and safety specialists analyze many types of work environments and work procedures. Specialists inspect workplaces for adherence to regulations on safety, health, and the environment. They also design programs to prevent disease or injury to workers and damage to the environment.

Work Environment

Occupational health and safety specialists work in a variety of settings, such as offices, factories, and mines. Their jobs often involve fieldwork and travel. Most specialists work full time.

How to Become an Occupational Health and Safety Specialist

Occupational health and safety specialists typically need a bachelor’s degree in occupational health and safety or in a related scientific or technical field.

Pay

The median annual wage for occupational health and safety specialists was $70,210 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of occupational health and safety specialists is projected to grow 4 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations. Specialists will be needed to work in a wide variety of industries to ensure that employers are adhering to both existing and new regulations.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for occupational health and safety specialists.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of occupational health and safety specialists with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about occupational health and safety specialists by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Occupational Health and Safety Specialists Do About this section

Occupational health and safety specialists
Industrial hygienists (a type of specialist) examine the workplace for health hazards, such as exposure to lead, asbestos, noise, pesticides, or communicable diseases.

Occupational health and safety specialists analyze many types of work environments and work procedures. Specialists inspect workplaces for adherence to regulations on safety, health, and the environment. They also design programs to prevent disease or injury to workers and damage to the environment.

Duties

Occupational health and safety specialists typically do the following:

  • Identify hazards in the workplace
  • Collect samples of potentially toxic materials for analysis
  • Inspect and evaluate workplace environments, equipment, and practices for compliance with corporate and government health and safety standards and regulations
  • Design and implement workplace processes and procedures that help protect workers from hazardous work conditions
  • Investigate accidents and incidents to identify their causes and to determine how they might be prevented
  • Conduct training on a variety of topics, such as emergency preparedness

Occupational health and safety specialists examine the workplace for environmental or physical factors that could affect employee health, safety, comfort, and performance. They may examine factors such as lighting, equipment, materials, and ventilation. Specialists seek to increase worker productivity by reducing absenteeism and equipment downtime. They also seek to save money by lowering insurance premiums and workers’ compensation payments and by preventing government fines.

Some specialists develop and conduct employee safety and training programs. These programs cover a range of topics, such as how to use safety equipment correctly and how to respond in an emergency.

In addition to protecting workers, specialists work to prevent harm to property, the environment, and the public by inspecting workplaces for chemical, physical, radiological, and biological hazards. Specialists who work for governments conduct safety inspections and can impose fines.

Occupational health and safety specialists work with engineers and physicians to control or fix hazardous conditions or equipment. They also work closely with occupational health and safety technicians to collect and analyze data in the workplace. 

The tasks of occupational health and safety specialists vary by industry, workplace, and types of hazards affecting employees. The following are examples of types of occupational health and safety specialists:

Ergonomists consider the design of industrial, office, and other equipment to maximize workers’ comfort, safety, and productivity.

Industrial or occupational hygienists identify workplace health hazards, such as lead, asbestos, noise, pesticides, and communicable diseases.

Work Environment About this section

Occupational health and safety specialists
Occupational health and safety specialists often work with computers and complex testing equipment.

Occupational health and safety specialists held about 70,300 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most occupational health and safety specialists were as follows:

State and local government, excluding education and hospitals 18%
Manufacturing 16
Federal government, excluding postal service 11
Professional, scientific, and technical services 10
Construction 7

About 29 percent of occupational health and safety specialists worked for federal, state, and local governments in 2014. In the federal government, specialists are employed by various agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Most large government agencies employ specialists to protect agency employees. In addition to working for governments, occupational health and safety specialists worked in management, scientific, and technical consulting services; education services; hospitals; and manufacturing. 

Occupational health and safety specialists work in a variety of settings, such as offices, factories, and mines. Their jobs often involve considerable fieldwork and travel. They may be exposed to strenuous, dangerous, or stressful conditions. Specialists use gloves, helmets, respirators, and other personal protective and safety equipment to minimize the risk of illness and injury.

Work Schedules

Most occupational health and safety specialists work full time. Some specialists may work weekends or irregular hours in emergencies.

How to Become an Occupational Health and Safety Specialist About this section

Occupational health and safety specialists
Occupational health and safety specialists recommend measures to help protect workers from potentially hazardous work conditions.

Occupational health and safety specialists typically need a bachelor’s degree in occupational health and safety or in a related scientific or technical field.

Education

Occupational health and safety specialists typically need a bachelor’s degree in occupational health and safety or in a related scientific or technical field, such as engineering, biology, or chemistry. For some positions, a master’s degree in industrial hygiene, health physics, or a related subject is required.

Typical courses include radiation science, hazardous material management and control, risk communications, and respiratory protection. These courses may vary with the specialty in which a student wants to work. For example, courses in health physics focus on topics that differ from those in industrial hygiene.

