Health and Safety Engineers Overview
In general, health and safety engineers need a bachelor’s degree in engineering for entry-level positions, however some research positions require a masters degree. While starting salaries are some of the highest of all college graduates, health and safety engineers must complete continuing education throughout their careers to keep up with technological advancements. Jobs in the field are expected to grow at an average rate and overall job opportunities for health and safety engineers will be good.
Nature of the Work for Health and Safety Engineers
Using math and science, health and safety engineers develop economical solutions to technical problems. They link scientific discoveries with commercial applications to meet consumer and societal needs.
Often health and safety engineers develop new products. They consider several factors during the process from precise functional requirements to evaluating the final design’s overall cost, safety, reliability and effectiveness.
Along with design and development many health and safety engineers work in testing, production and maintenance. They supervise factory production, test products for quality and determine why products fail. Supervisors often take on entire projects or major components.
Health and safety engineers use computers extensively to simulate and test systems, produce and analyze designs, test quality, monitor efficiency and generate specifications for parts. Nanotechnology is also paving the way for new design principles.
By applying knowledge of systems engineering and mechanical human performance and chemical principles, health and safety engineers prevent harm to property and people. They use their expertise to identify and measure potential hazards including fire risk or dangers of toxic chemicals. Health and safety engineers may recommend appropriate loss prevention measures as related to probability of harm and potential damage. They may also develop designs and procedures to reduce the risk of damage, injury or illness. Some health and safety engineers work in manufacturing industries on product safety. In this field, workers must anticipate, evaluate and recognize dangerous conditions and develop appropriate hazard control methods.
Usually health and safety engineers work in offices, labs or factories. Some work in the field at production sites or travel to plants or other worksites.
A 40-hour workweek is standard, however deadlines can cause added pressure and lead to longer hours.
Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Health and Safety Engineers
Typically, health and safety engineers must have a bachelor’s degree in engineering or environmental health engineering for entry-level positions. However, some natural science or mathematics graduates can find work, especially when employees are in high demand. Often health and safety engineers earn a degree in electrical and electronics engineering, mechanical engineering or civil engineering. Then they can work in related fields following employment demands and interests.
Most engineering programs for health and safety engineers include course in sciences, mathematics, general engineering, design, computers, laboratory and even humanities and social sciences.
Beyond the typical 4-year bachelor’s degree, which many health and safety engineers complete in 5 years, there is a 2 or 4-year engineering technology degree. These programs include lots of hand-on instruction on the latest issues and engineering principles to prepare students for production and practical design work. Graduates can find similar jobs to bachelor’s degree grads though employers consider their skill level to fall between that of an engineer and a technician.
Many health and safety engineers obtain a masters degree in engineering or masters degree in business administration to broaden their education. They can then qualify for research and development programs and faculty positions.
The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accredits engineering and engineering technology college and university programs. To obtain a license, which is required in all states for those offering services directly to the public, health and safety engineers must graduate from an ABET accredited program. In addition, they must pass an exam and log 4 years of relevant work experience. Right after graduation, health and safety engineers can start the process by taking the first exam to become an engineer intern (IE) or an engineer in training (EIT). With suitable work experience they can take the second part of the exam.
Creativity and inquisitive and detail oriented qualities are a plus for health and safety engineers. They need to work well on a team and be able to communicate with others as they must work with specialists outside of engineering frequently.
Often, entry-level health and safety engineers work closely under experienced engineers and may even receive education or seminar training on the job. With experience and improved skills they will take on more challenging projects and gain independence. Later health and safety engineers may become supervisors or technical specialists. Others seek managerial or sales jobs.
Many professional certifications are available to health and safety engineers. They can help these workers advance to senior technical or managerial positions.
Top 10 Most Popular Environmental/Environmental Health Engineering Schools
1. Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland)
2. University of Florida (Gainesville, Florida)
3. Pennsylvania State University, Main Campus (University Park, Pennsylvania)
4. Michigan Technological University (Houghton, Michigan)
5. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (San Luis Obispo, California)
6. The University of Texas at Austin (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Austin, Texas)
8. University of Central Florida (Orlando, Florida)
9. Georgia Institute of Technology, Main Campus (Atlanta, Georgia)
10. Colorado School of Mines (Golden, Colorado)
Employment and Job Outlook for Health and Safety Engineers
Number of People in Profession
Changing Employment (2008-2018)
Employment is projected to grow about as fast as average (increase 7 - 13%).
About 1.6 million engineers are working and 25,700 are health and safety engineers. Jobs are found in a variety of industries including architectural, engineering and related services; professional, scientific and technical services; manufacturing; construction, telecommunications and wholesale trade. Governments employ 12 percent of engineers and 3 percent are self-employed.
Employers look to health and safety engineers to help optimize manufacturing processes and improve and update designs to keep up with competitive pressures and advancing technologies. They are needed to provide ideas to create improved products and more productive processes.
However, the globalization of engineering work and the outsourcing of engineering work may limit the employment growth for health and safety engineers.
Throughout their careers health and safety engineers must continue their education. Their knowledge of the latest technologies is crucial to their ability to deliver the best solutions and greatest value to employer. health and safety engineers who don’t stay current in the field will be at a disadvantage when it comes time for promotions or a new job.
Health and safety engineers are expected to have average employment growth in the coming decade with a 10 percent increase projected. Their services are expected to be in demand as health and safety within work environments is becoming a top priority and health and safety engineers help to make production processes and products as safe as possible. Health and safety engineers will be in demand as new technologies for processing and production are created to ensure they are safe.
Earnings and Salary for Health and Safety Engineers
The median annual salary for health and safety engineers is $74,080. The highest 10 percent earns more than $110,630, the lowest 10 percent earns under $44,050 and the middle 50 percent earns between $57,440 and $93,750.
Annual Salary for Health and Safety Engineers
On average, Health and Safety Engineers earn $74,080 per year.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook