How to Become an Industrial Hygienist (Breathe Easy, Work Safely!)

how to become an industrial hygienist

If you’ve ever been intrigued by the idea of ensuring workplace safety or wondered what it takes to become an Industrial Hygienist, you’ve landed on the right page.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll detail the EXACT steps you need to embark on a career as an Industrial Hygienist. We’ll discuss:

  • The necessary skills to excel in this role.
  • The educational background that can give you a head start.
  • Proven strategies to secure a job as an Industrial Hygienist.

So, whether you’re a novice in the field or a safety-conscious individual looking to upscale your career, keep reading.

We’re about to unfold the step-by-step guide to becoming an Industrial Hygienist.

Let’s dive in!

Contents show

Steps to Become an Industrial Hygienist


Step 1: Understand the Role of an Industrial Hygienist

The first step to pursuing a career as an Industrial Hygienist is to understand the role and responsibilities involved.

An Industrial Hygienist is primarily responsible for identifying and evaluating potential health and safety hazards in various industrial settings.

They focus on preventing occupational diseases and improving the health and safety of employees at work.

This role involves understanding and applying scientific principles to anticipate, recognize, evaluate, and control health hazards in the work environment.

These hazards may include chemical, physical, biological, or ergonomic hazards.

As an Industrial Hygienist, you may be required to perform tasks such as monitoring air quality, testing for harmful substances, and implementing safety protocols.

You will also be expected to educate employees on proper safety procedures and regulations.

This job role requires keen observational skills, a scientific approach, and the ability to communicate complex health and safety information in a simple, understandable manner.

Having a genuine interest in promoting workplace safety and a commitment to continuous learning about evolving health hazards and safety protocols is key to success in this role.

Understanding the role and its responsibilities can help you decide if this career path is right for you, and guide your academic and career planning decisions.


Step 2: Obtain Relevant Education

To become an Industrial Hygienist, you would typically require a bachelor’s degree in industrial hygiene, environmental science, chemistry, biology, or a related scientific field.

This foundational level education will provide you with the necessary knowledge of science principles, safety procedures, hazard control, and other related subjects.

In your undergraduate studies, you will take courses that cover various aspects of occupational health and safety, including toxicology, radiation, chemical hazards, ventilation, and environmental monitoring.

Lab work is often a significant part of the curriculum, and you may also have opportunities for internships or cooperative education, which provide real-world experience.

To advance your career or specialize in a particular area of industrial hygiene, you might consider pursuing a master’s degree or a doctorate.

Graduate programs usually offer advanced coursework and research opportunities in topics such as epidemiology, risk assessment, exposure science, and occupational diseases.

Whether you choose to go for a master’s or a doctorate would depend on your career aspirations.

If you wish to conduct high-level research or aspire to a leadership position in the field, a doctorate might be more beneficial.

However, if your goal is to practice as a professional industrial hygienist, a master’s degree would generally suffice.


Step 3: Gain Knowledge in Core Subjects

It’s important to gain an in-depth understanding of the core subjects that are vital for a career as an Industrial Hygienist.

These subjects include Chemistry, Physics, Biology, and Environmental Science.

A solid understanding of these subjects will allow you to evaluate and control environmental hazards in a variety of industrial settings.

Chemistry and Biology will give you a grounding in the nature of hazardous substances and the biological effects they can have.

Physics is necessary for understanding radiological hazards and noise pollution.

Environmental Science will give you a broad base in environmental issues and how they intersect with public health.

In addition to these, courses in Occupational Health and Safety, Epidemiology, Toxicology, and Industrial Ventilation are also highly beneficial.

These subjects will give you the skills to assess and control occupational health hazards and will be especially useful when it comes to working with businesses to ensure compliance with health and safety regulations.

Remember, the field of Industrial Hygiene is constantly evolving, so it’s important to continue learning and staying up-to-date with the latest advancements and changes in regulations.

Regularly attending seminars, workshops, and conferences can also be a great way to keep your knowledge current.


Step 4: Acquire Hands-On Experience

As an aspiring Industrial Hygienist, it is crucial to gain hands-on experience in your field of study.

