Every safety professional has a story and many follow a unique path into the profession. For some, it was a chosen major in their undergraduate program. Others may have been assigned safety as a professional responsibility. Still more may have had a personal experience that compelled them to enter the field.
For John Hoekstra, senior manager, corporate safety at Ingredion Incorporated, it was seeing the conditions his mother faced at her job that first made him consider a career in safety.
“A defining moment for me was when my mom was working at a plastics manufacturing company, and she was exposed to chemicals and developed irritation on her forearms. She ended up quitting because she was tired of coming home with chemical burns,” he says. “I remember thinking, there has to be something more that could be done to protect people.”
In the case of Carmen Castellon, safety consultant for the City of Evanston, IL, she took a slightly different route into the profession, one that required her to learn quickly on the job.
“My history in the safety profession started when I was offered a position as an EHS engineer at a gray iron foundry. Safety was suddenly part of my job description and I needed to adapt quickly to the new environment – baptism by fire!” she says. “That job cemented my foundation in safety and my desire to keep people safe. It happened quickly, but I knew that is where I wanted to be.”
Despite different positions in different types of organizations in various industries, the common thread that drives most safety professionals is a desire and commitment to keep people safe.
“Being a safety professional is one of the best jobs in the world,” says Sharon Kemerer, principal consultant at the Kemerer Group. “You get to prevent injuries, work with people so that they stay healthy and use all your skills to benefit employees.”
This sentiment is echoed by people like Bruce Schubert, CSP, CHMM, who says that his chosen occupation really comes down to two core elements.
“For me, being a safety professional boils down to purpose and passion,” he says. “We strive every day to prevent injuries, illnesses and fatalities. That is great purpose.”
Along with the personal satisfaction and gratification of helping people get home safe, data show that the safety profession offers financial benefits as well. According to the 2018 BCSP/ASSP Salary Survey, the median base salary for full-time safety professionals was $97,000, with 22 percent of survey respondents indicating they earned $125,000 or more.
Compared to the median income of workers in the U.S. during the fourth quarter of 2017, which was $44,564 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), safety professionals earn 74 percent above the national average.
You can learn more about the corresponding salary for safety professionals based on certifications held, educational background, job title and other criteria in BCSP’s Industry Salary Calculator.
In addition to a strong median base salary, safety professionals can increase their earning potential through professional development and certification. Survey respondents with at least one corresponding professional certification, such as CSP, OHST or CIH, typically earned $20,000 per year more than those without any certifications.
As more laws and standards continue to cite certifications, as well as being included in many job requirements, BCSP emphasizes the value that safety, health and environmental certifications bring to safety professionals and their organizations.
For those interested in pursuing a career in safety or advancing in the safety profession, ASSP offers resources through its online career center at assp.org. Users can learn about ABET accredited programs, find a mentor, search current job openings in the field and discover what it takes to become a safety professional.
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