High school students interested in becoming occupational health and safety specialists should take courses in English, math, chemistry, biology, and physics.

Important Qualities

Ability to use technology. Occupational health and safety specialists must be able to use advanced technology. They often work with complex testing equipment.

Communication skills. Occupational health and safety specialists must be able to communicate safety instructions and concerns to employees and managers. They need to be able to work with technicians to collect and test samples of possible hazards, such as dust or vapors, in the workplace.

Detail oriented. Occupational health and safety specialists need to understand and follow safety standards and complex government regulations.

Physical stamina. Occupational health and safety specialists must be able to stand for long periods and be able to travel regularly. Some specialists work in environments that can be uncomfortable, such as tunnels or mines.

Problem-solving skills. Occupational health and safety specialists must be able to solve problems in order to design and implement workplace processes and procedures that help protect workers from hazardous work conditions.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although certification is voluntary, many employers encourage it. Certification is available through several organizations, depending on the field in which the specialists work. Specialists must have graduated from an accredited educational program and have work experience to be eligible to take most certification exams. To keep their certification, specialists usually are required to complete periodic continuing education.

Pay About this section

Occupational Health and Safety Specialists

Median annual wages, May 2015

Occupational health and safety specialists

$70,210

Other healthcare practitioners and technical occupations

$57,990

Total, all occupations

$36,200

 

The median annual wage for occupational health and safety specialists was $70,210 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $40,890, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $102,980.

In May 2015, the median annual wages for occupational health and safety specialists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service $78,510
Professional, scientific, and technical services 72,490
Manufacturing 71,530
Construction 67,920
State and local government, excluding education and hospitals 58,830

Most occupational health and safety specialists work full time. Some specialists may work weekends or irregular hours in emergencies.

Job Outlook About this section

Occupational Health and Safety Specialists

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Other healthcare practitioners and technical occupations

10%

Total, all occupations

7%

Occupational health and safety specialists

4%

 

Employment of occupational health and safety specialists is projected to grow 4 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations.

Specialists will be needed to work in a wide variety of industries to ensure that employers are adhering to both existing and new regulations. In addition, technological advances will allow for the use of new machinery, and specialists will be needed to create the machinery, as well as procedures to ensure its safe use.

In addition, specialists will be necessary because insurance costs and workers’ compensation costs have become a concern for many employers and insurance companies. An aging population is remaining in the workforce longer than past generations did, and older workers usually have a greater proportion of workers’ compensation claims.

Job Prospects

Despite slower-than-average employment growth, job opportunities for individuals with advanced degrees are expected to be good. Candidates with certification may enjoy more job opportunities. In addition, a large number of currently practicing occupational health and safety specialists are expected to retire over the coming decade, creating opportunities for new specialists.

Employment projections data for occupational health and safety specialists, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Occupational health and safety specialists

29-9011 70,300 73,100 4 2,800 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of occupational health and safety specialists.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2015 MEDIAN PAY Help
Construction and building inspectors

Construction and Building Inspectors

Construction and building inspectors ensure that construction meets local and national building codes and ordinances, zoning regulations, and contract specifications.

High school diploma or equivalent $57,340
Environmental scientists and specialists

Environmental Scientists and Specialists

Environmental scientists and specialists use their knowledge of the natural sciences to protect the environment and human health. They may clean up polluted areas, advise policymakers, or work with industry to reduce waste.

Bachelor's degree $67,460
Fire inspectors and investigators

Fire Inspectors

Fire inspectors examine buildings to detect fire hazards and ensure that federal, state, and local fire codes are met. Fire investigators determine the origin and cause of fires and explosions. Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists assess fire hazards in both public and residential areas.

See How to Become One $54,790
Health and safety engineers

Health and Safety Engineers

Health and safety engineers develop procedures and design systems to prevent people from getting sick or injured and to keep property from being damaged. They combine knowledge of systems engineering and of health and safety to make sure that chemicals, machinery, software, furniture, and other consumer products will not cause harm to people or damage to buildings.

Bachelor's degree $84,600
Occupational health and safety technicians

Occupational Health and Safety Technicians

Occupational health and safety technicians collect data on the health and safety conditions of the workplace. Technicians work with occupational health and safety specialists in conducting tests and measuring hazards to help prevent harm to workers, property, the environment, and the general public.

High school diploma or equivalent $48,070

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about credentialing in industrial hygiene, visit

American Board of Industrial Hygiene

For more information about occupations in safety, a list of safety and related academic programs, and credentialing, visit

Board of Certified Safety Professionals

For more information about occupational health and safety, visit

U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

To find job openings for occupational health and safety positions in the federal government, visit

USAJOBS

O*NET

Occupational Health and Safety Specialists

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Occupational Health and Safety Specialists,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-health-and-safety-specialists.htm (visited May 29, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. This tab may also provide information on earnings in the major industries employing the occupation.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's Career InfoNet.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.