This can be achieved through internships, part-time jobs, or cooperative education programs in industries like manufacturing, healthcare, construction, or government agencies where industrial hygiene is a concern.

In these settings, you will apply the knowledge and skills learned in the classroom to real-world situations, such as conducting safety audits, evaluating workplace environments, and developing strategies to control and eliminate hazards.

This experience not only gives you a practical understanding of the work but also allows you to explore different areas within industrial hygiene, such as chemical safety, ergonomics, radiation safety, or environmental protection.

Additionally, having hands-on experience provides opportunities to work with experienced professionals and establish networking connections, which can be beneficial for future job prospects.

Be proactive in seeking out these opportunities and aim to work in various areas of industrial hygiene to broaden your practical knowledge.

This experience will be a valuable asset when you’re ready to start your career as an Industrial Hygienist.


Step 5: Consider Certification

After gaining a substantial amount of experience in the field of industrial hygiene, you should consider obtaining a certification to enhance your credibility and increase your career opportunities.

One of the most recognized certifications for industrial hygienists is the Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) credential offered by the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH).

The CIH certification shows your competence in the comprehensive practice of industrial hygiene and your dedication to maintaining high standards of practice.

To qualify for the CIH certification, you need to meet the ABIH’s education and experience requirements, and pass the certification examination.

Earning this certification could make you more marketable to employers, and it may also lead to higher pay and advanced job positions.

Note that maintaining your certification will require ongoing professional development, so be prepared to commit to lifelong learning in the field of industrial hygiene.


Step 6: Attend Professional Development Courses

Professional development is an important aspect of a career as an industrial hygienist.

After gaining initial certification, you must continue to learn and adapt to the evolving landscape of industrial hygiene.

Professional development courses can come in several forms, such as seminars, workshops, conferences, and online webinars.

These programs provide updated knowledge on topics such as toxicology, industrial ventilation, occupational safety, and environmental hazards.

When choosing professional development courses, consider those approved by the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH).

Completing these courses not only helps you stay updated in your field, but also earns you Certification Maintenance (CM) points necessary to maintain your certification.

Remember that professional development is not only about learning new knowledge.

It is also an opportunity to network with other professionals in the field.

Attend conferences and seminars where you can connect with other industrial hygienists, share knowledge, discuss new ideas and build a professional network.

This could open doors to new opportunities, collaborations, and advancements in your career.

Always keep track of the courses you have completed and the skills you have acquired.

This can be useful when updating your resume or preparing for a job promotion.


Step 7: Join Professional Associations

Becoming a member of a professional association is a critical step to success as an Industrial Hygienist.

Associations such as the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) or the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) can provide valuable resources for career advancement, ongoing education, and networking opportunities.

Membership in these organizations will give you access to a wealth of knowledge from experts within the field, as well as the latest industry news and research.

They often host annual conferences, which are a great opportunity to learn from experienced professionals and to make connections with potential employers or mentors.

Additionally, many of these associations provide certification and professional development opportunities.

For example, the AIHA offers a variety of certifications for industrial hygienists, including Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) and Certified Safety Professional (CSP), both of which can be valuable qualifications for career advancement.

Joining a professional association is not only beneficial for your professional development, but it also demonstrates your commitment to your field.

Employers value professionals who are active in their industry and dedicated to continuous learning.

This dedication can make you stand out as a candidate for jobs and promotions in the field of industrial hygiene.


Step 8: Pursue an Advanced Degree (Optional)

While having a bachelor’s degree is sufficient to start a career as an industrial hygienist, obtaining an advanced degree can provide more opportunities for career progression and specialization.

Some industrial hygienists choose to pursue a master’s degree in industrial hygiene, environmental science, or public health.

These programs often provide a more in-depth understanding of the science and practice of industrial hygiene.

A master’s degree program will typically involve advanced coursework in areas such as toxicology, ventilation, ergonomics, and occupational health.

Depending on the program, you may also have the option to complete a thesis or a capstone project, which can provide valuable research experience.

In addition to a master’s degree, some industrial hygienists also pursue a doctorate, particularly if they are interested in research or teaching roles.

