Educating Tomorrow’s Safety Professionals
Would-be safety professionals have their choice of hundreds of educational programs across the United States, from associate’s through doctoral degrees. As the profession evolves, educational offerings have grown and changed as well. Keep reading to learn about the latest trends surrounding accreditation and certification in the safety field.
The professionalization of occupational safety and health (OSH) is one of the hottest topics among leaders in the field today. Foremost among them is Jim Ramsay, PhD, currently a professor of security studies at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach.
This summer he will head north to become professor of security at the University of New Hampshire. Ramsay chairs the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) Educational Standards Committee, which is leading the charge for accreditation of academic programs. Recently, a national panel of experts came together at ASSE’s annual conference to develop consensus around knowledge domains and competencies as an attempt to define the occupational safety and health profession.
Accreditation: Why does it matter?
Despite progress, professionalizing OSH through accreditation has a long way to go, says Ramsay, who sits on the board of ABET. Of about 350 degree programs available nationwide, only 10 percent are currently ABET-accredited.
Why does this matter? Ramsay says the value goes well beyond the ability of a university to advertise its programs as accredited. “Recognized accreditation is the roadmap to professionalization,” he notes, pointing to engineering, medicine, nursing, law, and other professions that have taken this route. Ramsay notes with irony that the individual who cuts your hair may be subject to more professional requirements than the safety professional responsible for safeguarding workers’ lives and millions in company property.
“Safety is in the middle of a transition from an occupation to a profession,” says Ramsay. “We have the trappings of a profession like a code of ethics, peer-reviewed journals, and accredited professional certifications, including the certified safety professional (CSP).” What’s lacking is uniform distribution of expectations in higher education through accreditation. Ramsay laments the presence of loopholes that, for example, permit individuals to practice without a degree or without the CSP designation.
Benefits of certification
The Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) (http://www.bcsp.org) offers an avenue for career advancement through certification. According to CEO Treasa Turnbeaugh, PhD, the board provides examinations only and is not involved with the training or education around those examinations. Turnbeaugh says the BCSP is known as the “gold standard of certification” and provides seven certifications, from technologist to Certified Safety Professional (CSP).
Certification is a rigorous process. CSP candidates must have a minimum of a U.S. bachelor’s degree in any field or an associate’s degree in safety, health, environment, or a related field. This is in addition to 4 years of safety experience.
The value of certification is that it “demonstrates a level of competency around the knowledge and skills areas expected of the certificant.” Turnbeaugh adds, “Certification is highly recognized by peers in the industry and many jobs now require or prefer the certified practitioner.” She points to studies that show certified practitioners earn more than those who are not certified. As well, certification provides more advancement opportunities.
Are you interested in a career as a certified safety professional? Visit the Board of Certified Safety Professionals website for information on how to enter the field and advance along a career path.
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