A safe and healthy work environment is essential for productivity and employee retention. Quality control and safety specialists -- who can go by many different titles -- evaluate workplaces and procedures to ensure they are safe and design improvements when they are not. They also make sure companies and their products adhere to safety and environmental regulations.
Performing those functions requires a combination of training and experience, which often begins with quality control and safety degree programs. Here is a quick summary of what the programs entail and of some occupations in the field.
Quality Control and Safety Programs in a Nutshell
Quality control and safety engineering programs can include titles such as quality assurance, safety engineering or occupational safety and health. Whatever terminology schools use, most programs teach students how to anticipate, evaluate and control workplace and environmental hazards with a mind for public health and safety. Programs vary by school but often include the following courses:
- Current Issues in Safety
- Applied Occupational Health
- Risk and Safety
- Industrial Safety Engineering
- Quantitative Risk Analysis
Occupational health professionals commonly exhibit strong creative and critical-thinking skills, technological savvy, and strong leadership and communication skills. Potential quality assurance and occupational safety students can learn more about their options by contacting schools directly or visiting the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) online. OHSA is a branch of the U.S. Department of Labor that manages occupational health and safety standards in the workplace and education standards for professionals in relevant fields.
Careers in Quality Assurance, Safety Engineering and Occupational Health
A quality control and safety degree may qualify graduates for a number of occupations. Here are some examples, along with employment trends from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):
- Occupational safety and health specialists. Occupational safety and health specialists analyze work environments and procedures to ensure that they meet safety, health and environmental regulations. They may also form plans to protect workers from disease or injury and the environment from damage. These specialists can work in a myriad of settings, from offices to mines. The BLS reports that most occupational safety and health specialists possess bachelor's degrees and hone additional procedural and regulatory training on the job.
- Health and safety engineers. Health and safety engineers develop procedures and design systems that protect people from illness and injury and property from damage. For example, they might recognize and work to control chemicals that are health hazards to people. Health and safety engineers typically earn a bachelor's degree in an engineering discipline, such as chemical, electrical or safety engineering, though employers increasingly prefer candidates with advanced degrees. According to the BLS, while construction and manufacturing industries employ the largest share of health and safety engineers, the occupation is making inroads in areas such as health care, biomedical science and software development.
- Environmental scientists. Environmental scientists apply their natural science knowledge to protect human health and the environment. They may help to clean up polluted areas, advise policy makers or work with industries to minimize waste. The BLS reports that environmental scientists typically earn at least a bachelor's degree before entering the field, but those with a master's degree may have a better chance of advancing. Doctoral degrees are usually only necessary for those who work in research and development or academia.
Prospective students can learn more about their options by visiting OHSA online or contacting admissions advisors at schools with quality control and safety degree programs.
"Certificate and Degree Program Information," Occupational Safety & Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, https://www.osha.gov/dte/edcenters/certificate_listing.html
"Environmental Scientists and Specialists," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/environmental-scientists-and-specialists.htm
"Health and Safety Engineers," bls.gov, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/health-and-safety-engineers.htm
"Major: Occupational Safety and Health Technology," The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/engineering-technologies-occupational-safety-health-technology
"Occupational Health and Safety Specialists," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-health-and-safety-specialists.htm
"Safety and Occupational Health Applied Sciences," Keene State College, https://www.osha.gov/dte/edcenters/certificate_listing.html
"Safety Engineering," Dwight Look College of Engineering, Texas A&M University, http://engineering.tamu.edu/academics/degrees/graduate/seng