Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians

Career, Salary and Education Information

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

Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians collect data on and analyze many types of work environments and work procedures. Specialists inspect workplaces for adherence to regulations on safety, health, and the environment. Technicians work with specialists in conducting tests and measuring hazards to help prevent harm to workers, property, the environment, and the general public.

Duties of Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians

Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians typically do the following:

  • Inspect, test, and evaluate workplace environments, equipment, and practices to ensure that they follow safety standards and government regulations
  • Prepare written reports on their findings
  • Design and implement workplace processes and procedures that help protect workers from hazardous work conditions
  • Evaluate programs on workplace health and safety
  • Educate employers and workers about workplace safety by preparing and providing training programs
  • Demonstrate the correct use of safety equipment
  • Investigate incidents and accidents to identify what caused them and how they might be prevented

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. Technicians may check to make sure that workers are using required protective gear, such as masks and hardhats.

Some 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.

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

Occupational health and safety specialists hold about 83,700 jobs. The largest employers of occupational health and safety specialists are as follows:

Government 26%
Manufacturing 15
Construction 8
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 6
Hospitals; state, local, and private 4

Occupational health and safety technicians hold about 18,100 jobs. The largest employers of occupational health and safety technicians are as follows:

Government 17%
Manufacturing 15
Construction 9
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 8
Hospitals; state, local, and private 7

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

Occupational Health and Safety Specialist and Technician Work Schedules

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

How to Become an Occupational Health and Safety Specialist or Technician[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians 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 technicians typically enter the occupation through one of two paths: on-the-job training or postsecondary education, such as an associate's degree or certificate.

Education for Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians

Occupational health and safety specialists typically need a bachelor's degree in occupational health and safety or 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. In addition to science courses, typical courses include ergonomics, writing and communications, occupational safety management, and accident prevention.

Employers typically require technicians to have at least a high school diploma. High school students interested in this occupation should complete courses in English, mathematics, chemistry, biology, and physics.

Some employers prefer to hire technicians who have earned an associate's degree or certificate from a community college or vocational school. These programs typically take 2 years or less. They include courses in respiratory protection, hazard communication, and material-handling and storage procedures.

Important Qualities for Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians

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

Communication skills. Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians must be able to communicate safety instructions and concerns to employees and managers. They frequently prepare written reports and prepare and deliver safety training to other workers.

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

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

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

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians

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 safety and health specialists and technicians can earn professional certifications including the following:

  • The Board of Certified Safety Professionals offers the following certifications:
    • Certified Safety Professional (CSP) certification
    • Associate Safety Professional (ASP)
    • Occupational Health and Safety Technologist (OHST)
    • Construction Health and Safety Technician (CHST)
  • The American Board of Industrial Hygiene awards a certification known as a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH)

Occupational Health and Safety Specialist and Technician Training

Occupational health and safety technicians usually receive on-the-job training. They learn about specific laws and inspection procedures, and learn to conduct tests and recognize hazards. The length of training varies with the employee's level of experience, education, and industry in which he or she works.

Some technicians enter the occupation through a combination of related work experience and training. They may take on health and safety tasks at the company where they are employed. For example, an employee may volunteer to complete annual workstation inspections for an office in which he or she already works.

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

The median annual wage for occupational health and safety specialists is $70,920. 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 $41,320, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $104,460.

The median annual wage for occupational health and safety technicians is $48,820. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,820, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $79,990.

The median annual wages for occupational health and safety specialists in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Manufacturing $71,980
Hospitals; state, local, and private 70,170
Construction 69,410
Government 67,650
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 67,320

The median annual wages for occupational health and safety technicians in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Construction $54,180
Government 48,750
Manufacturing 48,070
Hospitals; state, local, and private 43,380
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 43,250

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

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

Employment of occupational health and safety specialists is projected to grow 8 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment of occupational health and safety technicians is projected to grow 10 percent over the next ten years, faster than the average for all occupations.

Specialists and technicians will be needed to work in a variety of industries and government agencies to ensure that employers are adhering to both existing and new regulations. 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 for Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians

Applicants for jobs as occupational health and safety specialists or technicians with a background in the sciences, experience in more than one area of health and safety, or certification will have the best prospects.

Employment projections data for Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians, 2016-26
Occupational Title Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26
Percent Numeric
Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians 101,800 109,900 8 8,100
  Occupational health and safety specialists 83,700 90,100 8 6,400
  Occupational health and safety technicians 18,100 19,800 10 1,700


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

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