A doctoral program would provide an even deeper understanding of the field and would typically involve conducting original research in industrial hygiene.

Remember that while obtaining an advanced degree can provide additional career opportunities, it’s not necessary for all roles in industrial hygiene.

Before deciding to pursue an advanced degree, consider your career goals and whether an advanced degree would help you to achieve them.


Step 9: Develop Strong Analytical and Communication Skills

As an Industrial Hygienist, you’ll need to develop strong analytical skills to effectively assess hazards and risks, interpret data, and make informed decisions.

In addition, good problem-solving abilities will help you come up with feasible solutions to potential workplace hazards.

You’ll also need to hone excellent communication skills.

Part of your role as an Industrial Hygienist will involve explaining complex concepts about safety protocols, chemical properties, and hazard mitigation to a wide range of people, from workers on the factory floor to upper management.

You must be able to convey these ideas clearly and effectively to ensure that all parties understand the importance of adhering to health and safety regulations.

This may involve creating training materials, conducting safety presentations, or writing detailed reports.

To develop these skills, consider courses or workshops in analytics, problem-solving, and effective communication.

You can also gain experience by volunteering or interning in roles that require such skills.

Over time, with practice, these important skills will become second nature.


Step 10: Stay Current with Regulations and Technologies

An industrial hygienist’s role is closely tied to the regulations and standards that govern the industry.

These regulations are often updated to reflect the latest scientific research, changes in industrial processes, or societal concerns.

Therefore, it is crucial that you stay up-to-date with the latest changes in regulations and guidelines.

Professional organizations such as the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regularly update their standards and provide resources for members to stay informed.

Attending conferences, seminars, and workshops sponsored by these organizations can provide valuable insights into the latest trends and developments.

Moreover, advances in technology greatly impact the field of industrial hygiene.

From the development of more effective personal protective equipment (PPE) to sophisticated detection and monitoring instruments, understanding and utilizing the latest technologies is crucial for an industrial hygienist.

You should regularly read industry journals, attend trainings, and participate in webinars to familiarize yourself with these new technologies.

Additionally, you can take advantage of continuing education opportunities to learn about the latest innovations in industrial hygiene.

This will ensure that you can effectively protect workers and the environment from potential hazards.

Remember, as an industrial hygienist, your learning never stops.

Continual learning and staying abreast of the latest developments in your field is key to your professional growth and effectiveness.


Step 11: Apply for Industrial Hygienist Positions

After completing your education and acquiring relevant certifications, it’s time to embark on your professional journey as an industrial hygienist.

There are various industries you can work in such as manufacturing, healthcare, construction, government, and consulting firms.

Begin by doing your research.

Look at various job postings to understand what employers are looking for and tailor your resume and cover letter to fit those needs.

Don’t limit your job search to just one resource, utilize online job boards, company websites, and networking events to find open positions.

When applying, make sure to highlight your relevant skills, training, and experience.

Include any specific projects or research you’ve done that is applicable to the position.

Don’t forget to mention any certifications or licenses you hold, as these are usually important to employers.

After you’ve applied, follow up on your applications and prepare for potential interviews.

Review common interview questions for industrial hygienists and rehearse your responses.

Be ready to discuss your knowledge of safety standards, environmental laws, and the ability to conduct thorough investigations and audits.

This is also the time to showcase your problem-solving skills and your ability to work under pressure.

Remember, the job application process can take some time, so be patient and persistent.

You may not get the first job you apply for, but with diligence and determination, you will find the right opportunity for you.


Step 12: Demonstrate Commitment to Ethics and Professionalism

As an industrial hygienist, you are expected to uphold high standards of ethics and professionalism in all your tasks.

This includes strict adherence to safety guidelines and regulations, maintaining confidentiality of sensitive information, and treating all people with respect and fairness.

To demonstrate your commitment to these principles, you could become a member of a professional organization such as the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA).

Joining such organizations not only provides networking opportunities but also access to resources that help to stay updated on best practices in the field.

You should also consider pursuing certification from recognized bodies like the Board of Certified Safety Professionals or the American Board of Industrial Hygiene.

This would further validate your knowledge and skills, and highlight your commitment to excellence and adherence to professional standards and ethics.

