October 8, 2020

OEHS Experts to New Grads: Consider Career in Rapidly Growing Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety

Susan Marchese, Managing Director,
Communications & Marketing, AIHA
(202) 256-8986 (Eastern Time)

October 8, 2020 (Falls Church, VA) According to the 2019 AIHA Salary Survey, the average starting salary among for occupational and environmental health and safety (OEHS) (which includes the industrial hygiene profession) young professionals beat the average starting salary for graduates ($50,044)1 at $58,300. This factor, coupled with a strong job market, is behind a new AIHA outreach initiative aimed at creating awareness and driving interest in OEHS careers.

AIHA, the association for scientists and professionals committed to preserving and ensuring OEHS in the workplace and community, launched a new website https://oehscareers.org/ with free resources for students, teachers and counselors interested in learning more about this dynamic profession. The site features videos of young professionals discussing their jobs as well as a list of universities that offer a degree in OEHS. Included is a reference to AIHA’s IH Professional Pathway program, an innovative resource that helps guide young professionals through the various stages of an OEHS career. And, for the younger students, AIHA’s IH Heroes initiative, a comic book style program that includes a web-based “smart” game, introduces the professional to students in a fun, educational manner.

This “behind-the-scenes” profession has been gaining visibility in recent months as a result of the essential work of OEHS professionals during the pandemic. “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. 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,” said AIHA CEO Lawrence D. Sloan. “More than ever, students and young professionals can see that OEHS professionals are on the frontlines protecting workers in every vocation and environment imaginable,” he added.

Beyond attractive starting salaries for entry-level professionals, students pursuing an OEHS career have an opportunity to earn full or partial scholarships at ABET and other regionally accredited universities. Graduates enter a rapidly growing field in which they can put their applied science to work and literally help save lives – a truly altruistic and rewarding career.

There are no specific curricula for an OEHS career. Students may enter the profession from a variety of backgrounds and degrees. Anecdotally, professionals who had originally pursued undergraduate majors in engineering, pre-med, pre-pharma, nursing, and basic life sciences (i.e., biology, chemistry, physics), may find themselves in OEHS.

“With an IH career you can essentially go practice in every imaginable industry sector that is out there, so there are a lot of different choices you can make,” said AIHA member Tim Paz in one of the videos featured on the website.

OEHS work is diverse and may require interactions with all levels of an organization, ranging from the shop floor supervisor to the business C-suite executive. The job venue ranges from a traditional office setting to a manufacturing plant or laboratory to an oil rig or even a construction site. OEHS professionals may assist a scientific research firm in safely developing cutting-edge pharmaceuticals, helping first responders better prepare for natural disasters, or protecting workers and the environment from oil spills at refineries.

This new micro-site also serves as a comprehensive resource for STEM teachers and career/guidance counselors, who may not be familiar with this career path.

About AIHA

AIHA is the association for scientists and professionals committed to preserving and ensuring occupational and environmental health and safety in the workplace and community. Founded in 1939, we support our members with our expertise, networks, comprehensive education programs and other products and services that help them maintain the highest professional and competency standards. More than half of AIHA's nearly 8,500 members are Certified Industrial Hygienists, and many hold other professional designations. AIHA serves as a resource for those employed across the public and private sectors, as well as to the communities in which they work. For more information, please visit www.aiha.org.

Take Action and Protection from COVID-19
AIHA has valuable resources for employers including a Guide for Recovering from COVID-19 Building Closures. Most recently in response to the pandemic, AIHA has introduced its “Back to Work Safely” initiative to help small businesses get back to work safely with industry sector-specific guidelines and resources. These free materials offer recommendations on control strategies including ventilation, personal hygiene, physical distancing, and enhanced cleaning and disinfection. Guidelines are available for the following industries (with many in Spanish):

  • Amateur Sports
  • At-Home Service Providers*
  • Bars
  • Business Services (i.e. banks, dry cleaners, cell phone stores)
  • Childcare Providers
  • Construction Sites*
  • Dental Office Settings
  • General Office Settings*
  • Gyms and Workout Facilities*
  • Hair and Nail Salons*
  • Institutions of Higher Education
  • Libraries
  • Museums and Collecting Institutions
  • Outdoor Recreation Activities
  • Physical and Occupational Therapy, Massage Therapy
  • Restaurants*
  • Retail*
  • Rideshare, Taxi, Limo and Other Passenger Driver-for-Hire*
  • Schools K-12
  • Small Manufacturing and Maintenance Shops
  • Small and Medium Sports and Entertainment Venues (i.e. mini-gold, arcades)
  • Small Lodging Establishments
  • Street Vendors and Farmers Markets
  • Transit Systems
  • Warehousing/Transportation
  • Worship Services

    (*Denotes Availability in English and Spanish)

1 Survey conducted by National Association of Colleges and Employers