Occupational health and safety officers plan, implement and monitor workplace health and safety programs for a variety of industries and organizations. They also are called health and safety specialists, health and safety inspectors and other titles. To become an occupational health and safety officer typically requires a four-year degree in occupational health, occupational safety, safety engineering or a related area. Some employers might require only an associate's degree, and others might prefer that you have a master's degree. Some employers might allow you to substitute years worked in the field for education.
You also will need to be familiar with the applicable governmental regulations and laws concerning workplace safety if you want to become an occupational health and safety officer. If you live in the United States, knowledge of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards would be required, for example. Contact the governmental agency where you live for information about safety regulations and standards.
Employers might require their health and safety employees to have certifications from various organizations representing different health and safety fields. The credentialing or certifications offered by such organizations include those of a certified safety professional or certified health physicist and various certifications in environmental fields, microbial fields, infection control and more. Certifying organizations usually require candidates to have specific levels of education and experience. To help meet required experience levels, it can be important to look for college programs that provide internship opportunities.
There are several general characteristics that will help you to become an occupational health and safety officer. Having good analytical abilities to review statistical data and make decisions about health and safety issues is important. It is helpful to have strong communication skills to prepare reports and verbally communicate information. Being extremely ethical and responsible also is important in this job. Having a detail orientation so that nothing is missed, while also being able to understand the big issues, also is important.
You can begin working to become an occupational health and safety officer while you are still in high school. Taking classes in the sciences, such as biology, physics and chemistry will help you get accepted into college health and safety programs. Taking advanced or college-level math courses also will be beneficial. Getting strong grades in language arts programs also is important for this role. Learning another language also can be helpful, especially if it is a second language commonly spoken in your geographic area.