Always strive to act ethically in all situations, even when it is challenging.

This will not only protect the health and safety of others but also enhance your reputation as a trusted and respected industrial hygienist.

Lastly, continuing education and professional development play a vital role in maintaining high levels of professionalism.

Stay updated with industry trends, attend workshops, and pursue further training to keep your knowledge and skills up to date.

Remember, a professional is always learning and growing.


Industrial Hygienist Roles and Responsibilities

Industrial Hygienists play a crucial role in ensuring that workplaces are safe, healthy, and in compliance with laws and regulations.

They identify, evaluate, and control environmental health hazards in the workplace, and help protect the well-being of employees.

They have the following roles and responsibilities:


Hazard Identification and Assessment

  • Identify potential health hazards in the work environment such as chemicals, biological agents, physical factors, and ergonomic risks.
  • Conduct routine and non-routine inspections and assessments of workplaces to detect potential hazards.


Risk Evaluation and Control

  • Evaluate exposure to harmful substances and conditions, using scientific equipment and methods.
  • Recommend appropriate measures to control exposure to these substances and conditions.


Health and Safety Training

  • Develop and deliver health and safety training programs for employees and management.
  • Educate workers about potential health risks in their work environment.


Regulatory Compliance

  • Ensure compliance with local, state, and federal health and safety regulations.
  • Maintain records of inspections and reports for regulatory purposes.



  • Work closely with other health and safety professionals, engineers, and management to implement effective safety practices and policies.


Emergency Response Planning

  • Help design and implement emergency response plans and procedures.
  • Participate in emergency drills and actual emergencies as a member of the response team.



  • Research new health and safety practices, technologies, and regulations.
  • Apply this knowledge to improve safety in the workplace.



  • Prepare and maintain documentation such as reports, recommendations, and training materials.
  • Communicate findings and recommendations to management effectively.


Continuous Learning

  • Stay up-to-date with the latest developments in industrial hygiene and safety.
  • Attend seminars, conferences, and workshops to enhance knowledge and skills.


What Does an Industrial Hygienist Do?

Industrial Hygienists are professionals typically employed in industries such as manufacturing, construction, healthcare, and government agencies.

They can also work as independent consultants.

Their primary role is to identify and assess occupational and environmental health hazards, such as chemicals, noise, radiation, and biological agents in the workplace.

They conduct inspections and collect samples to analyze potential exposure risks.

They design and implement programs to prevent and control these hazards, ensuring the safety and health of workers.

This often involves the use of personal protective equipment, engineering controls, and administrative controls.

Industrial Hygienists also provide education and training to workers and management about potential risks and protective measures.

They closely monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of control strategies and make necessary adjustments.

In addition, they are responsible for keeping up-to-date with relevant laws and regulations, conducting audits to ensure compliance, and participating in investigations of workplace incidents.

Their ultimate goal is to improve the work environment, protect workers’ health, and ensure that businesses comply with safety and health regulations.


Essential Industrial Hygienist Skills

  • Hazard Assessment: An Industrial Hygienist should be proficient in identifying and assessing potential health hazards in the workplace, including chemical, biological, physical and ergonomic risks.
  • Risk Management: They must have a solid understanding of risk management principles, which includes the ability to develop and implement effective control strategies to minimize workplace hazards.
  • Sampling and Analysis: Proficiency in taking environmental samples, as well as analyzing and interpreting the results is crucial. This includes air monitoring, noise measurement, and exposure to chemical substances.
  • Regulatory Compliance: An Industrial Hygienist should be familiar with occupational health and safety laws and regulations, and ensure that workplace practices are in compliance.
  • Communication: They need to effectively communicate with a wide range of stakeholders, including workers, management, health professionals, and regulatory bodies. The ability to convey complex information in an understandable way is key.
  • Technical Knowledge: They must have a good understanding of industrial processes, engineering controls, and personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Problem-solving: Being able to identify problems and develop effective solutions is a key skill. This includes implementing corrective actions and preventive measures to mitigate workplace hazards.
  • Research: Industrial Hygienists must have the ability to conduct and review research, stay updated with the latest findings and developments in the field, and apply this knowledge in their work.
  • Health and Safety Training: Providing training and education on health and safety topics to employees and management is an essential responsibility. They must have the ability to develop and deliver effective training programs.
  • Data Management: The ability to collect, manage and analyze large amounts of data is important. This includes using software tools to organize and interpret data effectively.
  • Emergency Response Planning: Industrial Hygienists need to be able to develop and implement emergency response plans, including procedures for dealing with accidents, spills, and other workplace emergencies.
  • Documentation: They should have good documentation skills for writing reports, maintaining records, and developing health and safety policies and procedures.
  • Teamwork: As part of a larger health and safety team, Industrial Hygienists must have the ability to work well with others, including health and safety officers, occupational health nurses, and occupational physicians.
  • Ethics: They should adhere to professional and ethical standards in their work, which includes maintaining confidentiality and treating all workers fairly.
  • Continual Learning: Given the evolving nature of industrial processes and health hazards, Industrial Hygienists must have a commitment to continual learning and professional development.


