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Why choose health and safety as a career?

Find out about the benefits, the skills you need and how to get started

Do you want a job where you make a real difference? Then you should consider a career in health and safety. It’s a highly rewarding profession that involves supporting health and wellbeing and keeping workers safe so they can return home to their loved ones. You could even save lives.

Forget the stereotypes – it’s not just about clipboards and hi-vis jackets. Health and safety professionals are fundamental to modern businesses and play a key part in preventing workplace injuries, ill-health and deaths by managing the day-to-day risks that workers face.

They help organisations stay legally compliant as well as drive business processes and culture to create a sustainable, healthy and productive workforce.

It's never dull – a career in health and safety will present new challenges daily.

Career benefits

  • Job satisfaction and tangible outputs – you can make a positive difference to people’s lives, literally.
  • It’s a growing profession – businesses and organisations are investing more in occupational safety and health (OSH).
  • It offers a fantastic route into business management – health and safety professionals are classed as business professionals.
  • The basic principles of health and safety are easy to understand – including concepts such as risk assessments and hierarchy of control.
  • You will learn new skills – most health and safety professionals will have certain specialisms, based on the industry they are in. This can lead to developmental and training opportunities.
  • It’s a global profession, offering opportunities to work all over the world across any industry.

What makes a good health and safety professional?

  • Great communication skills – an empathetic and intuitive ‘people person’ able to understand the needs of a diverse group of workers, from entry level to senior management.
  • Analytical and proactive approach with attention to detail – risk assessments and identifying hazards are at the core of occupational safety and health.
  • The drive to learn. Occupational safety and health professionals face many different challenges, so be prepared for a lifetime of learning new skills.
  • Understanding how people think and feel. Health and safety professionals need to communicate and engage with people at all levels of an organisation, from frontline workers to CEOs.
  • Understanding how businesses work. The health and safety management role incorporates keeping workers healthy and safe, while seamlessly safeguarding the business and helping keep it profitable.

How to start a career in health and safety

Whether it’s your first choice, or you are looking to change careers, there are multiple routes into occupational safety and health. These vary globally, so do check the local labour market information in your country for specifics.

Straight from school

Some people start their journey straight from school or college and study for a qualification. This could be a university degree or an apprenticeship. These qualifications often provide opportunities for hands-on experience alongside formal study. You can view a list of IOSH-accredited qualifications and filter to your country of interest.

Career switch

Your current workplace might be your first step towards a career in health and safety. Some professionals start doing safety and health tasks as part of a wider role and take awareness-level courses (like IOSH Working Safely® or IOSH Managing Safely®) to support them. From there, many people gain additional experience and qualifications, and develop into a dedicated occupational safety and health professional. You might not even have specific occupational safety and health responsibilities in your current role, but if you have the right skills and attitude, you can undertake training to build your confidence and knowledge.

Entry-level roles

Most professionals will start as a health and safety officer or co-ordinator. These entry-level roles involve enforcing existing rules and standards as well as providing hands-on advice to management and workers on the best way of managing risks. These roles will help you develop your experience and gain qualifications to progress to a health and safety adviser, manager or even a director.

We are the world’s leading chartered professional body for people responsible for safety and health in the workplace, with over 50,000 members in 130 countries. We can give you the support and guidance you need, whether you’re a new or aspiring health and safety practitioner or a seasoned professional.

Future leaders

If you’re a student, aged 35 or under, or new to occupational safety and health, you’ll automatically be a member of our future leaders community. This gives you access to a range of specially developed content to help you reach the next level.