Guide to Earning Your Occupational Health and Safety Degree Online

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Explore top-rated schools offering occupational health and safety degrees online, see what you’ll learn during your studies, uncover career paths after graduation, and much more in this guide.

Last Updated: 09/08/2021

Do you find yourself thinking about how to improve processes for keeping others safe? Do you enjoy problem-solving and proactively identifying things that could cause harm? If so, a career in occupational health and safety may fit your skills and interests. Whether inspecting a local power plant to ensure it operates according to environmental standards or working on a construction site to keep workers safe, these careers allow you to help others while earning a  good living. One of the most popular jobs in the field, occupational health and safety specialist and technician, brings a median salary of $70,480—more than $30,000 above the national median salary.

Online safety degrees provide all of the challenges of a rigorous curriculum with all of the convenience of learning from home. When you can keep pace with your studies and work around your schedule, you’re more likely to complete your degree on time and not incur extra educational expenses. Continue reading to learn about online degrees in occupational health and safety, common classes, available jobs, and required licenses and certifications.

Best Online Occupational Health and Safety Degrees for 2021

If you want to find the best online safety degree options for 2021 but don’t know where to start, we’ve got you covered. Our team pulled together possibilities for the coming academic year. We then weighed them based on factors such as accreditation, affordability, and flexibility to sift out the best online degrees available. Take a look at three of the top options and see how they fit with your needs.

1

Eastern Kentucky University

EKU

If you’re looking for online safety degree options at different educational levels, Eastern Kentucky University has you covered. The school’s online division provides a bachelor of science in occupational safety; a master of science in safety, security, and emergency management with a concentration in occupational safety; and a graduate certificate in occupational safety. Each program exists fully online and requires no campus visits.

The bachelor’s degree in occupational safety can be completed in as little as 2 1/2 years and includes opportunities for internships that help you build real-world skills prior to graduating. You’ll learn about topics such as corporate compliance, development of safety programs, and construction safety.

You can finish the master’s degree program in as little as two years and build both skills and knowledge in the areas of workplace risk factors, management techniques, hazard control principles, and risk identification and countermeasures. 

Lastly, the graduate certificate requires a year or less. It can help you gain the training needed to take on roles requiring knowledge of industry safety management, regulatory requirements for health and safety, and emergency management.

2

Columbia Southern University

Columbia Southern University

Alabama’s Columbia Southern University (CSU) offers online occupational safety degree programs to meet various learning needs without ever requiring you to travel for learning. Whether just starting your academic journey toward becoming an occupational safety professional or looking for an advanced online safety degree to prepare you for leadership roles, CSU provides options. Programs currently available include:

  • A.S. in Occupational Safety & Health
  • B.S. in Occupational Safety & Health with concentrations in construction safety, fire science, and oil and gas
  • B.S. in Environmental Management
  • M.S. in Occupational Safety & Health with a concentration in environmental management
  • The department also offers several safety courses designed to meet continuing education requirements.

The school first started offering occupational safety and health degree programs in 1993 and has continued building on its reputation for graduating professionals with the skills and training needed to keep employees and contractors safe. Whether you live in Alabama or elsewhere, you can expect to pay $235 per credit for undergraduate courses and $325 per credit for graduate classes.

3

Waldorf University

Waldorf University

Waldorf University offers several different, fully online occupational health and safety programs to help meet your academic needs. Whether just starting out, looking to advance your career, or seeking certification, Waldorf offers options for each of these scenarios. Current programs include:

  • A.A. in Occupational Safety
  • B.S. in Occupational Safety
  • B.A.S. in Occupational Safety
  • B.S. in Organizational Leadership with a concentration in occupational safety and health
  • Certificate in Occupational Safety and Health

The Board of Certified Safety Professionals has recognized the A.A., B.A., and B.A.S. programs. All online safety degree courses are taught asynchronously, meaning you can watch lectures and turn in assignments at times that work with your schedule. The university also brings together talented professors with real-world experience alongside coaches who ensure you receive the support and resources needed to thrive both in school and once you graduate.

Getting to Know Online Safety Degrees in Occupational Health

The majority of online safety degrees in occupational health can be completed without ever visiting campus, though some schools do provide hybrid options that combine both in-person and online learning. If the program you choose requires an internship, this must be done face-to-face at an approved site near your residence.

While associate and bachelor’s degrees cover foundational topics such as construction safety and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (commonly referred to as OSHA) standards, advanced degrees address more niche subjects such as industrial safety program development, probability, and waste management. We take a deeper dive into the various components of an online occupational safety degree in the following sections.

