CSP Certification: How Your Safety Degree Can Get You One Step Closer [Webinar]

For safety professionals, the Certified Safety Professional® designation is perhaps the most respected certification in the field. Earning a CSP certification also provides you with incredible potential to boost your career.
how-your-safety-degree-can-get-you-one-step-closer-to-your-csp-text

In the webinar "How Your Safety Degree Can Get You One Step Closer to Your CSP," Dr. Dan Corcoran, academic program director for occupational safety and health at Columbia Southern University, discussed CSU’s Bachelor of Science in occupational safety and health, a degree program that was included as a Graduate Safety Practitioner® Qualified Academic Program by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals in October 2017. (Update: In April 2019, the BCSP also recognized CSU’s Master of Science in occupational safety and health as a QAP.)

During this 30-minute webinar, Dr. Corcoran answered viewer questions, broke down the program curricula and explained the implications for graduates who are seeking their CSP, including:

  • Potentially bypassing the Associate Safety Professional® exam.
  • Receiving a certificate awarding their GSP recognition.
  • Receiving recognition for being on a path to complete their CSP.

View the recorded webinar in the embedded video below or continue reading for the video transcript.

To learn more about CSU’s occupational safety and health degree programs, visit ColumbiaSouthern.edu/Safety.

Introduction

Hello, I'm Dr. Dan Corcoran. I'm the academic program director for Columbia Southern University’s occupational safety and health program. Today I'm going to be talking about some of the things CSU has been doing to bring you one step closer to the Certified Safety Professional designation.

My plan for today is to talk to you a little bit about the BCSP and the CSP. The BCSP is the Board of Certified Safety Professionals, and the CSP stands for Certified Safety Professional, which is a professional designation that people can earn from the Board of Certified Safety Professionals. I'm going to go into some detail about that. Hopefully you'll walk out with a better understanding of what that's about if you don't already have a familiarity with that.

I'm also going to talk to you about Qualified Academic Programs. That is a program that has been reviewed by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals and determined to be of adequate quality to earn that designation, the Qualified Academic Program designation. I'll go into some detail about that.

I'm also going to talk about CSU's program efforts, some of the recent updates we made to our programs in order to be able to submit the programs to be reviewed by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals, and that we have in the past several months earned the Qualified Academic Program designation as a result of those efforts.

Finally I'm going to talk a little bit about CSU's Bachelor of Science in occupational safety and health program and how it can benefit you.

The BCSP and the CSP

Let's start off talking about the BCSP and the CSP.

BCSP: Board of Certified Safety Professionals

The BCSP stands for the Board of Certified Safety Professionals. The Board of Certified Safety Professionals is an accredited professional certification-granting organization that essentially awards a number of certifications. It's a nonprofit organization, and it awards the following certifications: ASP, CSP, GSP, SMS, OHST, CHST, STS, STSC, CET. I'm going to be focusing primarily on three of the certifications, the first three on the list.

The first one is the ASP, which stands for Associate Safety Professional. Generally the goal here in looking at these first three designations is to earn the CSP; that's the main certification that safety and health professionals want to earn. In order to earn that, first you have to earn the ASP, and that typically involves having to sit for an exam after meeting a minimal educational requirement. I'll talk a little bit about that educational requirement here in a bit. There's a sequence; you have to sit for the ASP exam, and then after you've passed that exam and worked in the field for a while, then you then sit for the CSP exam. That's generally the way it works.

The GSP designation is a way to work around the ASP so you don't have to take both exams. I'm going to talk about that more soon.

CSP: Certified Safety Professional

The end goal of all of this is to earn the CSP designation. The CSP is the Certified Safety Professional designation. The CSP designation has an educational requirement, an experience requirement and a testing requirement.

Educational Requirement

The minimum education that one needs to have in order to be able to sit for the CSP exam or to earn that credential is an associate degree in the field of safety and health or a closely-aligned field. That’s the minimum educational requirement, but alternatively one can have a bachelor's degree in any field, as long as they meet the other criteria.

