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Working as a Safety Engineer

What Does a Safety Engineer Do

Health and safety engineers develop procedures and design systems to prevent people from getting sick or injured and to keep property from being damaged. They combine knowledge of systems engineering and of health or safety to make sure that chemicals, machinery, software, furniture, and other consumer products will not cause harm to people or damage to buildings.

Duties

Health and safety engineers typically do the following:

  • Review plans and specifications for new machinery and equipment to make sure they meet safety requirements
  • Identify and correct potential hazards by inspecting facilities, machinery, and safety equipment
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of various industrial control mechanisms
  • Ensure that buildings or products comply with health and safety regulations, especially after an inspection that required changes
  • Install safety devices on machinery or direct the installation of these devices
  • Review employee safety programs and recommend improvements
  • Maintain and apply knowledge of current policies, regulations, and industrial processes

Health and safety engineers also investigate industrial accidents, injuries, or occupational diseases to determine their causes and to determine whether the incidents could have been or can be prevented in the future. They interview employers and employees to learn about work environments and incidents that lead to accidents or injuries. They also evaluate the corrections that were made to remedy violations found during health inspections.

Health and safety engineers are also active in two related fields: industrial hygiene and occupational hygiene. In industrial hygiene, they focus on the effects of chemical, physical, and biological agents. They recognize, evaluate, and control these agents to keep people from becoming sick or injured. For example, they might anticipate that a particular manufacturing process will give off a potentially harmful chemical and recommend either a change to the process or a way to contain and control the chemical.

In occupational hygiene, health and safety engineers investigate the environment in which people work, and then use science and engineering to recommend changes to keep workers from being exposed to sickness or injuries. They help employers and employees understand risks, and improve working conditions and practices. For example, they might observe that the noise level in a factory is likely to cause harm to workers’ hearing and recommend ways to reduce the noise level through changes to the building or reducing exposure time, or by having workers wear proper hearing protection.

Health and safety engineering is a broad field covering many activities. The following are examples of types of health and safety engineers:

Aerospace safety engineers work on missiles, radars, and satellites to make sure that they function safely as designed.

Fire prevention and protection engineers design fire prevention systems for all kinds of buildings. They often work for architects during the design phase of new buildings or renovations. They must be licensed and must keep up with changes in fire codes and regulations.

Product safety engineers investigate the causes of accidents or injuries that might have resulted from the use or misuse of a product. They create solutions that reduce or eliminate safety issues associated with products. They also help design new products to prevent injuries, illnesses, or property damage.

Systems safety engineers work in many fields, including aerospace, and are moving into new fields, such as software safety, medical safety, and environmental safety. These engineers take a systemic approach to identify hazards so that accidents and injuries can be avoided.

For information on health and safety engineers who work in mines, see the profile on mining and geological engineers.

How To Become a Safety Engineer

Health and safety engineers must have a bachelor’s degree, typically in an engineering discipline such as electrical, chemical, mechanical, industrial, or systems engineering. Another acceptable field of study is occupational or industrial hygiene. Employers value practical experience, so cooperative-education engineering programs at universities are valuable as well.

Education

High school students interested in becoming health and safety engineers will benefit from taking high school courses in math and science, such as algebra, trigonometry, calculus, biology, chemistry, and physics.

Entry-level jobs as a health and safety engineer require a bachelor’s degree. Bachelor’s degree programs typically are 4-year programs and include classroom, laboratory, and field studies in applied engineering. Students interested in becoming a health and safety engineer should seek out coursework in occupational safety and health, industrial hygiene, ergonomics, or environmental safety. In addition, programs in mechanical, electrical, and industrial engineering, programs in systems engineering and fire protection engineering constitute good preparation for this occupation. ABET accredits programs in engineering.

Students interested in entering the relatively new field of software safety engineering may pursue a degree in computer science.

Many colleges and universities offer cooperative-education programs, which allow students to gain practical experience while completing their education.

