How to Become a Safety Engineer

How to Become a Safety Engineer: Step-By-Step Guide

Although there are other paths to take, the most common way to become a safety engineer is to follow these essential steps:


1. Make sure you have the right personal traits for this work

2. Pursue an industrial engineering bachelor’s degree

3. Get work experience as a student via internship and co-op opportunities 

4. Get an entry-level safety engineering job after graduation

5. Earn “Professional Engineer” status and other relevant industry certification

6. Advance into roles of greater responsibility and pay, or into roles in related fields


Reading on below will give you a good idea of what you'll need to begin a career as a safety engineer in the United States or Canada. We've also included helpful information for this professional field, such as what you’ll be doing, what you could earn, and actual “Safety Engineer” job postings in your area!



What Education Will I Need?

To be hired on as a safety engineer, you typically need a bachelor’s degree in a field such as industrial engineering or industrial hygiene. An engineering degree inn other disciplines including electrical, chemical, mechanical, industrial, process, or systems engineering, also constitute good preparation for this career.




What is a Safety Engineer?

Safety engineers combine knowledge of industrial engineering principles, and of health and safety, to prevent industrial accidents and ensure that workplaces are safe. They take a proactive approach and monitor the general work environment, inspect buildings and machines for hazards and safety violations, and recommend safety features in new processes and products.



What Does a Safety Engineer Do?

Although their duties can vary from job to job, safety engineers are generally responsible for the following: 


• Making recommendations to senior management regarding changes needed to reduce health related problems, such as exposure to chemical, physical and biological hazards

• Investigating industrial accidents, injuries, or occupational diseases to determine causes and develop preventative measures

• Maintaining current knowledge of industrial health and safety best practices

• Inspecting facilities, machinery, and safety equipment to identify and correct potential hazards, and to ensure safety regulation compliance

• Ensuring that air quality, temperature, radiation and noise are compliant with health and safety regulations by conducting direct testing

• Compiling and analyzing statistical data pertaining to occupational illness and accidents

• Interpreting safety regulations for engineers, labour representatives and senior management

• Reviewing employee health and safety plans in order to ensure their adequacy



What Courses Should I Take in High School?

Excelling at math, (trigonometry, algebra, calculus, etc.) chemistry, biology, physics and environmental studies, will serve as excellent preparation for this career while you’re a high school student. Be sure to do well in these areas if you have the opportunity to take any of these courses. 


Success Tip: Excelling at coursework in these areas will help prepare you for the work involved in this career at an early age, and will help you qualify for industrial engineering degree programs!



What Certification Will I Need?

In many cases, safety engineers need to be certified by their local provincial, state and/or federal council of safety professionals, safety engineers, or industrial hygienists.


Certification often consists of completing a relevant degree program, completing a set amount of hours of work experience, as well as passing an exam. Please contact your local council, or research job postings (below) to find out more about certification requirements. 



Will I Need Professional Engineer Accreditation?

You won't need to have the Professional Engineer designation to be hired on as an engineer-in-training, which involves working under the supervision of a licensed engineer.


You will however, need to be licensed as a Professional Engineer (“PE” - United States; “P.Eng.” - Canada) in order to exercise direct control of a public project and to supervise other engineers and engineering technicians.


You will also need to have the PE/P.Eng. designation in order to sell your own engineering services publicly.



How to Become Accredited as a Professional Engineer

Licensing requirements typically involve completion of an engineering degree, completion of a set number of supervised working hours, and passing an exam. However, these requirements can vary, so please contact your provincial/state engineering association for full details on becoming licensed.



Should I Become a Safety Engineer? 

If you have the following personal traits you'll not only be well suited for work as a safety engineer, you’ll be a standout:


• You are competent and interested in math and engineering, as well as health and safety principles

• You have a proactive approach to work activities, and can motivate yourself

• You have the initiative necessary to gain an intimate understanding of customer needs and business processes

• You have the ability to take direction and make decisions independently as required to get the job done

• You have a co-operative and helpful attitude to colleagues and clients

• You have a reliable, consistent and mature approach to work

• You are willing to be responsible and accountable for the outcomes of your work

• You can instill confidence in clients and peers



What is the Salary of a Safety Engineer?

Health and Safety Engineers earn a median salary of $84,600 per year in the United States. Their salary can vary based on factors such as their level of experience, the amount of responsibility inherent in their job, the size and type of their employer, the region in which they work, and other factors. 



More About Salary Levels

As mentioned above, the salary level you could earn as a safety engineer can vary, typically depending on the following factors:


• Your level of education, experience and certification

• The level of responsibility involved in your job

• The size and type of your employer

• The region in which you work

• The industry in which you work

• Many other factors


Safety Engineer Salary - Alberta: According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, the overall average salary of Albertans working in the “Industrial Engineers” occupational group (which includes ‘Safety Engineers’) is $111,808 per year.


Safety Engineer Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall median salary level of Americans working in the “Health & Safety Engineers” occupational group is $84,600 per year. The lowest 10% of salaries are below $49,410 and the highest 10% of salaries are above $130,770.



What Types of Organizations Hire Safety Engineers?

Safety engineers are often employed by companies involved in heavy industry, such as manufacturing, mining, resources extraction and construction companies, as well as utilities providers. They may also be employed by government organizations (at all levels), as well as hospitals, biotech companies, pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, and of course, engineering and safety consulting firms.



What Safety Engineer Jobs Are Open?

Our job board below has "Safety Engineer" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. 

What Career Advancement Opportunities Are There?

If you demonstrate a strong work ethic, dedication and competence, you will have plenty of opportunities to advance into roles of greater responsibility and pay as you gain experience.


For example, you could eventually move into a supervisory or management role, or even develop and implement safety programs. You could also move into teaching and research roles, or become a consultant in the field of safety engineering, industrial engineering, or industrial/occupational hygiene.


Please Note: In addition to accumulating experience, advancement into some roles may require a graduate degree, or certification as a safety professional or as an industrial/occupational hygienist.



What are Careers Similar to “Safety Engineer”?

Listed below are careers that may be in the same field, or they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities as “Safety Engineer”:


Chemical Safety Officer

• Environmental Auditor

• Environmental Engineer

• Food Safety Auditor

• Industrial Engineer

• Public Health Inspector

• Safety Coordinator 



What Scholarships Are There for Aspiring Safety Engineers? 

The “Majors in Our Database Relevant for this Career” section below lists fields of study that are relevant to becoming a Safety Engineer. You can search for relevant scholarships by finding those majors on our "Any Field of Study Scholarships” page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!




Please consult the following resources to learn more about what it takes to become a safety engineer:


Occupations in Alberta: Occupational Health and Safety Officer.” (March 31, 2017). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 13, 2020.

Architecture & Engineering:Health and Safety Engineers.” (September 19, 2019). Bureau of Labor Statistics - United States Government website. Retrieved January 13, 2020.

Engineering Jobs:How to Become a Safety Engineer.” Will Charpentier (n.d.). Houston Chronicle website. Retrieved January 13, 2020.


Please Note: Some of the information used for this career guide was obtained from actual job postings, which due to their brief online presence are not listed here as references. 



Majors in Our Database Relevant for this Career

We have career guides for over 60 university majors in our database. Below we've outlined those that are most relevant to becoming a safety engineer. Click on the links to see what else you can do with these majors!


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