Guide to Online Occupational Health & Safety Degrees
Students can study occupational safety online at the associate, bachelor's, and master's levels. Online undergraduate and graduate certificates in the field are also available. Graduates of an online occupational safety program may find work in a variety of different roles, from monitoring safety on a construction site to checking for potentially disease-causing toxins in a factory. Professionals in occupational safety may also be in charge of creating safety procedures or implementing a plan for a more environmentally friendly workplace.
Those interested in completing an online degree program in occupational safety should also be sure choose an accredited program to help ensure that they are receiving an education that meets national standards.
Most Popular Accredited Online Schools for Occupational Safety Degrees
Online Occupational Safety Degree Overview & Career Information
Online occupational safety programs can be found at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and certificate level. Associate degrees prepare students for some entry-level work in the field, as well as for transfer to a bachelor's degree program. A bachelor's degree is necessary for most occupational safety specialist jobs. At the master's level, graduates will have more opportunities for advancement, as there are some positions which may require a master's degree. A certificate can add to an individual's resume and enhance their skill set, and may be enough to qualify them for certain entry-level jobs, depending on the certificate level and their other work experience.
Online Associate Degrees in Occupational Safety
An online associate degree in occupational safety is meant to provide students with a solid foundation on which to begin building their careers. Graduates of an associate program will have gained the knowledge and skills to seek entry-level positions in the field. They will understand the basics of workplace health and safety risks and regulations and be able to apply them in a real-world setting. Other individuals who may benefit from an online occupational safety associate degree are those who are already working in fields such as manufacturing, fire science, or construction and want to add to their skills or and gain a better grasp on risk management in the workplace.
Applicants to an online associate degree program will usually need to have a high school diploma or GED and may need to submit transcripts. An associate degree typically requires 60 semester credit hours of work and two years to complete.
Online associate degree programs generally include a combination of general education requirements and coursework related to occupational safety. Curricular requirements usually include classes in dealing with hazardous materials, fire prevention, industrial hygiene, accident investigation, and project management.
Online Bachelor's Degrees in Occupational Safety
An online bachelor's degree in occupational safety is what is most commonly required for occupational safety specialist jobs. A bachelor's program will provide students with more advanced knowledge and skills than the associate will, and individuals who do not have any experience in the field and want to find entry-level work should consider enrolling in a bachelor's degree program. Graduates may be qualified for jobs in fields such as construction, fire science, and manufacturing. Interested individuals can find these online occupational safety degrees at colleges and universities across the country.
Applicants to an online bachelor's program need to have a high school diploma or equivalent and will need to submit high school transcripts and any college transcripts they may have. Other application requirements may include a personal statement or essay and/or SAT or ACT scores. A bachelor's degree usually takes four years and 120 credit hours to complete.
Coursework in an online occupational safety bachelor's degree program will include general education requirements in math, science, humanities, and social sciences. Core classes for the major will cover topics like industrial hygiene, fire safety, industrial ergonomics, toxicology, legal aspects of health and safety, construction safety, workers' compensation, fire prevention, and handling hazardous materials. Some schools will require a senior capstone project or an internship that must be completed prior to graduation.
Online Master's Degrees in Occupational Safety
Individuals who are interested in advanced study of the occupational safety field may be interested in an online master's degree. A master's program can help professionals advance their careers and take on greater leadership and management roles.
Online master's degree programs in occupational safety are designed for those who either already have a bachelor's degree in occupational safety or a related field, or for those who have another type of bachelor's degree and work experience related to occupational safety. In addition to a bachelor's and/or work experience, depending on the program, an applicant may also need letters of recommendation and an acceptable score on a graduate entrance exam such as the GRE in order to be admitted. Master's programs can be found at colleges and universities around the country, take one to two years to complete, and generally consist of 30 to 36 semester credit hours.
