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Occupational Health and Safety Specialists

At a Glance

  • Inspect work places to remove health hazards
  • Work for government agencies
  • Deal with workers and business owners
  • Travel to different work places
  • Have at least a bachelor's degree
  • May need to be certified or registered

Career summary

Occupational health and safety specialists investigate work places. They recommend ways to remove health hazards.

Occupational health and safety specialists, depending on the focus of their work, can be called sanitarians, industrial hygienists, health and safety inspectors, or occupational health and safety inspectors.

Occupational health and safety specialists work for government agencies. They investigate reports of unsafe working conditions. Sometimes they are called when several workers experience unusual illnesses. They also inspect factories and other production facilities on a regular basis to ensure safety standards and government regulations are met.

Occupational health and safety specialists inspect work places. They look for health hazards such as unsafe machinery or bad air quality. Specialists analyze issues such as:

Specialists collect samples of the air, dust, and other materials. They use many types of equipment to take these samples. They may also talk to workers to learn about their symptoms or health hazards they have seen.

In addition, specialists read doctors' reports about workers illnesses. They investigate to determine if worker illnesses are related to their jobs.

After they gather information, specialists determine which, if any, health hazards are present. They write reports listing the hazards and their recommendations for changing or removing them.

Specialists may help employers make the changes. For example, they may talk to engineers about ways to redesign equipment. They may also teach workers how to prevent accidents, or injuries from overworking their muscles. They may train new employees about specific safety policies. They also maintain specific plans for how to handle emergencies.

Occasionally, workers sue their employers because of work-related injuries or illnesses. Specialists prepare documents about their findings for these hearings. They may also testify in court.

Related careers

This career is part of the Government and Public Administration cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to occupational health and safety specialists.

Common work activities

Occupational health and safety specialists perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, occupational health and safety specialists:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Occupational health and safety specialists frequently:

It is important for occupational health and safety specialists to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for occupational health and safety specialists to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Occupational health and safety specialists need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Work with things

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as an occupational health and safety specialist, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Occupational health and safety specialists learn their skills through formal training programs. Specialists need at least a bachelor's degree in a safety-related field. Common areas of study are safety engineering, industrial hygiene, and chemical engineering. Regardless of your major, you should take courses in math and science.

Work experience

Experience as a safety professional may be required for many positions.

On-the-job training

Health and safety specialists learn about laws and inspection procedures on the job. They also are supervised by an experienced worker in the beginning. 

Military training

Some branches of the military train people to be environmental health and safety specialists. Training lasts 11 to 19 weeks, depending on your specialty. Additional training occurs on the job.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements. Occupational health and safety specialists use math and science frequently. Try to take math classes through Calculus and science classes through Physics.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers require occupational health and safety specialists to have at least a bachelor's degree. They prefer to hire specialists who majored in chemistry, physics, or engineering.

Employers look for specialists who have good communication skills. They also look for good analytical skills and the ability to work well with others.

A graduate degree may be necessary for some administrative or professional jobs.


Work experience in a small city or rural area will provide a broad background which may increase chances for promotion. Field training is an advantage for entry-level positions. Course work in the field being regulated is helpful. A master's degree in a health field or training in personnel management may ensure more rapid and continuing advancement. Applicants who are bilingual may have an advantage.

Costs to workers

Some workers may pay annual dues to belong to a professional association.