A few colleges and universities offer 5-year accelerated programs through which students graduate with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. A master’s degree allows engineers to enter the occupation at a higher level, where they can develop and implement safety systems.

Important Qualities

Creativity. Health and safety engineers produce designs showing potential problems and remedies for them. They must be creative to deal with situations unique to a project.

Critical-thinking skills. Health and safety engineers must be able to identify hazards to humans and property in the workplace or in the home before they cause material damage or become a health threat.

Observational skills. Health and safety engineers must observe and learn how operations function so that they can identify risks to people and property. This requires the ability to think in terms of overall processes within an organization. Health and safety engineers can then recommend systemic changes to minimize risks.

Problem-solving skills. In designing solutions for entire organizational operations, health and safety engineers must take into account processes from more than one system at the same time. In addition, they must try to anticipate a range of human reactions to the changes they recommend.

Reading skills. Health and safety engineers must be able to interpret federal and state regulations and their intent so that they can propose proper designs for specific work environments.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Licensure is not required for entry-level positions as a health and safety engineer. A Professional Engineering (PE) license, which allows for higher levels of leadership and independence, can be acquired later in one’s career. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs). A PE can oversee the work of other engineers, sign off on projects, and provide services directly to the public. State licensure generally requires

  • A degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program
  • A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
  • Relevant work experience, typically at least 4 years
  • A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam

The initial FE exam can be taken after one earns a bachelor’s degree. Engineers who pass this exam are commonly called engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs). After meeting work experience requirements, EITs and EIs can take the second exam, called the Principles and Practice of Engineering.

Only a few states require health and safety engineers to be licensed. Licensure is generally advised for those opting for a career in systems safety engineering. States requiring licensure usually require continuing education for engineers in order to keep their license. Most states recognize licensure from other states, if the licensing state’s requirements meet or exceed their own licensure requirements.

Health and safety engineers typically have professional certification. Certifications include the following:

  • The Board of Certified Safety Professionals offers the Certified Safety Professional (CSP) certification, the Occupational Health and Safety Technologist (OHST), and a new certification called the Associate Safety Professional (ASP)
  • The American Board of Industrial Hygiene awards a certification known as a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH)
  • The American Society of Safety Engineers offers a Certificate in Safety Management (CSM)
  • The International Council on Systems Engineering offers a program leading to a designation as a Certified Systems Engineering Professional (CSEP)

Certification is generally needed to advance into management positions.

Advancement

New health and safety engineers usually work under the supervision of experienced engineers. To move to more difficult projects with greater independence, a graduate degree is generally required, such as a master’s degree in engineering or a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree.

An advanced degree allows an engineer to develop and implement safety programs. Certification as a safety professional or as an industrial hygienist is generally required for entry into management positions. For more information, see the profile on architectural and engineering managers.

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Average Salary$81,887
Job Growth Rate5%

Safety Engineer Jobs

Safety Engineer Career Paths

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Average Salary for a Safety Engineer

Safety Engineers in America make an average salary of $81,887 per year or $39 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $114,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $58,000 per year.
Average Salary
$81,887

Best Paying Cities

Average Salary
Salary Range86k - 134k$108k$108,145
Salary Range78k - 117k$96k$96,299
Salary Range69k - 119k$91k$91,135
Salary Range68k - 116k$89k$89,162
Salary Range71k - 109k$88k$88,494
Salary Range68k - 105k$85k$84,838
$47k
$134k