While studying for their online degree, students can expect to take classes covering topics such as management techniques, workplace risk factors, regulatory requirements for health and safety, ergonomics, safety engineering, and management of hazardous materials. Students will also be expected to complete a thesis or final project. Graduates may seek out careers as Occupational Safety and Health Specialists, Environmental Health and Safety Coordinators, and Occupational Claims and Safety Managers.
Online Doctoral Degrees in Occupational Safety
The field of occupational health and safety is concerned with the safety of people in the workplace. Over time, standards of occupational safety have changed and, in many places, improved — but this field is constantly evolving due to the introduction of new technology, materials, techniques, and practices in the modern workplace. Pressures to identify and mitigate risks and hazards in various work environments are mounting, especially in developed countries. Occupational health and safety experts help employers maintain and improve workplace safety through their research and recommendations. They also help governments develop policies and regulations concerned with occupational health and safety.
Doctoral in occupational safety programs are intended to provide students with the education and training they need to become experts in the field. These programs are typically research-based and give students the opportunity to investigate occupational conditions, propose corresponding improvements and solutions, and make relevant decisions on behalf of organizations. An online doctoral degree in occupational safety program allows distance learners to gain the same knowledge and skills through online coursework. This flexible format also allows online students to continue working while earning their degree. A doctoral degree in occupational safety typically takes between three and six years to complete. Admission generally requires a relevant preceding degree — either a bachelor’s or a master’s. Other common requirements include GRE scores, relevant work experience, and letters of recommendation.
Coursework includes studies of research methodologies, scholarly writing techniques, and strategies related to occupational safety, as well as an overview of the best-known occupational safety hazards, policies, and patterns. The program will typically culminate in a doctoral research project, such as a dissertation or set of research-based scholarly articles, which students are expected to present and defend. Graduates are prepared for many advanced opportunities in the field, including roles in research, consulting, education, and management.
Online Certificates in Occupational Safety
Online occupational safety certificate programs are available for students who are either not yet ready to commit to a full degree, or who want to earn an additional credential to add to their skill sets and enhance their resumes. Certificates can be found at the undergraduate and graduate level. Those who complete one of these programs may be able to enter the field of occupational safety or advance in their current careers. Undergraduate certificates will cover the basic fundamentals of the field, while graduate certificates cover more advanced topics. A high school diploma or equivalent is necessary to enroll in an undergraduate certificate program.
Admission to a graduate-level online certificate program will require a bachelor's degree. The number of credits and amount of time for completion will vary depending on the program, but a certificate can generally be earned in a year or less. Undergraduate certificate students will take classes such as the fundamentals of occupational safety, construction safety, and OSHA standards. Graduate certificates may include coursework in safety and accident prevention, advanced toxicology, and advanced industrial hygiene. Online certificates in occupational safety can be found in colleges and universities around the country.
Certifications are offered by several organizations. Through the Board of Certified Safety Professionals, individuals can earn the Certified Safety Professional (CSP) certification, the Associate Safety Professional (ASP) certification, the Occupational Health and Safety Technologist (OHST) certification, and the Construction Health and Safety Technologist (CHST) certification. Similarly, the American Board of Industrial Hygiene offers the Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) certification.
The Importance of an Accredited Online Occupational Safety Degree
When deciding which online degree program to apply to, it is important to keep both programmatic and regional accreditation in mind.
If a college or university has been regionally accredited, that means that an independent agency has evaluated that school on several factors, such as strength of curriculum and quality of faculty, and decided that the school meets certain standards of academic excellence. Students want to make sure they choose a regionally accredited school for many reasons, including the ease of which credits transfer between accredited institutions, and because federal financial aid can only be used at accredited schools.
There are also agencies that accredit programs covering specific subjects. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) is the predominant accrediting agency for programs in engineering and engineering technology, computers, and applied science. Occupational safety programs fall under ABET's accreditation jurisdiction. Students should try to choose an online occupational safety program that is accredited by ABET, as this will help to ensure that they are receiving an education that meets a rigorous set of standards and that they will learn the skills relevant to the profession.