Workers may choose to become certified industrial hygienists through the American Board of Industrial Hygiene. See contact information in the Other Resources section of this description.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Occupational health and safety specialists (SOC 29-9011)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $25.94 $30.93 $36.39 $44.15 $51.31
Monthly $4,495 $5,360 $6,306 $7,651 $8,892
Yearly $53,960 $64,340 $75,690 $91,830 $106,730
    Bellingham Hourly $26.23 $28.71 $33.80 $43.81 $49.99
Monthly $4,546 $4,975 $5,858 $7,592 $8,663
Yearly $54,551 $59,710 $70,306 $91,133 $103,978
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $26.84 $33.55 $39.33 $45.42 $50.91
Monthly $4,651 $5,814 $6,816 $7,871 $8,823
Yearly $55,823 $69,800 $81,807 $94,461 $105,892
    Clarkston-Lewiston Hourly $13.86 $14.23 $15.30 $24.22 $40.99
Monthly $2,402 $2,466 $2,651 $4,197 $7,104
Yearly $28,828 $29,598 $31,831 $50,381 $85,252
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $14.40 $33.55 $42.64 $51.24 $62.34
Monthly $2,496 $5,814 $7,390 $8,880 $10,804
Yearly $29,952 $69,786 $88,689 $106,566 $129,667
    Longview Hourly $25.55 $30.10 $34.37 $37.96 $45.70
Monthly $4,428 $5,216 $5,956 $6,578 $7,920
Yearly $53,143 $62,588 $71,477 $78,956 $95,067
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $26.56 $29.91 $34.36 $37.96 $43.76
Monthly $4,603 $5,183 $5,955 $6,578 $7,584
Yearly $55,265 $62,226 $71,474 $78,953 $91,014
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $30.38 $32.53 $35.76 $38.09 $40.87
Monthly $5,265 $5,637 $6,197 $6,601 $7,083
Yearly $63,188 $67,665 $74,390 $79,241 $85,006
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $27.70 $32.37 $37.40 $45.41 $52.53
Monthly $4,800 $5,610 $6,481 $7,870 $9,103
Yearly $57,626 $67,349 $77,787 $94,456 $109,253
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $25.06 $28.16 $32.47 $39.32 $46.65
Monthly $4,343 $4,880 $5,627 $6,814 $8,084
Yearly $52,122 $58,573 $67,535 $81,785 $97,036
    Vancouver Hourly $23.77 $30.08 $37.10 $43.93 $49.24
Monthly $4,119 $5,213 $6,429 $7,613 $8,533
Yearly $49,431 $62,567 $77,175 $91,376 $102,429
    Walla Walla Hourly $25.84 $29.25 $37.27 $46.65 $46.66
Monthly $4,478 $5,069 $6,459 $8,084 $8,086
Yearly $53,745 $60,843 $77,518 $97,037 $97,048
    Yakima Hourly $20.66 $25.86 $33.54 $37.01 $39.99
Monthly $3,580 $4,482 $5,812 $6,414 $6,930
Yearly $42,984 $53,795 $69,767 $76,994 $83,188
United States Hourly $20.41 $26.95 $35.11 $43.76 $52.17
Monthly $3,537 $4,670 $6,085 $7,584 $9,041
Yearly $42,450 $56,060 $73,020 $91,030 $108,520

Wages vary by employer, specialty, and the worker's level of experience.

Occupational health and safety specialists who work full time usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, health insurance, and a retirement plan.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Occupational Health and Safety Specialists (SOC 29-9011)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 3,477 22.4% 16.1% 348
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 98 11.2% 13.4% 7
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 54 11.1% 8.6% 4
    Benton and Franklin Counties 461 21.5% 15.0% 45
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 230 3.9% 11.9% 14
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 133 13.5% 15.2% 10
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 281 26.0% 14.1% 30
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 168 16.1% 14.6% 14
    King County 1,242 34.8% 19.6% 158
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 60 6.7% 13.8% 3
    Pierce County 294 -5.8% 15.2% 10
    Snohomish County 249 10.8% 12.4% 18
    Spokane County 150 24.7% 13.9% 15
United States 98,000 6.1% 5.2% 6,300

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for these specialists will grow about as fast as average. Public interest in safety in the work place will spur growth. Issues such as emergency preparedness, changing regulations, the environment, and technological advances in safety equipment and threats will all increase the public’s interest in this field. Budget cuts by government may limit some growth.

The best job prospects are for those with advanced degrees. Many job openings are expected due to retirements.

Other resources

American Board of Industrial Hygiene (external link)
6005 West St. Joseph Hwy, Suite 300
Lansing, MI 48917-4876
American Chemical Society (external link)
1155 Sixteenth Street NW
Washington, DC 20036
American College of Medical Toxicology (external link)
10645 N. Tatum Blvd Suite 200-111
Phoenix, AZ 85028
American Industrial Hygiene Association (external link)
3141 Fairview Park Drive, Suite 777
Falls Church, VA 22042
Board of Certified Safety Professionals (external link)
Explore Health Careers: Built Environment Specialist (external link)
Explore Health Careers: Environmental Health Practitioner (external link)
Explore Health Careers: Occupational Health and Safety Expert (external link)
Health Physics Society (HPS) (external link)
950 Herndon Parkway, Suite 450
Herndon, VA 20170
Industrial Hygiene Careers (external link)
National Environmental Health Association (external link)
720 South Colorado Boulevard, Suite 1000-N
Denver, CO 80246
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) (external link)
Washington State Board of Registered Sanitarians (external link)
PO Box 384
Snohomish, WA 98291
Washington State Environmental Health Association (external link)
PO Box 721
South Bend, WA 98586
Water Environment Federation (external link)
601 Wythe Street
Alexandria, VA 22314


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupation

Holland occupational clusters