Experience Requirement

The experience requirement is generally four years. They need to be working as safety professionals for four years in order to be able to sit for the CSP exam.

Testing Requirement

Generally a person has to sit for the ASP exam first, and then they need to meet that four-year experience requirement, and then they sit for the CSP exam. That's typically the way it works, but there are some exceptions to that. For instance, if you have another professional certification, you can jump over the ASP exam. For instance, if you're a Certified Industrial Hygienist, you can jump over the ASP exam and just sit for the CSP exam. That's what I did about 15 years ago.

There are several certifications that allow you to do that, but there is also the GSP. The GSP stands for the Graduate Safety Practitioner. If a person graduates from a program that allows them to earn that particular designation, just by virtue of going through that program and graduating from that program, then that allows them to skip that ASP examination as well. I'll talk a little bit about that in more detail later in the presentation.

Qualified Academic Programs

Let's talk a little bit about how the CSP relates to the QAP. Again, the QAP stands for Qualified Academic Program, and that is the designation that CSU has recently earned from the Board of Certified Safety Professionals. We'll cover the QAP in a little more depth as we walk through this, and you'll get a better appreciation for what that's all about.

The Board of Certified Safety Professionals has what they call Qualified Academic Programs. The BCSP generally requires an evaluation of safety and health programs to determine if they meet minimum quality standards. They previously used ABET accreditation. If a university program had ABET accreditation – ABET stands for the Accrediting Board of Engineering and Technology – then those programs would automatically be considered a Qualified Academic Program. The ABET accreditation was the one that most universities would shoot after in order for their programs to be considered for the Qualified Academic Program designation.

Recently the BCSP started doing their own evaluation. They decided that “We really don't need to rely on ABET accreditation in order to determine whether university programs would meet our quality standards. We're going to start doing our own evaluations.” That's what they started doing last year.

What they use for the criteria is what they call their ASP 9 document, a study document for the ASP exam. They use that as an evaluation guide. What universities have to do is they send their entire curriculum - they don't have to send textbooks - to the Board of Certified Safety Professionals, and then the BCSP reviews those programs to determine if they meet the minimum quality standards and that they align with this ASP 9 document. That's how the process essentially works.

CSU Program Changes

This table compares the program that existed at CSU before we submitted our program to the Board of Certified Safety Professionals to the program that we submitted for consideration to become a Qualified Academic Program. In looking at this you can see that the two curriculums are pretty close. They align pretty well up until you get to the very end. If you look on the left side and you get to the very end, things start changing.

CSU B.S. in OSH Program Changes
Previous New
BOS 3001, Fundamentals of OSH BOS 3001, Fundamentals of OSH
BOS 3401, Construction Safety BOS 3401, Construction Safety
BOS 3525, Legal Aspects of S&H BOS 3525, Legal Aspects of S&H
BOS 3640, Interactions of Haz. Mat. BOS 3640, Interactions of Haz. Mat.
BOS 3651, Total EHS Management BOS 3651, Total ESH Management
BOS 3701, Industrial Ergonomics BOS 3701, Industrial Ergonomics
BOS 4025, OSHA Standards BOS 4025, OSHA Standards
BOS 4201, Toxicology BOS 4201, Toxicology
BOS 4301, Industrial Hygiene BOS 4301, Industrial Hygiene
FIR 3303, Introduction to Fire Prevention FIR 4311, Fire Preven. & Code Enforcement
And select 2 from Group B OSH 4308, Advanced Concepts in ESH
BEM 4351, Environmental Technology

When you get down to FIR 3303, that particular course was an introduction to fire prevention and it focused primarily on fire prevention. There were aspects to the ASP 9 document that also required some consideration for fire protection issues as well. We already had a course, FIR 4311, which dealt with both. We essentially replaced FIR 3303 with FIR 4311 to bring in more fire protection-related items into that particular course.

