Safety Job Outlook and Salary Expectations

By Christina Thielst

Occupational health and safety professionals inspect workplaces for adherence to regulations and design programs to prevent disease and injury and/or damage to the environment. In 2016 and beyond, job growth is promising in this field.

Salary Expectations

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook , the median pay for occupational health and safety specialists in May 2015 was $70,210. The breakdown by work categories is outlined in the table below.

Federal government, excluding postal service $78,510
Professional, scientific, and technical services $72,490
Manufacturing $71,530
Construction $67,920
State and local government, excluding education and hospitals $58,830

Learn More About our OSH Degrees A survey of safety professionals by Payscale reported high job satisfaction and annual salaries ranging between $41,000 and $98,000. It was noted that those with advanced degrees and certifications or those who transition into environmental health and safety manager or similar positions could expect even higher rates of pay.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for occupational health and safety specialists is estimated to grow 4 percent between 2014 and 2024 by BLS. This is slower than average, but the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) offers an insiders perspective. They note that many people started their careers in safety after the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. The legislation increased attention to workplace safety and created new job opportunities; and those who entered the profession at that time have started to retire. As these aging baby boomers leave the field in larger numbers, ASSE anticipates there will be a need to meet the demand to fill open positions with newer professionals

The Payscale data, as well as Projection Central provides a state-by-state look at wage and job growth predictions. The two states with the highest job growth estimates are California (6 percent) and Nevada (4.2 percent).  

... 88 percent of safety professionals consider their job very or relatively stable.

ASSE’s projection is supported by Safety + Health’s 2016 Job Outlook, which reports that 88 percent of safety professionals consider their job very or relatively stable. Their survey of safety professionals found that 23 percent of respondents reported their department added staff over the past six months and 26 percent predicted their departments would add more staff during the next 12 months.  In addition, 23 percent reported they are planning or considering retirement in the next one to five years. 

Over the past two decades, insurance and worker’s compensation costs have risen and have become a financial concern for many employers and insurance companies. Private industry recognizes that these costs must be controlled and loss prevented in order for them to grow and sustain their businesses.  They are increasingly turning to safety professionals to assist with their self-assessment and enforcement of government regulations and company policies. Other factors that will continue to support demand for safety professionals including:

  • Attention to the importance of emergency preparedness, response and recovery
  • Continually evolving regulations
  • Emerging opportunities related to technological safety
  • Increase awareness of ergonomic impacts
  • Public expectations for safe working environments

Columbia Southern University offers a variety of online educational programs for those who want to enter the field as well as those wanting to advance their careers. Through their College of Safety and Emergency Services, students can obtain a certificate, associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree  in occupational health and safety. Learn more about Columbia Southern University’s certificate programs in occupational safety and health by visiting