Health and Safety Engineer


Health and safety engineers are concerned with preventing harm to people and property by using their knowledge of systems engineering and mechanical, chemical, and human performance principles. They identify and measure potential hazards, recommend appropriate loss prevention measures, and develop procedures and designs to reduce the risk of illness, injury or damage. Beginning engineers typically work under a more experienced engineer, and as their knowledge and experience grows are assigned to more difficult and complex projects, which garners more independence. Some may advance to become technical specialists, supervisors, engineering managers or enter into engineering sales.

Health and safety engineers are required to have knowledge in engineering and technology, mathematics (arithmetic, geometry, algebra, calculus, statistics and their applications), administration and management, education and training, public safety and security, law and government, psychology, chemistry, English, and customer and personal service. Health and safety engineers must be able to apply critical thinking, time management and active listening skills, along with having high writing comprehension levels and originality. Oral expression, deductive reasoning, oral comprehension, problem sensitivity and speech clarity are all highly desired skills. Health and safety engineers should be enterprising, investigative, realistic, social and conventional, along with having a keen attention to detail, dependability, initiative, adaptability/flexibility, integrity and concern for others.

Most health and safety engineers work in office buildings, laboratories or industrial plants. Some may spend time outdoors, and some may travel to plants or worksites here in the U.S. or abroad. Many engineers work 40 hours a week, but there are times when overtime is required. Health and safety engineers also use tools such as air pollutant samplers, air sampling pumps, dynamometers, physiological recorders and decibel meters. Health and safety engineers also should be familiar with analytical or scientific software (such as computational fluid dynamics software), computer-aided design (CAD) software (such as electronic design automation software), compliance software (such as MSDS software), computer- based training software (such as HAZWOPER software) and database user interface software (such as Microsoft Access).


The majority of health and safety engineers are employed by state and local governments, and also in manufacturing. Job growth for health and safety engineers are in demand, due to increased concern regarding health and safety within work environments. Health and safety engineers will also be needed as new technologies are developed, in order to test the safety of those new technologies. All engineers are required to carry licensure if they offer services to the public.


Almost all entry-level health and safety engineering jobs require a bachelor’s degree in engineering. General coursework for an engineering degree includes a concentration of study in the specialized field, along with courses in mathematics, physical and life sciences, general engineering, a design course, social sciences and humanities. Admissions requirements for most four-year institutions include a strong mathematics background and science, along with classes in English, social studies and humanities.

Most college and university programs take four years, with the first two years focusing on mathematics, science, introductory engineering, humanities and social sciences. The last two years are spent studying engineering, usually with courses concentrating on a specialty. However, some engineering schools offer agreements with two-year colleges, where the college spends the first two years teaching the initial engineering education.

Some four-year institutions have agreements where the student spends the first three years in a liberal arts college studying pre-engineering subjects, and then spends two years in an engineering school studying core subjects. This allows the student to receive a bachelor’s degree from both institutions.