Occupational Health Degrees in Public Health

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Public health is applicable to a variety of different fields. Much of the attention on public health lies in fields that are tuned to the interactive and educational aspects of public health. However, certain aspects of society such as employment, call on professionals to assist with providing safe and efficient workplaces and manufacturing environments.

A degree in Occupational Health will prepare students to create healthier communities and workplaces, create and promote sustainable workplace environments, develop emergency response and disaster planning and much more. Organizations such as the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are key resources for individuals with Occupational Health degrees.

Featured Programs:

Online MPH at the George Washington University (MPH @ GW)

The online Master of Public Health (MPH) program from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University (MPH @ GW) prepares public health professionals to make a difference in communities around the world, helping students succeed in advancing the health of populations locally and globally. Complete your MPH in 12 months. GRE waivers available.
Click here for admissions information.

Online MPH at the University of North Carolina (MPH @ UNC)

UNC's Gillings School of Global Public Health, top-ranked on U.S. News' most recent list in 2015, offers an online Master of Public Health program, MPH @ UNC.
Admissions information at OnlineMPH.UNC.edu.

Master of Public Health (MPH) Online from Baylor University

The service-oriented Master of Public Health online program from Baylor University is now accepting applications. Complete the program in as few as 12 months. GRE scores are not required.
Earn a Master of Public Health Online From Baylor

Online Master of Public Health at Simmons University

MPH @ Simmons, the online Master of Public Health program from Simmons University, prepares students to become public health practitioners and address health inequity at a local, national, and global level. The program can be completed in 21 months. No GRE required to apply.
Admissions information at Online.Simmons.edu.

Bachelors in Occupational Health Programs

Each day millions of Americans come home from work safely in part because of the efforts of dedicated safety professionals. With a bachelor’s degree in Occupational Health, professionals who are passionate about human safety and environmental health will have the ability to help keep the working population safe. 

These 4-year programs are often found within a university’s school of public health and usually have GPA  and prerequisite course requirements before acceptance into the school. Personal statements and interviews might also be included in the admission process.

Once accepted into the school, this major prepares students for a variety of occupational safety and health program management positions in the private and public sector. The courses will teach critical thinking skills, hazard identification and prioritization, problem solving, cost effectiveness, professional skills in programmatic management, and safety and environmental regulatory compliance. Graduates should be able to pursue graduate study, participate in applied research, or transition directly into careers.

Curriculum for a Bachelor’s Degree in Occupational Health

The purpose of a bachelor's level degree in this subject is to introduce students to different methods for improving occupational health and wellness through awareness and health programs. Students at this level can learn how simple substances used in manufacturing and the methods included in the production can have detrimental effects on workers as well as the environment. Most bachelor's programs can take around 4 years for completion at full-time enrollment.

Bachelor’s level course work will consist of basic sciences, research methods, and environmental health courses. Electives may include zoonotic diseases, waste management, industrial health, and many other topics.

Internships are an important, although not often required as part of an undergraduate degree in Occupational Health. Receiving an internship and hands on experience is an important factor many employers look for in potential new hires. Having this experience ensures that what was learned in the classroom can be put into practice and provides a new learning environment. 

A few sample courses have been added below:

  • Intro to Occupational Health and Safety

This course consists of an overview of occupational and environmental health as related to anticipation, recognition, evaluation, and control of hazards in the workplace and the surrounding community. The course should also examines the legal aspects of OSH in the United States, the origin and application of OSH-related consensus standards, hazard identification and control, and tools necessary for successful management of OSH-related efforts.In addition, the principles of epidemiology, toxicology, exposure standards, and respiratory protection are discussed.

  • Health and Safety Management Systems

This course will teach students how to develop effective safety management policies, goals, and objectives. Students will learn to apply risk management principles to reduce the impact of workplace hazards and how examine management tools necessary to implement effective safety management systems.

  • Toxicology

Toxicology explores the basic principles associated with the toxic effects of chemicals on the living organism while examining the regulatory aspects and applications of toxicology in the workplace. Among the topics covered are the potential adverse effects of drugs, pesticides, food additives, and industrial chemicals.

Masters in Occupational Health Programs

A Master's of Public Health is a great way to get a degree in Occupational Health. Acceptance into most programs require a minimum GPA, successful completion of a bachelors in a related field, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement or interview. Most degree programs in this field require that students complete 1-2 years of education, with some requiring 50-60 credit hours for graduation. This program is usually offered in both traditional and online formats, making it a convenient option for students wishing to continue working while enrolled.

Students that choose to move forward to master's level programs may find that the degree program focuses on management, leadership, and research primarily. This will prepare a student for a leadership position with both private companies and governmental agencies. Careers for master's level earners can be found in positions that are responsible for oversight and supervision, making this degree program an excellent choice for those that wish to pursue high-level positions after graduation.

Curriculum for a Master’s Degree in Occupational Health

The Master's degree in Occupational Health builds upon what was gained in undergraduate degree programs. The course work will include public health courses that will ensure students have an understanding of how environmental and occupational health influences all other aspects of public health. Some of the courses within this program can become very specific to different aspects of the work or manufacturing environment. 

