Health Engineer Careers: Salary Information & Job Descriptions

About this article
The median annual salary for health and safety engineers is about $81,830. Read on to get information on job duties from real job postings to see if this position is right for you.
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What Are the Pros and Cons of Working as a Health Engineer?

Health engineers, sometimes called health and safety engineers, are responsible for overseeing the health and safety of employees in various kinds of work environments. See how this career measures in the following pros and cons.

Pros of Becoming a Health Engineer
Good pay (about $81,830 per year)*
Opportunity to work in lots of industries*
Helps keep people safe*
Average employment outlook (6% projected job growth rate between 2014 and 2024)*

Cons of Becoming a Health Engineer
Pressure to ensure work environments are free of hazards*
Some states require licenses*
Must complete an apprenticeship before being able to work full-time*
A graduate degree is sometimes needed to advance*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Essential Career Info

Job Duties

Health engineers are responsible for the safety of workers, and many work in the manufacturing and chemical industries. A health engineer assesses potential hazards and devises systems that ensure the safety of those working with potentially harmful material. For example, in the manufacturing industry, health engineers may make sure new materials are properly designed. In the chemical industry, they might develop protocols for handling toxic substances. Other daily tasks could include the following:

  • Maintaining safety policies and regulations
  • Inspecting industrial facilities
  • Investigating accidents and their causes
  • Reviewing production specifications
  • Improving current employee safety programs
  • Installing safety devices on dangerous machinery
  • Recommending new safety processes
  • Ensuring production plants pass health inspections

Salary

According to the BLS, health and safety engineers earned a median annual salary of about $81,830 as of May 2014; the highest-paid engineers in this field made upwards of $126,850, while the lowest-paid earned less than $48,260 (www.bls.gov). Industries offering the highest pay for health and safety engineers included oil and gas extraction, natural gas distribution, wholesale markets, manufacturing of machinery and the federal government.

Career Outlook

The BLS reported an expected employment growth rate of 6% for health and safety engineers between 2014 and 2024. Although health and safety engineers have been employed for a long time in industrial industries, many industries are applying health and safety engineering principles, which will spur growth in fields such as healthcare. Additionally, health and safety engineers will be needed in the relatively new field of software safety engineering, a field that moderates software that controls potentially dangerous machinery. The industries with the highest levels of employment in this field in May 2014 were nonresidential construction, engineering services, local governments, technical consulting and state governments.

Requirements

Education

A bachelor's degree is the minimum education requirement for an entry-level health engineer position. Engineering students will have to take many courses in math and science, including physics and calculus, in order to graduate. Other classes could include computer-aided design (CAD) graphics, analytic geometry, mechanics of materials, business law or electromechanical devices. You could pursue a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Engineering in this field. Most bachelor's degree programs take four years to finish, but 5-year professional programs are available.

Do I Need a License?

You normally don't need a license to work as a health and safety engineer, although some states require it. Licensed engineers are known as professional engineers (PE); to get this license, you must accumulate four years of work experience as an engineer in training (EIT) or engineering intern (EI), after which you must pass a licensing exam.

Job Postings

Health and safety engineers may be needed in many different industries, and some employers may require industry-specific knowledge or experience. In smaller organizations, a health and safety engineer may have many diverse responsibilities, while in a larger organization, your job duties could be specialized. Take a look at the following job postings from real employers to get a feel for what is required for this position in March 2012:

  • A health safety and environmental engineer was needed at an HVAC manufacturing plant in Auburn, GA. The primary responsibilities include establishing an overall health and safety mission for the plant and developing company-wide health and safety training protocols. The position required a bachelor's degree in occupational health and safety, engineering or a related discipline, excellent communication skills and knowledge of state and federal safety regulations. The Certified Safety Professional credential was not required, but was preferred.
  • A health and safety engineer was needed to make sure governmental health regulations are met from a conglomeration that included automotive, farm equipment and ship building companies in Marshall, MI. This position required a bachelor's degree and five years of experience in an engineering management role.
  • An electronics manufacturer in Lawrenceville, GA, needed a health and safety engineer to develop policies and safety manuals for its production processes. One could get this job with a bachelor's degree and a couple of years of experience.

How to Stand Out

One way to stand out is to earn a graduate degree. You could pursue a Master of Science (M.S.) degree program in occupational health and safety or a related field. These programs take about 3 years to complete and might culminate in a thesis or field research project.

You could also consider joining a professional organization. The American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), for example, offers professional awards and networking opportunities.

Alternative Careers

Occupational Health and Safety Technicians

If you want to work in engineering and you're interested in health and safety, but don't want to go to school for four years, consider pursuing a career as an occupational health and safety technician. In this position, you could assistant health and safety engineers. Occupational health and safety techs made about $46,000 per year as of May 2011. On-the-job training is the most common career path, although certificate and associate's degree programs are available. The projected job growth was 13% from 2010-2020.

Construction and Building Inspector

If you're interested in safety standards, but don't necessarily want to commit to a formal education, consider working as a construction and building inspector. Although bachelor's degree programs are offered in this field, the most common qualification is experience. Some states do require licensure, though. In this position, you would be responsible for making sure construction sites run efficiently and safely, making a median salary of about $53,000 per year as of May 2011. From the 2010-2020, the BLS projected, this career would grow by 18%.

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What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • PhD in Business Admin - Management of Engineering and Technology
  • Doctor of Business Admin - Management of Engineering and Technology
  • MSTIM - Engineering Magagement
  • MBA - Management of Engineering and Technology

What is your highest level of education?

Argosy University

  • Medical Technology (BS)

What is your highest level of education completed?

Penn Foster High School

  • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
  • HS Diploma

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The George Washington University

  • MSHS Medical Laboratory Sciences
  • MSHS in Immunohematology and Biotechnology
  • MSHS in Molecular Diagnostic Sciences

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