AIHA, a group of occupational and environmental health and safety (OEHS) professionals, has launched a new website (https://oehscareers.org/) for students, teachers, and counselors promoting career options in the field. The group, previously known as the American Industrial Hygiene Association, pointed out in its website announcement that the average starting salary for young OEHS professionals, including industrial hygienists, is $58,300, a higher figure than the average starting salary of $50,044 for recent college graduates.
AIHA points out on its OEHS Science Careers website that the wide availability of scholarships for students in industrial hygiene programs offers incoming students the chance to graduate with little or no student debt.
Recruiting new safety and health professionals to replace a wave of retiring professionals remains a priority for AIHA, as well as for other professional groups, like the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) and National Safety Council (NSC).
The ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has brought renewed attention to the importance of the OEHS field, according to AIHA.
“COVID-19 has catapulted the OEHS profession into the spotlight, providing an opportune time for students to witness the critical work that these mission-driven, essential professionals provide,” AIHA CEO Lawrence D. Sloan said in a statement.
“Our members are experts in addressing this pandemic and are well-regarded leaders in such areas as workplace respiratory protection programs, fit testing PPE, cleaning/disinfection protocols, and engineering controls strategies,” Sloan said.
The OEHS Science Careers site includes a list of universities that offer a degree in OEHS studies and features videos of young professionals discussing their jobs.
While the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) has accredited bachelor’s- and master’s-level programs in industrial hygiene at many universities, AIHA says that students may enter the profession from a variety of backgrounds and degrees. Professionals who had originally pursued undergraduate majors in engineering, nursing, pre-medical, pre-pharmacist, and basic life sciences (such as biology, chemistry, and physics) may move into the OEHS field, according to AIHA.
The site also includes a link to AIHA’s IH Professional Pathway infographic, which outlines the various stages of an OEHS career, from student/intern and early-career professional to senior professional and emeritus professional.
The career website also provides resources for career/guidance counselors and
science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) teachers who may not be familiar with the OEHS career path.
The site points out that common OEHS work might involve:
- Protecting communities, the environment, and workers from oil spills at refineries;
- Preventing work-related illnesses and injuries at construction sites;
- Working with software developers on specialized health information technology projects;
- Helping first responders and safety professionals prepare for natural disasters; and
- Consulting with chemical manufacturers to ensure proper storage of hazardous substances and regulatory compliance.
The site also includes a link to the executive summary to AIHA’s 2019 Salary & Compensation Survey Results.
Over half of AIHA’s nearly 8,500 members are certified industrial hygienists, but the group also includes OEHS professionals with other certifications.