Occupational Safety and Health Workers
Occupational health and safety specialists held approximately 98,000 and technicians held about 19,900 in 2019. Federal, state, and local government agencies employed about 35 percent of health and safety specialists and technicians. The remainder worked for schools, hospitals, public utilities, consulting firms, and manufacturing firms.
Occupational safety and health workers are employed throughout the country, but they are generally concentrated in urban and industrial centers. According to the BCSP, the fields of manufacturing, insurance, petrochemicals, consulting, and government are the largest employers of workers with the CSP designation. Many of those employed in the safety and health field are safety engineers, fire protection engineers, industrial hygienists, or workers who combine two or more areas. A small number work as engineering or industrial hygiene technicians. Insurance consultants usually have their offices in one city and travel to and from various sites.
College guidance counselors and career services offices are one source of job leads. People intent on entering the occupational safety and health field may contact the ASSE or other professional societies, talk to company recruiters, or apply directly to the personnel or employment offices of appropriate industrial or insurance companies. Safety-industry trade journals and society Web sites are also excellent sources to check for listings of job openings.
Advancement will depend on such factors as a person's education level, area of specialty, experience, and certifications. Safety and health workers in the insurance industry, for example, may be promoted to department manager of a small branch office, then to a larger branch office, and from there to an executive position in the home office. In industrial firms, safety and health workers can move up to safety and health managers for one or more plants. Some working in the consulting area will have the advancement goal of opening their own consulting firm. Safety and health workers who obtain advanced degrees in areas such as public health or safety studies may go into teaching or move into research. Because occupational safety and health workers are so involved with businesses and government, many develop an interest in these fields and add to their credentials by getting a master's in business administration or a law degree. They may then go into law, administration, or various aspects of business operations. Technicians with the proper education and experience can advance to professional safety and health positions, with the accompanying increase in prestige and income.
Tips for Entry
In high school, take courses in English, mathematics, chemistry biology, and physics to prepare for the broad array of specialties later available to choose from as an undergraduate.
In college, consider your interests, capabilities, and limitations when deciding which specialty you want to concentrate on, whether it be hazardous material management, respiratory protection, or one of many others.
If your high school graduation is imminent, seek out a summer internship with a local company or government agency that will give you valuable work experience. Even if you are unsuccessful in getting an internship, the experience of interviewing may help you clarify your job goals.