Industrial Hygienist Career Path Progression

The Foundation: Junior Industrial Hygienist

As a Junior Industrial Hygienist, your journey begins with gaining basic knowledge and practical experience in assessing workplaces for potential health hazards.

Your responsibilities may include conducting routine inspections, collecting samples for analysis, and assisting senior hygienists.

Here are some pointers for success:

  1. Knowledge Acquisition: Stay up-to-date with occupational health and safety regulations and standards.
  2. Communication Skills: Develop your communication skills, as you’ll often be required to explain complex information to non-experts.
  3. Attention to Detail: Be meticulous in inspections and reports to ensure that all hazards are identified and addressed.


The Ascent: Industrial Hygienist

After gaining experience and confidence, you’ll step up to the role of an Industrial Hygienist.

You’ll take on more complex assessments, develop and implement health and safety programs, and become an integral part of the occupational health team.

Here’s how to thrive in this stage:

  1. Problem Solving: Improve your problem-solving skills by identifying and addressing health hazards effectively.
  2. Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Work effectively with other professionals like engineers, physicians, and safety officers.
  3. Report Writing: Develop your technical writing skills for clear and concise report generation and recommendations.


Reaching New Heights: Senior Industrial Hygienist

Next up is the Senior Industrial Hygienist role where you’re recognized for your expertise and leadership.

You may mentor junior hygienists, lead assessments of complex environments, and oversee health and safety programs.

To excel as a Senior Industrial Hygienist:

  1. Mentorship: Share your knowledge and help junior hygienists grow professionally.
  2. Strategic Planning: Plan and manage occupational health programs effectively.
  3. Leadership: Lead by example and inspire others with your commitment to workplace health and safety.


Beyond the Horizon: Lead Roles and Beyond

As your career advances, you might opt for specialized roles like Lead Industrial Hygienist, Safety and Health Manager, or even Consultant.

These roles involve greater responsibilities, leadership, and strategic decision-making.

Focus on:

  1. Technical Leadership: Drive health and safety initiatives and steer the occupational health direction of your organization.
  2. Management Skills: Develop your leadership and communication skills to effectively manage teams and projects.
  3. Regulatory Knowledge: Stay abreast of changes in health and safety regulations to ensure compliance and protect workers.


Pinnacle of Success: Director of Industrial Hygiene

The highest rung in the industrial hygiene career ladder could be a position like Director of Industrial Hygiene.

In this role, you’ll shape the overall health and safety strategy of the organization, make critical decisions, and manage larger teams.


Industrial Hygienist Salary

Entry-Level Industrial Hygienist

  • Median Salary: $50,000 – $70,000 per year
  • Entry-level industrial hygienists typically have 0-2 years of experience and usually hold a bachelor’s degree in occupational health, environmental science, or a related field.


Mid-Level Industrial Hygienist

  • Median Salary: $70,000 – $90,000 per year
  • Mid-level industrial hygienists have 2-5 years of experience and often take on more complex responsibilities in assessing and controlling workplace hazards.


Senior Industrial Hygienist

  • Median Salary: $90,000 – $120,000 per year
  • Senior industrial hygienists possess 5+ years of experience and are responsible for leading projects, developing health and safety protocols, and mentoring junior hygienists.