Research, community education, and policy analysis are some of the skills learned through this type of program. These skills will be assessed through a practicum or internship experience along with a capstone or thesis. Each of these will provide the hands on experience and research needed to work in Occupational Health.

Example courses are listed below this paragraph: 

  • Environmental Risk Assessment

This course introduces the fundamentals of risk, the relationship between risk assessment and public policy, and the perception of risk. It is designed to provide students with an understanding of the value of risk assessment and risk management. Students learn how to identify potential hazards, quantify associated risks using probabilistic methods, and incorporate both probabilistic and deterministic results from environmental risk assessment (ERA) into the decision-making process after taking into consideration risk-to-risk trade-offs and societal, environmental, and economic consequences. 

  • Exposure Science

Exposure science plays a critical role in risk assessment, epidemiology, and health interventions. This course is designed to teach students a variety of techniques that can be used to measure or estimate human exposures to hazardous substances in both occupational and community environments, such as pathway analysis and exposure biomarkers. By the end of the course, students will have developed the skills for designing exposure studies applicable to epidemiologic investigations and health risk assessment.

  • Fundamentals of Industrial Hygiene 

This course provides an introduction to industrial hygiene and allow students to understand the techniques of identifying and measuring occupational hazards in various industries and settings. The course will focus on the concepts, terminology, and methodology of the field and students will develop skills for evaluating exposures and identifying resource materials. Depending on the program, an emphasis will be placed on: air sampling, ergonomics, industrial noise monitoring techniques and controls for industrial hazards, as well as basic calculations.

Doctorate in Occupational Health Programs

A Doctoral degree in Occupational Health is for the individual who has a master’s degree and is aspiring to be in a higher leadership position or academia,. This program is also well suited for those interested in pursuing research-oriented careers or those involved in developing and implementing  programs to increase safety in the workplace. Those who are currently working in the field find online programs in occupational health to be a more convenient option for higher education that can provide convenience that is complementary to their busy lifestyles.

Curriculum for a Doctorate Degree in Occupational Health

Students enrolled in these doctorate programs will develop skills needed to create policies and regulations, assess case studies, and provide insight into safety practices, hazard recognition, illness prevention at regional, national, and international levels. For students to gain these skills the coursework will focus on epidemiological methods, statistical reasoning, and data analysis. In addition to these, courses in ethics, law, research methods, public health policy and public health regulations will be taken. Through individual research, students can develop a more refined expertise in this field, making them an invaluable asset to companies and organizations that specialize in manufacturing, construction, and more. 

Coursework can change depending on program and specialty, but some of the most common courses at this level are listed below:

  • Occupational Exposure Assessment 

This course helps students identify all potential environmental risks within a working environment. In addition to the risks, students may learn about the different methods for acquiring hazards, such as through the nose, mouth, skin, etc. Students can learn how to properly analyze a potentially hazardous environment as well as the steps to take if an assessment returns positive results.

  • Problems and Solutions with Industrial Hygiene 

Students taking this class may investigate some of the common issues that arise in industrial hygiene careers. During classroom activities, students can take the lead in determining potential hazards, prevention strategies, and methods for responding to exposure. Case studies may be a large portion of this class, including some individual and group activities that require students to determine proper methods for safety depending on the study.

  • Advanced Evaluation of Occupational Hazards

This course outlines in detail some of OSHA's general standards and how they relate to occupational hazards. Students may take a deep look into flammable liquids, gasses, or the use of petroleum in the manufacturing environment. Proper protocol and prevention measures can be discussed, as well as individual critical thinking projects.

Occupational Health Career Options, Salary, and Employment Information

An individual may consider a degree in Occupational Health because of the high demand for workers. Public opinion and concern is growing for the environment and occupational health making this field a desirable career path. Additionally, a career in Occupational Health will provide many opportunities to create policies and regulations that will keep whole population safe and healthy.

Careers available within this field can be found in companies that are responsible for following proper protocol during the production process as well as in private organizations that work hard to ensure that various businesses are abiding by safety policies. Consulting is another method that graduates can pursue as a career. Businesses often call upon consultants to evaluate the safety of their organization and provide insight into methods for change. Some of the more common careers in Occupational Health are listed below this paragraph, along with average salary information.

  • Health and Safety Engineers - $69,370 on average per year (BLS;2018)
  • Occupational Health and Safety Specialists - $89,130 on average per year (BLS;2018))
  • Environmental Scientist and Specialists - $71,130 on average per year (BLS;2015)

Who Should Work in Occupational Health?

Occupational health careers are best suited for those who are investigative, realistic and enjoy following procedure and routine. Not only will a career in EOH require the ability to conduct and analyze research, it also requires a fair amount of policy understanding, development and analyzing. Because of this, attention to detail, dependability, and analytical thinking are needed.

Types of Occupational Health Employers

  • Commercial and retail organizations
  • Consulting
  • Health care
  • Industry, heavy and light
  • Insurance carriers
  • Petrochemical
  • Regulatory and other governmental organizations