According to the American Industrial Hygiene Association, the field of Industrial Hygiene (also known as Environmental Exposure Assessment and Control) is devoted to the anticipation, recognition, evaluation, control and prevention of environmental factors or stresses arising in or from the workplace which may cause sickness, impaired health and well being or significant discomfort among workers or citizens of the community.
If you pursue a career in Industrial Hygiene, you will be called upon to recognize, evaluate and control hazards – chemical, physical, biological or psychological. For example, you might have to manage the after-effects of a fire at a chemical plant. Or you could be hired to consult with a manufacturing company on how to prevent on-the-job violence. Another possible job may involve prevention and management of the spread of mold in the workplace.
An example of an undergraduate program is the Bachelor of Science offered at Purdue University’s School of Health Sciences. The School views Occupational Health Science as a science dedicated to the anticipation, recognition, evaluation, and control of hazards in the workplace. The role of the industrial hygienist is primarily to perform qualitative and quantitative workplace exposure assessments of adverse chemical, physical, radiological, and biological agents. At Purdue, the occupational health science program emphasis is on exposure assessment and use of engineering controls to eliminate such hazards.
Purdue’s B.S. program is typical in the sense that it focuses on the sciences of chemistry, biochemistry, physics, calculus, and physiology. Their program consists of 26-27 credits of Occupational Health Science Core, 83 Required Courses, 3 Humanities, and 7-8 of Electives for a total of 120 credits. Both the Purdue University BS (Occupational Health Sciences) and MS (Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences) programs are accredited by the Applied Science Accreditation Commission of ABET. Graduates will have the knowledge for these potential careers:
- Industrial Hygienist
- Occupational Hygienist
- Occupational and Environmental Specialist
- Occupational, Environmental and Safety Specialist
- Occupational/Environmental Engineer
- Occupational Ergonomist
Another example of an ABET accredited Bachelor’s program is the one offered at Utah State University. Utah’s Department of Biology offers a Bachelor of Science in Public Health with pre-professional training emphasizing industrial hygiene. Graduates will be prepared for either professional practice or graduate school with a solid science background in biology and chemistry. They will be competent in the principles and practice of industrial hygiene, will be prepared with occupational safety skills, and will have the knowledge about environmental protection. Utah State’s Program Educational Objectives for Industrial Hygiene will allow graduates to…
- Succeed in an entry-level industrial hygiene position in a regional, national, or international industry or governmental or nongovernmental agency
- Integrate biological, chemical, and other basic sciences into their professional practice
- Utilize existing and future technical tools and techniques within their profession
- Work effectively within the social, organizational, regulatory, and economic constraints and opportunities of their profession
Your degree and professional practice as an Industrial Hygienist (IH) should not be the termination of your educational pursuits. According to the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH), it will enhance your career to be certified. There are strict criteria to meet to eligible to sit for the Certified Industrial Hygiene exam but the benefits may be worth the effort. An expansive 2015 survey conducted by ABIH and other professionally related organizations reported that the median annual base salary of individuals holding the Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) or the Certified Safety Professional (CSP) certification is $105,000, nearly $22,000 greater than the median annual base salary of survey respondents who held no license or certification.