This varied practical career brings you into contact with people, so you need to be a good communicator as well as a problem-solver
Occupational hygienists are responsible for identifying, assessing and controlling health hazards in the workplace. They understand how chemical, physical and biological agents may affect the health of the workforce and, in turn, the health of the business.
Workplace hazards can be:
Work is carried out in a range of settings, including factories, offices and building sites. You'll be concerned with controlling health risks in practical and cost-effective ways by assessing and resolving practical problems.
You'll need to concentrate on the short and long-term effects on health arising from both acute and chronic exposure to hazards, and will enable organisations to respond effectively to legislative requirements.
Occupational hygienists may also be known as industrial hygienists.
Duties vary between specialist areas and employers, but can include:
Salaries vary according to experience, type of employer and location. Some employers may provide additional benefits, such as a company car, health insurance and pension schemes.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours are typically 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, possibly with some extra hours. Weekend and evening work may be required occasionally.
Self-employment and freelance work as a consultant are common for experienced occupational hygienists. Specialisation is usually required.
Most employers look for candidates who come from a science or engineering-based background and who have a science-related degree, for example in pure mathematics, science, engineering or health.
In particular, the following subjects may increase your chances:
A degree is usually required but in some instances an HND may be accepted. This is likely to be at a technician level though and you'll need to take further qualifications to progress. Relevant HND subjects include physical and applied sciences and life and medical sciences.
Entry without a degree or HND is unlikely, but it may be possible if you have extensive experience in a related area and are willing to progress by completing further training and qualifications.
Postgraduate diplomas and Masters in occupational hygiene or health are available and some provide exemption from exams that are run by the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS). See BOHS University Courses and Qualifications for details.
Occupational hygiene is a second career for many people with them moving from jobs such as chemists, engineers, biologists, physicists, doctors, nurses or from occupational safety roles within other areas.
You will need:
Pre-entry experience provides a valuable insight into the realities of the role. As a start, you could look to take on health and safety responsibilities within a current part-time job to begin to learn about factors and risks that need to be considered.
Full-time students can get membership with the BOHS, which can give you access to professionals, updates on industry news and advice on the career and qualifications.
Some employers might look for experience in another science or engineering role, where you could have started to build competencies that help to lead to industry qualifications.
Employers of occupational hygienists include:
Consultancies may specialise in providing services for a particular sector, such as the construction or engineering industries, or offer support to a range of organisations. Many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) often use consultants to fulfil their health and safety requirements.
You can search for consultancies at BOHS Consultancy Directory.
Job prospects are good as roles have been created as a result of new health regulations. In addition, future hazards and problems need to be pre-empted and the risks reduced using occupational hygiene methods.
Look for job vacancies at:
You'll receive on-the-job training and will also usually be given the opportunity to work towards professional qualifications. Relevant Masters courses are available in subjects such as:
Search for postgraduate courses in occupational hygiene.
The BOHS offers the following professional qualifications:
Find out more about the routes at BOHS Examinations.
If you are a member, at any level, with the Faculty of Occupational Hygiene you need to carry out continuing professional development (CPD) to demonstrate your professional competence. BOHS has details of presentations, conferences and events to help with this and also provides an online portal for recording your CPD activities.
The opportunities for promotion depend on the nature of the company for which you work. Undertaking further training and gaining professional qualifications, such as those offered by the BOHS can help with career progression.
You can choose to specialise in a particular area of occupational hygiene, such as asbestos or legionella, or you could move into management, consultancy or roles within government departments.
With experience, you could become an independent consultant but you'll need to have built up a good list of contacts and may find this easier if you have a specialist area. It is also possible to develop a career internationally.
Lectureships and the opportunities to undertake research in academic departments may also be available.