Common Classes in Online Occupational Health and Safety Degree Programs

Occupational health and safety degrees offer a wide variety of courses designed both to familiarize you with the discipline and help you build and hone specialized skills over time. Whether you’re working toward an associate degree or post-graduate certificate, the courses listed below are likely to come across your radar.

Fundamentals of Occupational Safety and Health

Typically taken during the first semester of studies, this course provides an overview of historical and contemporary approaches to occupational safety and health, looks at regulatory frameworks and standards within the field, and introduces common hazard assessment tools used by professionals.

OSHA Standards

A government agency, OSHA sets specific and strict rules around compliance; this course helps you understand those rules. Topics include common policies and interpretations, common violations, workplace compliance processes, enforcement procedures, and internal training programs.

Industrial Hygiene

This course helps you build the skills needed to anticipate, identify, evaluate, and handle conditions within a workplace that could potentially cause illness or injury. You will learn about scientific principles, evaluate management practices, familiarize yourself with common hazards, and develop the tools needed to identify potential areas of harm.

Occupational Safety Program Development and Management

This course provides the skills and knowledge needed to develop and implement an occupational health and safety program, either at your workplace or as an outside consultant. You will also gain the necessary tools to effectively manage these programs, including organizing ongoing training, meeting with inspectors, and ensuring your organization follows all safety regulations.

Advanced Concepts in Environmental Safety Management

If you plan to take the Certified Safety Professional or Associate Safety Professional examinations, this course helps prepare you for the material covered. You will explore the various codes and regulations guiding environmental safety, create recommendations for controlling hazardous materials, learn how to measure and evaluate potential hazards, and evaluate existing techniques to point out what does and does not work.

Paths to Earn Your Occupational Health and Safety Degree Online

Many schools now offer occupational safety degrees fully and partially online. Whether looking at a community college or four-year institution, your search should yield plenty of results to choose from. In the following section, we look at the benefits of each online safety degree level and provide three online programs to consider.

Online Associate Degrees in Occupational Health and Safety

If you think a career in occupational health and safety fits your professional goals but you aren’t quite ready to dive into a four-year degree, an online associate degree could be a great fit. These two-year programs provide an overview of foundational topics and allow you to pursue entry-level and support jobs after graduation. They also shorten the amount of time you’ll need to spend in school if you decide to pursue a bachelor’s degree later.

Sample colleges offering this program online:

College of the Mainland (Associate of Applied Science—Occupational Safety and Health)

Edmonds College (Associate in Applied Science—Occupational Safety and Health Technician)

Las Positas College (Associate of Science—Occupational Safety and Health)

Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Occupational Health and Safety

Bachelor’s degrees in occupational safety take approximately four years to complete and are a great option if you know you want to grow your knowledge a step above an associate degree. Found at public and private schools, these online safety degree programs meet many hiring managers’ requirements for jobs in the discipline. Many programs also offer specializations to help further develop the skills and knowledge you bring to future employers.

Sample colleges offering this program online:

Murray State University (Bachelor of Science—Occupational Safety and Health)

Oakland University (Bachelor of Science—Environmental Health and Safety)

Southeastern Oklahoma State University (Bachelor of Science—Occupational Safety and Health)

Online Master’s Degrees in Occupational Health and Safety

After working in the field for several years, you may feel ready to take on leadership, research, and/or academic roles. An online occupational health and safety degree at the master’s level requires two years of study and can help you reach this goal. Like bachelor’s level programs, many of these degrees allow you to specialize your knowledge in particular areas to stand out against other job competitors after you graduate.

Sample colleges offering this program online:

Indiana State University (Master of Science—Occupational Safety Management; Master of Arts—Occupational Safety Management)

Georgia Tech (Professional Master’s—Occupational Safety and Health)

West Virginia University (Master of Science—Safety Management)

Online Certificates in Occupational Health and Safety

Online occupational safety certificates exist as undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate options. Whether you’re looking to boost your knowledge in a particular area of the field, orient your existing education in a related field more toward occupational safety, or qualify for a type of industry certification, these programs can help you get there. Most certificates take between 9-18 months to complete.

Sample colleges offering this program online:

The University of Alabama (Health and Safety Management Online Certificate)

University of West Florida (Public Health—Environmental and Occupational Health Online Certificate)

Tulane University (Online Graduate Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety Management)

The Importance of Accreditation for Online Occupational Safety Degrees

Several different programmatic accrediting agencies exist within the world of occupational safety. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) Applied and Natural Science Accreditation Commission is one name to know, as is the Board of Certified Safety Professionals and the National Environmental Health Science and Protection Accreditation Council.

