Health and safety engineers held about 27,000 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of health and safety engineers were as follows:
|Management, scientific, and technical consulting services||4|
Health and safety engineers typically work in offices. However, they also must spend time at worksites when necessary, which sometimes requires travel.
Most health and safety engineers work full time.
Health and safety engineers must have a bachelor’s degree, typically in environmental health and safety or in an engineering discipline. Employers value practical experience, so cooperative-education engineering programs at universities are valuable as well.
Entry-level jobs for health and safety engineers require a bachelor’s degree, typically in environmental health and safety or in an engineering discipline, such as electrical, chemical, mechanical, industrial, or systems engineering. Bachelor’s degree programs typically include classroom, laboratory, and field studies in applied engineering. Engineering students interested in becoming health and safety engineers also should take courses in occupational safety and health, industrial hygiene, ergonomics, or environmental safety. ABET accredits programs in engineering.
Many colleges and universities offer cooperative-education programs, which allow students to gain practical experience while completing their education.
A few colleges and universities offer 5-year accelerated programs through which students graduate with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. A master’s degree allows engineers to enter the occupation at a higher level, from which they can develop and implement safety systems.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Licensure is not required for entry-level positions as a health and safety engineer. A Professional Engineering (PE) license, which allows for higher levels of leadership and independence, can be acquired later in one’s career. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs). A PE can oversee the work of other engineers, sign off on projects, and provide services directly to the public. State licensure generally requires
- A degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program
- A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
- Relevant work experience, typically at least 4 years
- A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam
The initial FE exam can be taken after one earns a bachelor’s degree. Engineers who pass this exam are commonly called engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs). After meeting work experience requirements, EITs and EIs can take the second exam, called the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE).
Each state issues its own licenses. Most states recognize licensure from other states, as long as the licensing state’s requirements meet or exceed their own licensure requirements. Several states require continuing education for engineers to keep their licenses.
Health and safety engineers can earn professional certifications, including the following:
- The Board of Certified Safety Professionals offers the Certified Safety Professional (CSP) certification, the Occupational Health and Safety Technologist (OHST) certification, and the new Associate Safety Professional (ASP) certification
- The American Board of Industrial Hygiene awards the Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) certification
- The American Society of Safety Professionals offers a Certificate in Safety Management (CSM)
- The International Council on Systems Engineering offers a program leading to designation as a Certified Systems Engineering Professional (CSEP)
Health and safety engineers typically have an interest in the Building, Thinking and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.
If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Thinking or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a health and safety engineer, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Health and safety engineers should also possess the following specific qualities:
Creativity. Health and safety engineers are asked to produce designs showing potential problems and remedies for them. They must be creative to work with unique situations during each project.
Critical-thinking skills. Health and safety engineers must identify potential hazards and problems before they cause material damage or become a health threat. Thus, these engineers must be able to sense hazards to humans and property wherever they may arise in the workplace or in the home.
Observational skills. Health and safety engineers must observe and learn how operations function so that they can identify risks to people and property. This type of observation and learning requires the ability to think in terms of overall processes within an organization. Health and safety engineers can then recommend systemic changes to minimize risks.
Problem-solving skills. In designing solutions for entire organizational operations, health and safety engineers must take into account processes from more than one system at the same time. In addition, they must try to anticipate a range of human reactions to the changes they recommend.
Reading skills. Health and safety engineers must be able to interpret federal and state regulations and understand the goals of those regulations so that they can propose proper designs for specific work environments.
The median annual wage for health and safety engineers was $91,410 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $53,650, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $143,880.
In May 2019, the median annual wages for health and safety engineers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Management, scientific, and technical consulting services||97,110|
Most health and safety engineers work full time.
Employment of health and safety engineers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
Health and safety engineers are employed mainly in construction, manufacturing, state and local government, and engineering and consulting firms. As buildings, products, and processes continue to become more complex and new regulations are created, these engineers will be needed to reduce costs, save lives, and produce safe consumer products.
For information about general engineering education and career resources, visit
American Society of Safety Professionals
Technology Student Association
For more information about accredited engineering programs, visit
For more information about the Professional Engineer license, visit
National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying
National Society of Professional Engineers
For information about protecting worker health, visit
American Industrial Hygiene Association
For information about certification, visit
American Board of Industrial Hygiene
American Society of Safety Engineers
Board of Certified Safety Professionals