I received several requests from list members to share the results of the information I was gathering on the above topic. Since most of the responses below were sent directly to me, I have removed the author's names from the replies below to protect their privacy. I think that they are all helpful in addressing the questions raised. Thanks to everyone for their response. - Ralph === We=E2=80=99re currently in the midst of hiring a safety engineering for our group. It=E2=80=99s been an interesting process, to say the least. The most interesting finding to us has been the persons=E2=80=99 experience. I say that because we found that the "better candidates=" are those people who came from robust programs/highly performing companies or those who aggressively sought out, sometimes on their own, to improve their knowledge in the field. It sounds simple but the difference in candidates was, in some instances, astounding. Those who were not exposed to a robust background (for lack of a better term), did not have the skills necessary to do the job. In fact, they usually spoke in very general terms about safety and their approach. === My perspective is that of an EH&S professional at an academic research institution. - When hiring an EHS professional are you more likely to interested in a candidate's experience, or do certifications or graduate degrees carry more weight? Of course it depends on the duties and level (junior vs. senior) of the position, but assuming a minimum of a bachelor=E2=80=99s degree, generally experience (and knowledge gained from experience) is more important than graduate degrees or certifications. More senior positions generally require both experience and a technical graduate degree. - If graduate degrees are important, does it make a difference if they are on-line or in-person degrees? I=E2=80=99m probably a little traditional on this, but I tend to put more weight on in-person degrees from traditional colleges and universities. I would probably weight an on-line degree from a traditional college or university only a little below the equivalent in-person degree. This would probably be especially true if the broader graduate degree program were accredited. If the candidate=E2=80=99s bachelor=E2=80=99s degree were in a science or engineering field I probably wouldn=E2=80=99t be too concerned about an on-line graduate degree if it were from a traditional C/U. We have had candidates that received degrees from what I considered to be "paper mills.=" I remember that one candidate had a bachelor=E2=80=99s, master=E2=80=99 s, and Ph.D., all just a year apart, from one of these "non-traditional=" universities. This was viewed as a negative in the selection process and the candidate wasn=E2=80=99t offered the position. - Are employers be more interested in hiring people with specific degrees (eg, Industrial Hygiene) or more general ones (eg, EHS Management)? I am generally most interested in candidates with technical degrees in science or engineering. I consider industrial hygiene (at least an accredited program) to be at this technical level, and I=E2=80=99m sure that many undergraduate safety programs are as well. I would judge an EH&S Management degree on its specific curriculum as they can vary widely in their technical content. === =E2=80=A8=E2=80=A8- When hiring an EHS professional are you more likely to interested in a candidate's experience, or do certifications or graduate degrees carry more weight? Experience - programs should have more internships so that students have opportunities=E2=80=A8=E2=80=A8 - If graduate degrees are important, does it make a difference if they are on-line or in-person degrees? No, but any degree should have a reputable accreditation. =E2=80=A8=E2=80=A8- Are employers be more interested in hiring people with specific degrees (eg, Industrial Hygiene) or more general ones (eg, EHS Management)? Noting that experience carries more weight with me, specific degrees are nice. but I would gravitate toward candidates with general degrees or classical degrees that tend to produce well rounded individuals (especially if they completed a minor w/ undergrad). === FWIW: I have never actually hired an EHS person [I worked in chemistry], but have rubbed elbows with many who have. Question 1: Experience and degrees are both helpful. Initially, a graduate degree can substitute for some experience. Later, a graduate degree can help a lot with advancement, e.g. giving the person an edge over other candidates with roughly the same experience. Experience is important, of course. The Catch-22 for new grads is that they can't get many jobs because of a lack of experience, and can't get experience without having gotten a job. So both can be very helpful, but you do have to get your foot in the door somewhere to get some experience, however lousy the job or pay might be. Someone with just the right experience will often "fit in" with the least effort for the hiring person, but what kind of experience do you want, and where do you want to go? Consider talking yourself into the job that you really want. Question 2: Personally I would lean very much toward in-person degrees, because a) I worked for an educational institution, and am most convinced that students learn much much more than whatever the exams they passed might show. Just like with one's children, students learn most of what they learn by example, experience, and personal interaction [vs. reading and exam-passing]; b) in an in-person program, they at least probably got to listen to and question some guest speakers, in