The U.S. Bureau of Labor (BLS) reports 101,800 people work as Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians (2016)
The job duties of specialists and technicians are similar; however, they are two separate professions. In comparison, there are 303,500 employees in the field of civil engineering (BLS 2016 data). All of these require the minimum of a bachelor’s degree. The difference in the technician versus the specialist is the pay. The BLS states the median wage for specialists at $71,780 (May 2017), and the technician at $49,960.
Both the technician and the specialist conduct onsite inspections, perform tests, ensure OSHA regulations, evaluate safety programs, and investigate workplace injuries and fatalities. The specialist may also recommend, design, and implement safety practices and procedures based upon an inspection of the work environment. Specialists typically confer with other professionals, such as engineers, physicians, and fire inspectors. They are involved with organizations, namely OSHA, worker’s compensation, Center for Disease Control (CDC), and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
Local government, excluding schools and hospitals, have the most employees, according to the BLS. The most recent data show 2,240 in this sector. Management, scientific, and technical consulting follows with 1,340 employees. Since government agencies employ as many as a third of OSH specialists, they are an excellent place to commence a job search.
The U.S. government posts job openings at USAJOBS. A search for safety and health specialists reveals numerous opportunities to work for different federal agencies. The following is a partial list:
- Department of Veterans Affairs
- Department of the Navy
- S. Army Corps of Engineers
- Bureau of Prisons
- Indian Health Service
- Air Force Space Command
- Department of Energy
- Department of Defense
Government employees have a General Schedule Pay Scale (GS). The salary for a particular job has a limited range based on the seniority, education, and locality of the position. For example, a job that demands a master’s degree plus experience will be higher on the GS scale. A posting for an Occupational Health Technician with the Department of the Navy/Naval Medical Command is a GS 7. The salary range is $44,670 to $58,070 per year.
Another example on USAJOBS for the Department of Defense-National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is an opening for an Occupational Health and Safety Officer. The responsibilities include acting as the liaison between the NGA and the DoD. Candidates must have expertise in interpreting Federal, State, and Local laws regarding health and safety issues. Some of the stipulated degrees are a bachelor’s degree in occupational safety and health, industrial hygiene, and engineering. Also, applicants should have various certifications, for example, the Certified Safety Professional (CSP) and Certified Industrial Hygienists (CIH).
The position mentioned above does require experience. Furthermore, it illustrates that your education and a few years of qualified work can take your career into the salary range of $96,970 to $148,967.
Despite the statistics that favor OSH positions in the government sector, there are several employment options elsewhere. A review of online employment sites provides a lengthy list of companies seeking graduates with a degree in OSH. Large corporations generally have their own safety personnel who maintain records, observe manufacturing procedures, detect unsafe conditions, the implement preventative safety measures, and correspond with OSHA, the EPA, and other regulatory entities.
The sectors of oil and gas extraction, transportation, construction, logging, and mining are places with high incidents of workplace injuries. Any work that involves lifting and repetitive motion is a place that needs safety experts. Overexertion accounts for 34% of workplace injury events.
According to the National Safety Council, there is a workplace injury every 7 seconds.
Where you live influences job prospects. The BLS reports that Texas and California employ the highest number in the OSH group with 3,000 and 1,430, respectively. Looking at the state of Texas in more detail, the Houston area employs more than all other cities with 1,000. New York-New Jersey is second with 700 safety specialists and technicians. The favorable numbers for Texas are due to the oil and gas businesses, particularly in the west and along the Gulf coast.
Working in safety and health does not limit you to the continental United States. There are placement firms who hire individuals to work in Canada, Middle East, Africa, and offshore in the energy industries. One job placement company is Airswift that attests to have offices in 50 locations. They place people in occupational health and safety roles in 57 countries on six continents.