Becoming a Systems Safety Analyst: Job Description & Salary

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A system safety analyst's median annual salary is around $78,820, but is the job worth the educational requirements and student loan debt? Get the truth about job duties and career prospects to decide if it's the right profession for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Systems Safety Analyst Career

A systems safety analyst is a type of health and safety engineer, also known as a systems safety engineer. Read below for more pros and cons to the job.

Pros of a Systems Safety Analyst Career
Relatively high wages (mean wage of about $84,850 as of May 2014)*
Employment in a number of different industries, including construction, architecture and government*
Satisfaction from helping keep people safe*
Jobs are growing in new fields, such as healthcare and technology*

Cons of a Systems Safety Analyst Career
Requires a bachelor's degree, plus experience*
May require certification or licensure*
Investigations into safety breaches may be hazardous**
Graduate education might be required to advance to better positions*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net Online.

Career Information

As a systems safety analyst, you'll design, study and troubleshoot the systems responsible for keeping people safe. You must spend most of your time working in an office, but you'll also need to travel to work sites to assess safety systems in person. After you analyze a system, you'll make recommendations to improve the safety of the locations and ensure that they meet all laws and regulations. You also might determine if a place of employment poses any risks of accidents, injuries or other hazards.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that employment of systems safety engineers would grow by about 11% from 2012-2022. This growth was about average compared to all other jobs. Some of the demand for this job comes from the healthcare and technology industries' growing need for systems safety professionals who can prevent injuries and accidents and thus, save money for organizations in these fields.

Salary Statistics

According to the BLS, health and safety engineers made a median annual income of about $81,830 as of May 2014. The same year, the bottom ten percent of safety engineers made less than $48,260, while the top ten percent of workers made about $126,850 or more. Those safety engineer professionals who worked in the oil and gas extraction industry made the highest average wages, taking in about $115,560 per year.

Career Requirements

This job requires a bachelor's degree in an applicable field of engineering, such as mechanical, industrial or chemical engineering. Classes in occupational safety, risk factors, safety regulations and hazard controls can prepare you for entry-level jobs. More difficult projects and advanced positions often require a master's degree. Some states and employers may insist that you hold a professional engineer (PE) license or an industrial safety certificate.

What Employers Look For

For a job as a systems safety engineer, you need to be a team player with enough education and experience to understand the job's technical language. To give you an idea of what employers currently are looking for, here are some summaries of job postings from May 2012.

  • A Virginia government weapons manufacturer advertised for a systems safety engineer to design and support a new technology safety system. Qualifications included a bachelor's degree in engineering or science and experience working with laser systems.
  • In Washington, D.C., an aerospace research and engineering company looked for a systems safety engineer to provide a number of services, including technical support, system safety analysis and safety evaluations for launches. Requirements included a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering, knowledge of commercial space transportation and ten years of aerospace experience.
  • An advanced technology company in Colorado wanted a systems safety engineer to conduct hazard analysis and ensure that the company's products are safe for consumer use. This job required either a bachelor's degree and nine years of experience or a master's degree and seven years of experience.
  • An Arizona electrical and communications contractor looked for a life systems safety engineer to help plan projects that meet company and consumer safety guidelines. The employer preferred that candidates hold a bachelor's degree and two years of experience working in life safety.
  • An automotive company in Michigan advertised for a systems safety engineer to support the safety of electrical power steering development. Qualifications included a background in automotive engineering, a bachelor's degree in electrical or computer engineering and 3-5 years of experience.

How Can I Stand Out?

Taking math and science classes as early as high school can help you in college as you work toward your engineering bachelor's degree. After you earn an engineering degree, you may want to pursue graduate education to assume a higher-level position. You can earn a Master of Science in Engineering with a specialization in environmental health and safety engineering.

Licensing and Certification

You may or may not be required to hold a license or certificate, since it depends on your state and your employer. The BLS recommended licensure for those going into systems safety. Choosing to hold these professional credentials may give you an edge in the field. To earn a license, you must first earn an accredited bachelor's degree and take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) licensing exam. After a few years of engineering experience, you can qualify to take the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam, after which you'll be issued your PE license.

You also might wish to become a Certified Safety Professional with the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (www.bcsp.org). This typically requires you to hold a bachelor's degree and three years of safety experience.

Alternative Career Paths

Occupational Safety Specialist

Occupational safety specialists play a similar role as systems safety engineers, since they must also inspect and regulate employment conditions. Occupational safety specialists usually need a bachelor's degree and must have knowledge of employment safety laws. The BLS projected a nine percent growth for this job from 2010-2020, which was slower than average. As of May 2011, occupational safety specialists made a mean annual income of around $67,000.

Building Inspector

If you don't wish to fulfill the educational requirements needed to become a systems safety engineer, you can become a building inspector. These workers have advanced knowledge of state and local construction codes and laws. They must use this knowledge to ensure the structural safety and the legal compliance of buildings. Building inspectors generally need a high school diploma, experience in construction and a license or certificate (depending on their state). They should expect average job growth (18%) from 2010-2020, according to the BLS. As of May 2011, building inspectors made a mean annual wage of around $55,000.

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