The Benefits of Specialized Training in Occupational Safety and Health

By Christina Thielst

In his 1776 economics classic, The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith describes the idea of “division of labor” as improving manufacturing workers’ efficiencies by breaking jobs down into individual components. In addition, he recognized more gains in efficiency when leveraging the unique skills and talents of workers. Over time, his ideas evolved into the more commonly recognized term “occupational concentration in specific areas of expertise”—or specialization.

Functional Specialization in OSH

Learn More About Online Safety DegreesThe field of occupational safety and health is one example of functional specialization. Employers have increasingly found value in hiring individuals with expertise in accident prevention and workplace safety. For some employers, there is also interest in sub-specialization—safety professionals who have developed more refined skills and experience to meet the unique needs of their workplace.

Developing specialized knowledge and skills can be beneficial for any professional in any chosen career.  Individuals who build a depth of knowledge beyond their initial training or existing experience acquire subject matter expertise that helps them meet the unique needs within their position. Obtaining certification in a specific area is also a professional distinction, proof of a professional’s commitment to continuous learning and personal development to employers and hiring managers. 

Why Specialize?

There are many reasons why professionals obtain specialized education and certification. The most common is to be more competitive...

There are many reasons why professionals obtain specialized education and certification. The most common is to be more competitive or qualified for positions within their current field or industry. For example, a new safety professional working for a trucking company might want to increase their knowledge of fleet safety, toxicology and accident investigations. Or, an existing occupational safety and health professional might also be interested in preparing for advancement into a managerial position. They might identify the need to sharpen their understanding of supervisory issues and expand their knowledge of the legal and industrial hygiene areas of safety.

Another reason is to prepare for entry into a new field or industry. Whether professionals intend to pursue a better paying job or to try something new or more challenging, specialization or certification can help ease these transitions. 

A third reason is to continually develop skill sets and build upon one’s resume as an occupational safety and health professional. Laws and regulations are constantly evolving, and additional training and education can help professionals stay on top of the latest trends.

There are a range of degree options available to prepare students for a career in occupational safety and health. Two specialized degrees offered by Columbia Southern University are a B.S. Occupational Safety & Health - Fire Science and M.S. Occupational Safety & Health - Environmental Management.

Another option for specialization is to participate in a certificate program. Students select four courses from the list of offerings which are designed to provide student learning on safety planning, analysis and decision-making techniques. This is a good option for those seeking more specialized learning.