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyCompanyStart DateSalary
Field/Safety Engineer
Field/Safety Engineer
Aerotek
Aerotek
09/28/2020
09/28/2020
$83,48009/28/2020
$83,480
Safety Engineer
Safety Engineer
Randstad
Randstad
09/17/2020
09/17/2020
$50,00009/17/2020
$50,000
Traffic Safety Engineer
Traffic Safety Engineer
Prince William County Government
Prince William County Government
09/16/2020
09/16/2020
$66,74209/16/2020
$66,742
Safety Engineer Pressure Vessels 4261 C
Safety Engineer Pressure Vessels 4261 C
The City of Los Angeles
The City of Los Angeles
09/12/2020
09/12/2020
$106,73809/12/2020
$106,738
Nuclear Safety Engineer II
Nuclear Safety Engineer II
State of Illinois
State of Illinois
08/21/2020
08/21/2020
$87,45608/21/2020
$87,456
See More Recent Salaries

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Safety Engineer Demographics

Gender

male

77.4%

female

18.6%

unknown

3.9%

Ethnicity

White

73.3%

Asian

10.3%

Hispanic or Latino

9.8%

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

55.0%

French

7.5%

German

5.0%
See More Demographics

Safety Engineer Education

Degrees

Bachelors

55.4%

Masters

27.5%

Associate

5.1%

Top Colleges for Safety Engineers

1. University of Connecticut

Storrs, CT

Tuition and fees
$15,730
Enrollment
18,830

2. San Diego State University

San Diego, CA

Tuition and fees
$7,488
Enrollment
30,018

3. Purdue University

West Lafayette, IN

Tuition and fees
$9,992
Enrollment
33,495

4. San Jose State University

San Jose, CA

Tuition and fees
$7,796
Enrollment
27,125

5. University of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, PA

Tuition and fees
$19,080
Enrollment
19,127

6. Worldwide Campus

Daytona Beach, FL

Tuition and fees
$9,360
Enrollment
10,254

7. Missouri University of Science and Technology

Rolla, MO

Tuition and fees
$9,440
Enrollment
6,785

8. Eastern Illinois University

Charleston, IL

Tuition and fees
$11,803
Enrollment
4,631

9. University of Minnesota - Duluth

Duluth, MN

Tuition and fees
$13,366
Enrollment
9,108

10. University of North Dakota

Grand Forks, ND

Tuition and fees
$8,695
Enrollment
9,910
See More Education Info

Entry Level Jobs For Becoming A Safety Engineer

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Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Top Skills For a Safety Engineer

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 12.6% of safety engineers listed safety standards on their resume, but soft skills such as physical stamina and critical-thinking skills are important as well.

Best States For a Safety Engineer

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a safety engineer. The best states for people in this position are Nevada, California, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. Safety engineers make the most in Nevada with an average salary of $102,748. Whereas in California and Rhode Island, they would average $97,063 and $96,658, respectively. While safety engineers would only make an average of $96,105 in Massachusetts, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. New Hampshire

Total Safety Engineer Jobs:
128
Highest 10% Earn:
$137,000
Location Quotient:
1.3
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Nevada

Total Safety Engineer Jobs:
110
Highest 10% Earn:
$158,000
Location Quotient:
0.98
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Connecticut

Total Safety Engineer Jobs:
251
Highest 10% Earn:
$143,000
Location Quotient:
1.25
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Safety Engineer Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming a safety engineer. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

At Zippia, we went through countless safety engineer resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

Learn How To Write a Safety Engineer Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless safety engineer resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

View Detailed Information

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Top Safety Engineer Employers

1. Ford Motor Company
4.8
Avg. Salary: 
$55,286
Safety Engineers Hired: 
52+
2. Lockheed Martin
4.9
Avg. Salary: 
$78,520
Safety Engineers Hired: 
41+
3. Hensel Phelps
4.5
Avg. Salary: 
$60,536
Safety Engineers Hired: 
40+
4. Science Applications International ...
4.8
Avg. Salary: 
$78,245
Safety Engineers Hired: 
25+
5. METRO CHRYSLER CENT
4.8
Avg. Salary: 
$44,456
Safety Engineers Hired: 
24+
6. Altair Engineering
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$80,410
Safety Engineers Hired: 
22+

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Recently Added Safety Engineer Jobs

Updated October 2, 2020