Companies that must comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations relating to environmental exposure and controls incorporate elements of industrial hygiene into their work practices.
Since gaining adequate industrial hygiene can be a complex activity, many companies seek the help of trained specialists who have degrees in industrial hygiene. These industrial hygienists often work to provide safer and healthier work environments for laborers in oil and gas companies, manufacturing plants and chemical companies. They usually have academic and professional backgrounds in the sciences as well as advanced degrees in industrial hygiene.
Here is a brief overview of typical industrial hygiene degree curricula, additional career enhancing professional development opportunities and the career outlook for industrial hygiene degree graduates.
Industrial Hygiene Degree Course Work
Some of the core course topics that students can expect to take when they enroll in Master of Science in Industrial Hygiene programs are epidemiology, environmental and occupational health, behavioral science and health policy. These courses prepare students to assess and help mitigate hazards in the work place that relate to infectious disease outbreaks, environmental exposure to toxic chemicals and the psychological impacts that are associated with traumatic events and accidents that have taken place in work environments. Other specialization course topics include occupational health laws, controls of toxic physical agents, ergonomics, industrial ventilation and principles of public health. When considering enrollment in industrial hygiene degree programs, students should choose those that are accredited through the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology or ABET.
Continuing Education and Certification for Industrial Hygienists
The depth of knowledge that one needs to remain effective in the field of industrial hygiene is significant, and practitioners usually take continuing education courses for career growth and to refresh their knowledge in certain key areas. Some professional development courses that are available to them relate to chemical monitoring and detection, assessment and control of gas in the work environment and respiratory protection. Many industrial hygienists seek certification to help them demonstrate competency to employers and colleagues. The Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) designation is a globally recognized credential within the field of industrial hygiene that many practitioners consider acquiring.
Professional Associations for Industrial Hygiene
Joining a professional association for industrial hygiene is a primary way that industrial hygienists gain access to continuing education courses and certification programs. The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) provides its members with professional development materials, career resources and valuable networking opportunities through AIHA sponsored events and volunteer activities. The American Board of Industrial Hygiene sets the criteria for CIH credentials, administers exams and tracks the maintenance activities associated with keeping those credentials current.
Career Outlook for Industrial Hygienist Degree Graduates
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) categorizes industrial hygienists with other occupational health and safety specialists. According to the BLS, these specialists earned median annual salaries of $69,210 in 2014. However, projected job growth through 2024 for this labor category is slower than average for all jobs surveyed. Some believe that this lack of job growth in the United States’ labor market does not apply to positions in foreign markets. With the right academic and certification credentials, industrial hygienists may be able to take their skills abroad.
Work place hazards are significantly reduced when companies put procedures in place that allow workers to consistently meet federally mandated safety regulations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides organizations with tips and training resources relating to environmental exposure and controls, but those companies that need additional help are usually advised to hire consultants who have industrial hygiene degrees.