Shortage Projected in the Occupational Safety and Health Workforce
The national need for occupational safety and health professionals in the next five years will fall
short of supply by about 50% nationwide. This projected need builds on a deficit already in
place—nearly half of the employers who tried to hire in the last 2 years had difficulty finding
The fields encompassed by the recent survey include occupational health nursing, safety,
occupational hygiene, occupational medicine, ergonomics and health physics—all fields of study
available at the University of Cincinnati (UC).
At a time when employment organization and industry focus on emerging technologies poses
new stresses for workers, an adequate supply of educated professionals is essential to
maintaining a safe and healthful workforce to meet the challenges to employers.
Employers report the need for more than 25,000 occupational safety and health specialists
nationwide in the next five years, according to work completed in October by Westat, an
independent survey research group. Westat projects that training providers will graduate only
13,000 or 52 percent of the national need during the same time period. Midwest educational
institutions will graduate 3,100 to a labor market demand of the about the same size. In the
Northeast, South and West however, substantial gaps exist; and of course, some Midwest
graduates will move away from the region.
Employers noted that more than 25% of professionals also have responsibilities that include one
of the other disciplines. The ERC training model is ideal for addressing this need, as all
disciplines work on projects as a team. ERC graduates are ideally qualified to do some work in
other disciplines, while recognizing when a colleague’s specialized skills are needed. When
asked what was most needed to better prepare future employees, employers noted improved
communication skills. The UC ERC program of education includes frequent feedback from faculty
on communication work—thus the graduates from UC have a solid basis for success.
Barriers to higher enrollment include a lack of knowledge about the field and lack of funding for
the education. We are addressing lack of knowledge of the field through this recruitment effort.
Lack of funding is an on-going concern due to cuts to University budgets, but is heightened as
the Federal government considers terminating all funding through NIOSH for this purpose.
The disciplines offered at UC and through the 16 other ERCs are critical to meeting the
employers’ needs in building business and maintaining a safe and productive workforce. ERCs
provide an inter-disciplinary education; graduates communicate clearly and resolve both new
and established workplace challenges. See: