What Do OEHS Professionals Do?

If you are a self-starter who takes pride in your work and cares about people and the environment, then a career in occupational and environmental health and safety could be a great fit for you!

OEHS professionals apply their backgrounds in science and medicine to protect people in new ways. Because the field is so diverse, industrial hygienists are able to choose many types of work spanning STEM roles.

A future in OEHS may be for you if you are interested in:

  • Pre-med
  • Pre-pharma
  • Biomedical/biochemistry engineering
  • Biology
  • Physics
  • Nursing
  • Epidemiology
  • Toxicology

What Can You Do With An OEHS Degree?

Each day is different when working in OEHS, and your “office” could be a manufacturing plant, a pharmaceutical lab, an oil rig, a construction site, a railway, or a potential natural disaster site—the possibilities are endless! As an OEHS professional, your goal could be to:

  • Protect workers (and the environment) from oil spills at refineries
  • Prevent injuries at construction sites
  • Work with software developers in specialized health information technology
  • Help first responders and safety professionals better prepare for natural disasters
  • Consult with chemical manufacturers to ensure proper storage and compliance
  • Transform mining sites into more ‘green’ platforms, ensuring sustainability
  • Lead a scientific research firm in safely developing pharmaceuticals

A Student’s Experience: In high school, I wanted to be a biomedical engineer. I took a class in Industrial Hygiene, and the professor explained the upstream vs. downstream approach to solving public health problems. With this degree, you can prevent the problem before it occurs; help people before they even know there’s a problem. It opened up a new world for me.

Alessandra (Lexi) Pratt, MS
President of the AIHA Student Local Section Advisory Council, PhD Student, Department of Occupational and Environmental Health University of Iowa​

What Personality Types Are Best Suited for OEHS Careers

OEHS professionals often describe themselves as:

  • Competitive, ambitious, driven
  • Passionate, compelling
  • Global, internationally minded
  • Technical, analytical
  • One foot in white collar, one in blue
  • Practical
  • Inclusive and exclusive
  • Idealistic
  • Forward-thinking
  • Evidence-based, process-oriented
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Benefits of Pursuing an OEHS Career

  • Little to no tuition debt
  • High demand upon graduation
  • Higher-than-average starting salary, compared to other science or health-based careers
  • Strong career path

What’s The Next Step?

How Teachers and Counselors Can Encourage Students to Explore an OEHS Career

If you are a teacher or counselor, you should talk with your students about the growing field of OEHS and information shared on this website.

It’s important to reinforce that OEHS careers promise high job placement, with internships in natural resource, pharmaceutical and healthcare companies, oil and gas companies, mining, federal and state government departments, national energy labs and chemical manufacturing, among many others.


A Professor’s View: I was a pre-med student, biochemistry major in college. After job shadowing, I realized while I wanted to help people, medicine might not be for me. My junior year, I took an environmental health class which included OH&S, focusing on public health and prevention. I learned I would get to use the science, math and chemistry I love, and help people without being in a hospital. Now that I’m a professor, I strongly encourage my students to look into Occupational Health and Safety as a career. With a career in OH&S, there’s a career path, job placement, and no high debt after graduation.

Dan Autenrieth, Ph.D., CIH, CSP
Assistant Professor, Science & Engineering Montana Tech​

To help engage students on the topic, we encourage you to share this short presentation with them that focuses on the benefits of a career in OEHS, including scholarships, career opportunities, salary stats, typical job activities, and more.