Institutional accreditation should also play an important role in your decision-making process. Both regional and national accreditation exists, with the former seen as the more desirable of the two. If you’re unsure whether a prospective school holds regional accreditation, search the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

Failing to attend an appropriately accredited institution and/or program can result in issues with transferring credits to another school, seeking certification, and finding jobs. Make sure you do your research thoroughly and find a suitable option.

What Can You Do with an Occupational Health and Safety Degree?

Completing an occupational health and safety degree online provides you with several different important and interesting career paths, regardless of academic level. Some graduates decide they want to work on the environmental side of things and focus on industrial waste disposal topics. Others pursue jobs as construction and building inspectors or OSHA consultants. Jobs exist in private, nonprofit, and governmental agency settings, making it easy to find a suitable role.

Occupational Health and Safety Specialists

Whether inspecting workplaces to assess employer and employee adherence to safety regulations or testing equipment to ensure safety, these professionals are on the frontlines of safety management. Most positions require a bachelor’s degree and averaged a salary of $70,480 in 2019.

Construction and Building Inspectors

Inspectors review building plans, visit building sites to ensure safety protocols are followed, determine whether electrical and plumbing systems meet code, and interact with construction managers to learn about protocols. They can issue stop-work orders if needed. It’s becoming more common for employers to seek candidates with four-year degrees. Inspectors earned an average salary of $60,710 in 2019.

Environmental Science and Protection Technicians

These professionals perform site visits to businesses, labs, and other settings to collect samples, measure levels, and install sensors to ensure no environmental, health, or safety hazards are present. They also work with others to ensure ongoing compliance. Plan to complete an associate degree; in 2019 the median salary was $46,540.

Fire Inspectors

After completing an associate or bachelor’s degree or working previously as a firefighter, you can take on these roles that paid an average salary of $60,230 in 2019. Responsibilities include identifying fire hazards, ensuring buildings meet fire codes, setting up and testing fire protection tools, creating evacuation plans, and conducting fire safety training programs.

Health and Safety Engineers

If you’re looking for a high-paying role, it’s worth knowing that health and safety engineers earned an average salary of $91,410 in 2019. These bachelor’s educated professionals create the procedures and systems that enforce safety and health regulations. They review specifications for new buildings and machinery, identify hazards, and make recommendations based on their findings.

Licensing and Certification After Your Online Occupational Health and Safety Degree

Licensure and certification requirements vary based on both where you live and the job you hope to obtain. Most states, for instance, require building and construction inspectors to hold licensure or certification. If you plan to work in a high-level role as a health and safety engineer, you might need to seek a Professional Engineering license.

You must also consider whether completing an online safety degree program in a state outside where you live will affect your ability to gain licensure. If unsure, you should check with the program administrator to learn which states have approved the curriculum.

In addition to required licenses and certifications, many different professional associations offer voluntary certifications that help you demonstrate advanced knowledge and prove to employers your commitment to the discipline. For example, fire inspectors may decide to seek the Certified Fire Investigator qualification from the International Association of Arson Investigators. You should familiarize yourself with professional associations related to your career choice and learn about voluntary certification offerings.

Occupational Health and Safety Online Resources for Students and Professionals

The resources listed herein can help prospective and current occupational health and safety students along with professionals.

  • American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP)
    The ASSP supports members by providing continuing education opportunities, industry standards, trade publications, advocacy efforts, and student support services.
  • American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA)
    AIHA provides access to local groups, mentoring, student groups, lecturer programming, continuing education, local and national events, and information on industrial hygiene careers.
  • Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP)
    If you’re looking for credentials to help set yourself apart from other occupational safety professionals, BCSP can help. The group provides eight different certifications and two designations to help demonstrate your knowledge mastery.
  • Certified Commercial Property Inspectors Association (CCPIA)
    CCPIA provides courses in commercial inspection standards, accessibility inspections, code of ethics, and other topics that lead to certification. You can also find training videos and articles.
  • National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
    Joining NFPA ensures you can access information on industry codes and standards, training and certification programs, public education training materials, toolkits, and industry research.
  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
    Operating under the umbrella of the Centers for Disease Control, NIOSH provides workplace resources, safety and health guidance, research, publications, grants, and training resources.
  • National Safety Council (NSC)
    In addition to hosting a safety congress and expo each year, NSC offers access to training and courses, workplace safety tools, and professional support.
  • Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S)
    In print for nearly 90 years, OH&Smagazineensures you know what’s happening in the industry. You can also access webinars, white papers, and other trade-specific resources at the website.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
    OSHA is the name to know if you work in this industry. On the OSHA website, you will find official standards, state plans, local OSHA offices, career information, e-tools, publications, and a safety and health topics database.
  • The Safety Pro Podcast
    If you’re looking to learn more about occupational safety and relevant topics, check out this regularly updated podcast that features interviews with industry professionals.