We also added a couple of courses. One thing we didn't have in the previous curriculum was an environmental requirement. Safety and health practitioners, as you probably know if you work in the field, have to deal with environmental issues quite a bit. It's also an issue that is included in that ASP 9 document. We touch on environmental here and there. There's a little environmental in the industrial hygiene course and some of the others, but we've never really focused on that in any of our coursework.

On the right, OSH 4308, that’s an advanced concepts in environmental safety and health course. We've had that for a while, and it's a fairly quantitative course, but it’s been an elective. We decided to add that because it addressed some issues that we didn't have elsewhere that we thought would be a good addition to the program and aligned well with the ASP 9 document.

On the left side there previously was two required electives, and the student could choose between five or six courses, but now with a new curriculum there really is no choice for those professional electives. There are still a lot of electives that are in the general program that students can choose to elect, but this particular professional elective went away in order to make room for these other courses.

We made those changes in our overall program, and all of those changes came into effect on April 12, 2017. This is the program we submitted to be considered a Qualified Academic Program by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals.

New Prerequisites

One thing I didn't show previously is that there are also some prerequisites that were identified specifically for the program. There is a prerequisite in physical science that does a good job of covering some of the physics items that need to be covered to prepare students for some of the more advanced classes. There's a chemistry course, a biology course and an algebra requirement as well. In the past we did have the algebra requirement and we also required science courses, but the student was allowed to choose science courses. We thought that it would be best if they had these specific science courses because they're focused more on issues or items that students would have to deal with in the safety profession. That's why these were selected, and they also aligned better with the Board of Certified Safety Professionals QAP criteria. That's why we chose these particular prerequisites.

At the time, we didn't know for a fact that we were necessarily going to earn the QAP designation. That's a decision that has to be made by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals. Regardless, this was an opportunity to improve our programs. We're always trying to improve, to do better. This was certainly an opportunity for us to do that. We chose to move forward regardless of the outcome.

Benefits of CSU’s QAP Program

What are some of the benefits of CSU's Qualified Academic Program?

School Pride

The Qualified Academic Program designation is certainly a benefit for CSU because it is a sought-after designation. It's a designation granted by a very reputable organization in the field of occupational safety and health. We are very proud to have earned that particular designation. It certainly looks good for CSU, and there's no doubt about that.

Avoiding the ASP Exam

The QAP designation also confers advantages to our students as well. One of the advantages is that it allows students to be able to avoid the ASP exam in the ASP/CSP exam sequence. I've already alluded to that earlier, but that's an important benefit because a person doesn't have to study for two exams. It takes a lot of time and effort to study for a professional certification exam. They tend to be very comprehensive examinations and require an understanding of a lot of different materials. Not having to do that twice is certainly a plus, unless you like to spend your time studying lots of materials for months at a time. That is definitely what I would consider a very substantial benefit for students.

Using the GSP Designation

Students can use the Graduate Safety Practitioner designation after their names. I think that this is huge for students. They can put that after their name on their business card, and people look at that and say “OK, this person has gone through a program that has been evaluated by a reputable third-party organization and determined to be of high enough quality to earn that designation.” That says something about you, it says something about the program you've gone through, and it's a good thing.

Sitting for the CSP After Graduation

CSU's programs are well-suited for working adults. They set students up in a situation where they can sit for their CSP exam shortly after graduation. That's often the case, and let me talk about that in a little more detail.

About 90% of our students in the occupational safety and health programs are people who already work in the field of occupational safety and health. Our programs are also very affordable. Our tuition rate is quite low compared to competitors. We also provide the textbooks. It makes us very accessible to the working adult. Once they get through our programs, because a lot of them already work in the field, they are often in a situation where being able to sit for the CSP exam isn't too far into the future. They have their experience requirement because they've been working in the field. They have their education requirement because they just completed their Bachelor of Science in occupational safety and health. They get to hurdle over the ASP because they've earned their GSP designation. And now they're ready to sit for the CSP. This is a very realistic scenario for a lot of our students and certainly worth mentioning.