Industrial Hygiene Manager / Health and Safety Manager

  • Median Salary: $100,000 – $140,000+ per year
  • These roles come with significant experience and often involve managing a team of hygienists, overseeing the implementation of safety policies, and liaising with regulatory bodies.


Director of Industrial Hygiene / VP of Health and Safety

  • Median Salary: $120,000 – $180,000+ per year
  • These high-level positions require extensive experience, deep expertise in industrial hygiene, and often involve setting health and safety strategies for a company.


Industrial Hygienist Work Environment

Industrial Hygienists typically work in a variety of industries such as manufacturing, construction, healthcare, and government agencies.

They can also be found in consultancy agencies, providing specialized services to other businesses.

Most Industrial Hygienists work full-time during regular business hours.

However, due to the nature of their work, which involves assessing and controlling workplace hazards, they may sometimes need to be on call for emergencies or work outside normal hours to monitor facilities during operation.

Their work is often a combination of office work and field work, as they need to conduct assessments and inspections on-site, then analyze data and prepare reports in an office setting.

This role often requires travel to different sites and the ability to adapt to a range of work environments.

As they gain more experience, Industrial Hygienists may advance to supervisory or managerial roles, or choose to specialize in a particular area of industrial hygiene.


FAQs About Becoming an Industrial Hygienist

What is needed to become an Industrial Hygienist?

Becoming an Industrial Hygienist typically requires a bachelor’s degree in industrial hygiene, environmental science, chemistry, biology, or a related field.

In addition to this, you need to have a strong understanding of health and safety regulations and practices.

Key skills include knowledge of hazardous materials management, understanding of industrial processes, analytical skills, and a keen eye for detail.

Interpersonal and communication skills are also crucial as you’ll often need to explain and enforce health and safety procedures within an organization.


How long does it take to become an Industrial Hygienist?

The process to become an Industrial Hygienist can take around 4-6 years, which includes obtaining a bachelor’s degree (typically four years) and gaining professional experience.

Some roles may require a master’s degree in industrial hygiene or a related field, which can take an additional 2 years.

Board certifications, such as the Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) designation, are also available and can enhance career prospects.


Can I be an Industrial Hygienist without a degree?

While it’s technically possible to work in the field of industrial hygiene without a degree, most Industrial Hygienist roles require a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a related field.

This is due to the specialized nature of the work, which often involves technical knowledge of industrial processes, chemical hazards, and health and safety regulations.

However, relevant experience in industrial safety and a strong understanding of occupational health and safety principles may be considered by some employers.


Is Industrial Hygiene a stressful job?

The stress level in industrial hygiene jobs can vary.

It can be a demanding profession at times, especially when dealing with serious health and safety issues or in the event of an industrial accident.

However, the ability to contribute to a safer work environment and the intellectual challenge of solving complex health and safety problems can also make the role rewarding.


What are the prospects for Industrial Hygienists in the next decade?

The prospects for Industrial Hygienists are expected to remain steady over the next decade.

As industries continue to grow and evolve, the need for professionals who can ensure worker safety and health, and compliance with environmental regulations will continue to be important.

Moreover, advancements in technology and the increasing focus on sustainability and green practices in industry could provide new opportunities in the field of industrial hygiene.



There you go.

Starting a journey to become an industrial hygienist is not an easy task, but it’s unquestionably fulfilling.

Equipped with the appropriate skills, education, and perseverance, you’re steadily heading towards leaving a substantial imprint in the industrial safety field.

Keep in mind, the journey may be tough, but the possibilities are boundless. Your efforts could lead to breakthroughs that revolutionize the way we understand, address, and prevent occupational hazards.

So, take that initial leap. Immerse yourself in learning. Connect with professionals. And most significantly, never stop advocating for occupational health and safety.

Because the world is waiting for the safer work environments you can create.

And if you’re seeking personalized guidance on commencing or progressing your career in industrial hygiene, take a look at our AI Career Path Advisor.

This complimentary tool is specially crafted to provide customized advice and resources to help you effectively steer your career path.

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