addition to their individual teachers. That should add a lot. c) We are all too-familiar with places that sell degrees. At least there is some QC with accredited, on-the-ground institutions. On the other hand, it certainly depends on one's personal situation. If the candidate is married with three kids, and/or living far from an educational institution with an appropriate program, then I would totally understand his/her taking an on-line degree...That would speak very well for her/his initiative and industry, and certainly add to their credentials. Question 3: specific degrees or general--here again "it depends..." It is the old breadth-vs-depth argument that those of us in Environmental Studies have had for decades. Bottom line: you can't win; ideally you should have both. For my two cents worth, I would say that most entry-level jobs tend to be more specialized, e.g. Air-sampling [analytical chemistry], hazardous waste handling [again, chemistry fits very well, but bio can too] well-logging [maybe geology] inventory control [chemistry or biology?] etc. On the other hand, as one advances in the field, the more general stuff becomes much more important, e.g. Dealing with people [psychology, management, English, etc.], dealing with budgets [management, accounting, etc.] writing reports, grant proposals, etc. [English, etc.] so the general degree in my perception becomes more valuable later on, though it can make the first-hire period more difficult, due to a perceived "lack of fit" on the part of the hiring person [or HR department]. One of our graduates who at the time was vice-president of an EHS-related lab, told me that she had often seen someone who was very good technically be promoted to a management position, then fall flat on their face, because s/he lacked the people skills that the new job required. Most people with ads for IH positions that I have seen will gladly take someone with a degree in chemistry, biology, or engineering, for example, because those people have had some lab experience, and are comfortable with paying attention to details, following written directions, doing routine calculations, good record-keeping, etc. Candidates with "general" degrees can be at a real disadvantage there, though as mentioned above, their education/training can be most helpful later on. However, the people skills can certainly be very helpful and important when trying to put a personal monitor on a person, deal with a shop steward, production manager, etc. The degree can help you get in the door. After that, as in any other field, it will be up to you... Think about what you would really like to do, then head there. Do your homework. Know what you're talking about. Get along with people. Stand up for yourself. --and you'll do just fine. === I personally always choose experience over certifications or specialized degrees. I usually need someone who can walk in and take off running. Last radiation positions was filled by a Physics teacher rather than by graduate degrees, filles both a biosafety and a chemical waste position by hiring staff away from waste contractors. Also filled a lab safety position by choosing an ex-lab manager with loads of mechanical knowledge rather than those with masters degrees. I guess I look for people who know the job rather than people with advances science knowledge or the letters after their name and title. === A member of the division who is considering potential professional development opportunities is interested in comments from the list membership about some questions they're wondering about. Specifically: - When hiring an EHS professional are you more likely to interested in a candidate's experience, or do certifications or graduate degrees carry more weight? I look at both; however, certifications are important when all other factors are similar. - If graduate degrees are important, does it make a difference if they are on-line or in-person degrees? In-person degrees tend to carry more clout =E2=80=93 unless an on-line degree is from a quality institution. On-line degrees from for-profits tend to be looked upon less favorably. - Are employers be more interested in hiring people with specific degrees (eg, Industrial Hygiene) or more general ones (eg, EHS Management)? It depends on the position to be filled. For line positions (e.g., IH job), I tend to prefer someone with a specific degree =E2=80=93 unless a generalist degree is coupled with good experience that is specific to the position being filled. A management position, however, might be best filled by an experienced generalist who can see the big picture. === A quick response. At the corporate level (and for some large Divisions), experts are needed while at the local level (factory, warehouse, lab, etc.) more generalists are needed. Hence, for the corporate jobs there are requirements for technical degrees (including Masters level), experience and certifications or equivalent (certifications require experience). I think few pay much attention to degree granting institutions unless it is one of the big recognized schools which gives an advantage. However, bogus degrees from unaccredited universities are definitely a negative in big organizations. This is my experience and I hope you find it useful. === Someone also asked about what institutions offer on-line masters degrees in industrial hygiene. A google search found this answer at http://www.gradschools.com/search-programs/online-programs/industrial-hygi ene where 11 programs are identified.
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