Occupational Health and Safety Specialists

Career, Salary and Education Information

Top 3 Occupational Health Specialist Jobs

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Top 3 Safety Specialist Jobs

  • Safety Specialist - Morley Builders - Santa Monica, CA

    The safety specialist will compile all subcontractor documentation per the Morley Builders subcontract agreement. This would include reviewing all

  • Quality & Patient Safety Specialist - Loma Linda University Medical Center - Murrieta, CA

    Leads activities to assess compliance with and variance evaluation of the facility-wide measurement systems. Facilitates organization-wide process

  • Residential//Crisis Stabilization Unit Family Specialist I(On Call) - Uplift Family Services - Campbell, CA

    Ensures the provision of safety and health in a variety of environments for youth and families in accordance with agency standards. Coaches primary

See all Safety Specialist jobs

What Occupational Health and Safety Specialists Do[About this section] [To Top]

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 of Occupational Health and Safety Specialists

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 for Occupational Health and Safety Specialists[About this section] [To Top]

Occupational health and safety specialists hold about 70,300 jobs. The industries that employ the most occupational health and safety specialists are 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 work for federal, state, and local governments. 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.

Occupational Health and Safety Specialist 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] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Occupational Health and Safety Specialists near you!

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

Occupational Health and Safety Specialist 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 for Occupational Health and Safety Specialists

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.

Occupational Health and Safety Specialist Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for occupational health and safety specialists is $70,210. 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.

The median annual wages for occupational health and safety specialists in the top industries in which they work are 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 for Occupational Health and Safety Specialists[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of occupational health and safety specialists is projected to grow 4 percent over the next ten years, 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.

Occupational Health and Safety Specialists 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 Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Occupational health and safety specialists 70,300 73,100 4 2,800


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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