Professional development

Job Outlook 2014

Students often find an environmental, health and safety major is the perfect mix of science and helping people – so why aren't more aware that EHS is a career option?


Marketing the safety field

Veltri said his department is developing a marketing strategy, specifically contacting undergraduate advisors in other university programs to establish outreach with them and their students. One effort already in place involves working with the schools of engineering, business and construction management to help educate their students about integrating EHS courses into their respective curricula.

Although Oregon State offers an EHS minor for undergraduates, Veltri said most students are at the master’s or doctorate level. That means he focuses on reaching out to working safety professionals who may be interested in obtaining an EHS graduate degree.

One of the distinguishing features of Oregon State’s EHS program is its emphasis on research, particularly in the areas of exposure assessment, risk characterization, control, prevention and management systems, Veltri said.

At Murray State University in Murray, KY, students can major in occupational safety and health after meeting the prerequisite course requirements, and the program is divided into three main tracks: safety, environmental and industrial hygiene.

John W. Wells Jr., assistant professor in Murray State’s Department of Occupational Safety and Health, agreed that the safety and health career is not well-known or understood by the public.

“A lot of people don’t realize the profession exists until they run into it at a university setting or they have a parent who knows of the position or the profession by merely experiencing it in the workplace,” Wells said.

His education experience was similar to many respondents of the Job Outlook survey, in that he switched career paths while in school. As a student at Murray State in 1983, Wells started out in geology, but said he reconsidered when the oil boom came to an end a year or so later. He heard occupational safety and health had employment growth and paid well.

The outlook for the safety profession is still strong, Wells believes. This is supported by the 91 percent of Job Outlook respondents who said their job was “stable” or “relatively stable,” up from 86 percent last year.

Regarding salary, Wells said Murray State students with an undergraduate degree in safety typically start out earning $45,000-$55,000, and safety professionals with a graduate degree may make as much as $75,000. “The students are really in high demand,” Wells said.

> Next: What attracts people to EHS?

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