Advancing in Your Career

When you put all this together, this also provides individuals an opportunity to advance in their career. Generally people with CSPs hold higher positions within an organization with respect to the safety and health organizational structure within a given company or governmental agency. Having that CSP designation gives individuals an edge over the competition when it comes to applying for those higher-level positions.

Related to this is the salary of CSPs right now. The median salary for CSPs is about $109,000 a year, according to the Board of Certified Safety Professionals. That's generally because people with CSPs tend to be able to bid for these higher-level organizational positions in the occupational safety and health structure. You don't necessarily have to have a CSP to step up the ladder, but having the CSP certainly helps. That's one good thing about getting the CSP sooner rather than later, and CSU helps to facilitate moving forward in your career and just doing better overall.

Conclusion

To recap, I discussed the BCSP and the CSP and went into a little bit of detail about what those acronyms mean and why the CSP is important. I talked a little bit about the QAP, the Qualified Academic Programs, and what CSU has been doing to improve our programs in order to earn the QAP designation from the Board of Certified Safety Professionals. I've also talked about CSU's Bachelor of Science program and how it can benefit you as a prospective student.

I do want to provide a quick cautionary note, and that is that it's important for people to do their research when it comes to putting forth efforts to obtain a safety certification. You want to know that the certification is going to be worth your effort and that the certifying body is recognized as a legitimate certifying organization by the safety and health community. When you're considering a certification, do your homework, ask some questions and make sure it's worth your while to pursue that certification.

References:
https://www.bcsp.org/resources/salary-survey
https://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/14770-salary-survey-2016?page=2
https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/29-9011.00

Q&A

We’ll start the question-and-answer part of webinar. It looks like there have been quite a few questions that have been asked, and I'm going to go through some of them.

Q: For the ASP, do you have to be currently employed in a safety-designated role to sit for the exam or does previous safety experience within the past year count?

A: This came up a little bit ago, and I actually went to the Board of Certified Safety Professionals site and looked just to make sure. You have to have one year of experience. It doesn't specify that you have to be employed at the present time to sit for that ASP exam. That's what I found out about that.

Q: If you were enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in occupational safety and health program before it became a QAP, but you haven't graduated yet, can you can you become a GSP?

A: We really don't have a way to do that. We had to start somewhere, and there just wasn't a way to do that with respect to the way things are done by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals. It's unfortunate, and if we could have we would have, but it just wasn't something that that we could make happen.

Q: Does the QAP apply to the master's degree?

A: At the present time it does not. We are batting that around as a possibility, but no decision has been made the present time. (Editor’s Note: In April 2019, the BCSP also recognized CSU’s Master of Science in occupational safety and health as a QAP.)

Q: Do I get a certificate to show that I've met the GSP qualifications?

A: Once you receive the degree, once you've graduated, you have to apply to the Board of Certified Safety Professionals. They're going to ask you for your transcripts. What you're going to need to do at that point of time is to contact CSU and get a copy of the current transcript. There's also going to be a letterhead document that says that you graduated from the Qualified Academic Program curriculum. You send that to the Board of Certified Safety Professionals and they will evaluate that.

Q: I'm a safety specialist at a coal fired power plant. What will be the most important thing to learn?

A: There are a lot of important things to learn if you work at a coal fired power plant. I worked for a power company for a few years and spent a lot of time in coal fired power plants. There are industrial hygiene issues, there are fire and fire brigade issues, and there are a lot of things that that specific industry has to deal with. I think our program is a pretty generalized program, and it hits on most of the topics you need to know something about.

Q: Do you offer ISO 14000?

A: No we don't offer that certification. We have a course in the graduate program that deals with safety management systems, not specific to ISO 14000 though it is discussed in the course.

Q: How does the CSP affect your career path?

A: One thing that our program does is it provides students with an opportunity to earn a degree while they're at work. It gives people an opportunity to move forward in their occupation and to get their degree at the same time. I think those two work and in concert and it can really benefit some students.

We're out of time now. I want to thank everybody for participating. Have a great day.

Related: 6 Reasons Why Online Degrees Are Worth It