Careers in Occupational Safety
Professionals who earn an online occupational safety degree will be equipped with the knowledge necessary to work in various industries. Much of their work will center around making sure businesses and individuals are acting in a safe and responsible manner and that they are following different safety codes and regulations. They may help with the design and implementation of programs and procedures to stop injuries and diseases from occurring in the workplace. Occupational safety specialists might also be involved in coming up with environmentally friendly business practices. Possible job titles include Plant Safety Manager, OSHA Trainer, Construction Site Safety Manager, and Corporate Safety Director.
Depending on the particular job desired, advanced training and education may be needed. For example, some positions require a master's degree in health physics, industrial hygiene, or similar. Professional certification is also available. It is not usually required to find a job, but it can make an applicant more competitive, and some employers prefer to hire someone who is certified.
Frequently Asked Questions About Occupational Safety Degrees
What does an occupational safety specialist do?
Occupational safety specialists evaluate workplaces and procedures to ensure they meet regulation requirements for health and safety standards. They look for things that are potentially dangerous to someone’s health and that are harmful to the environment. They also create and implement policies that protect workers and the general public, and teach employers how to ensure workplace safety.
How long does it take to get a degree in safety?
Entry-level positions often require a bachelor’s degree, which takes four years, on average, to complete. There are also certificates and associate degrees available, which can qualify applicants for positions as technicians or other roles in the field. These usually take two years or less to complete.
What are the benefits of being OSHA certified?
Many employers require safety professionals to complete training hours with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Completing these 10- and 30-hour training courses tells employers a professional is up-to-date on basic safety and health practices in the field. The certification also bolsters a professional's resume and qualifies individuals for more positions.
- Accreditation. ABET. Accessed August 24, 2016. http://www.abet.org/accreditation/.
- Associate in Arts in Occupational Safety and Health. Waldorf University. Accessed August 23, 2016. http://www.waldorf.edu/online/academics/programs-of-study/occupational-safety-health.
- Associate of Science in Occupational Safety & Health. Columbia Southern University. Accessed August 23, 2016. http://www.columbiasouthern.edu/online-degree/safety-emer-services/occupational-safety-health/as-osh.
- Bachelor of Arts in Occupational Safety. Waldorf University. Accessed August 23, 2016. http://www.waldorf.edu/online/academics/programs-of-study/b-a-occupational-safety.
- Bachelor of Science in Occupational Safety & Health. Columbia Southern University. Accessed August 23, 2016. http://www.columbiasouthern.edu/online-degree/safety-emer-services/occupational-safety-health/bs-osh.
- Career Opportunities. Eastern Kentucky University. Accessed August 24, 2016. http://occupationalsafety.eku.edu/career-opportunities.
- Master's in Safety, Security and Emergency Management - Occupational Safety. EKU Online. Accessed August 24, 2016. http://safetymanagement.eku.edu/safety-degrees/masters-occupational-safety/.
- Occupational Health and Safety Specialists. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed August 23, 2016. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-health-and-safety-specialists.htm#tab-1.
- Occupational Safety & Health Certificate. Columbia Southern University. Accessed August 24, 2016. http://www.columbiasouthern.edu/online-degree/safety-emer-services/occupational-safety-health/osh-certificate.
- Occupational Safety Management (M.S./M.A.). Indiana State University. Accessed August 24, 2016. https://www.indstate.edu/academics/online/graduate/osm.
- Occupational Safety Undergraduate Certificate. Western Kentucky University. Accessed August 24, 2016. https://wku.edu/online/ug-certs/occupational_safety/.
- Online Graduate Certificate in Occupational Safety. EKU Online. Accessed August 24, 2016. http://safetymanagement.eku.edu/safety-degrees/graduate-certificate-occupational-safety/.
- The Importance of Accreditation. ACICS. Accessed August 24, 2016. http://www.acics.org/students/content.aspx?id=4320.