posted June 3, 2019
For many companies, workplace safety isn’t only about avoiding accidents, but creating an environment that supports workers in avoiding accidents. That’s why so many businesses are hiring occupational safety and health specialists who have the knowledge and expertise necessary to create the safest workplace possible.
Although every company is different, most managers seek occupational safety and health experts who have at least a bachelor’s degree in OSH or a related field; some positions demand a master’s degree in the field as well. Along with formal education, a growing number of employers are looking for individuals who hold voluntary safety certifications. A certification tells employers that you have not only completed the necessary education, but you also have experience in the field and the knowledge required to pass a specialized exam. And because maintaining a certification requires continuing education, you will remain up-to-date on the latest standards, regulations, best practices and laws regarding safety and health in the workplace. Ultimately, putting the work into earning certifications makes you more employable and can contribute to higher earnings. < Click to Tweet
The question, then, isn’t whether you should seek certification, but which certification you need. Although there are dozens of options to choose from, the most well-known and widely sought-after are included in the following list of safety certifications:
Associate Safety Professional (ASP)
Offered by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals, the Associate Safety Professional is the entry-level certification. You need at least one year of experience in a role where at least half of your time is spent on safety duties and a bachelor’s degree. You can qualify for the credential with an associate degree, provided you completed 12 semester hours of coursework in areas related to the ASP exam. All applicants need to pass the exam for certification regardless of education.
Certified Safety Professional (CSP)
Also offered by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals, the Certified Safety Professional is the next level of certification above the ASP. It has similar requirements for the type of work you do, but you must have at least four years of work experience in the field and a bachelor’s degree is required. A CSP designation also requires applicants to have an existing BCSP-qualified credential, such as an ASP. If you meet the qualifications, you also need to complete the CSP exam and maintain your certification via continuing education.
Related: CSP Certification: How Your Safety Degree Can Get You One Step Closer [Webinar]
Graduate Safety Practitioner (GSP)
Although not a safety certification itself, the Graduate Safety Practitioner recognizes individuals who are on their way to earning the CSP credential and provides an alternative path to earning the ASP first. Students who are enrolled in a Qualified Academic Program – one that has been reviewed and approved by the BCSP – can receive CSP “credit” for the work they complete and a waiver for the ASP exam as a requirement for the CSP. After earning a GSP, you have six years to gain the required work experience and take the CSP exam.
Columbia Southern University’s Bachelor of Science in occupational safety and health was recognized as a QAP by the BCSP in October 2017. Then in April 2019, CSU’s master’s degree in OSH and its environmental management concentration also earned the QAP designation.
Certified Safety and Health Manager (CSHM)
Designed to recognize experience across the entire continuum of safety management, the Certified Safety and Health Manager is issued by the Institute for Safety and Health Management. To earn this credential, you must have both technical knowledge of the principles of safety as well as a foundation in business and financial principles, highlighting your understanding of safety and health as it fits into the overall management of an organization.
To earn the CSHM, you must have at least a bachelor’s degree and five years of experience in the field. If you already hold a certification with similar requirements, such as the CSP, you may not need to submit transcripts. However, you do need to have full-time work experience, with at least 50% of your time devoted to safety, and pass a challenging exam covering leadership, planning, management, preparation and other topics.
Related: CSHM Certification Can Boost Employment Appeal for Safety Professionals
Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH)
Awarded by the American Board of Industrial Hygiene, the Certified Industrial Hygienist credential recognizes an individual’s knowledges and skills in biological, chemical, physical, ergonomic and psychosocial controls to prevent injury or illness and ensure the well-being of employees. To earn the credential, you need:
- A four-year degree in industrial hygiene or safety, or biology, chemistry, physics or engineering, or at least 60 credit hours in science or math courses.
- Industrial hygiene coursework, including 180 academic contact hours or 240 continuing education contact hours of IH coursework with at least half of those hours in the areas of Fundamentals of IH, Toxicology, Measurements and Controls, plus at least two hours of ethics training or coursework.
- At least four years of professional experience – three years with an IH degree – with experience in two of the following: chemical, physical, biological or ergonomic stressors.
- At least two professional references who can confirm your experience.
Once you meet the requirements, you must pass the exam in order to earn the credential.
Related: How to Become a Certified Industrial Hygienist
Certified Hazardous Materials Manager (CHMM)
If you will be working with hazardous materials, the Certified Hazardous Materials Manager designation offered by the Institute of Hazardous Materials Management is worth pursuing. Designed to demonstrate your knowledge and experience in this field, qualifying for the CHMM requires a bachelor’s degree as well as at least four years of work experience in hazardous materials or a related field and two professional references. Like the other certifications, the CHMM requires applicants to pass an exam.
In addition to these credentials, the major occupational safety organizations offer a range of additional certifications, many of them specialized for different fields. Depending on your career goals, any of these additional certifications may be worth pursuing.
Regardless of your certification goals, Columbia Southern University can help you on your way. CSU has built meaningful relationships with certifying organizations and safety-focused nonprofits, and its graduates are making an impact. Learn more about our comprehensive degree options for occupational safety and health by visiting ColumbiaSouthern.edu/Safety.