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Could a postgraduate occupational health and safety course be for you?

James Davis

Careers Commentator
Occupational health and safety provides working professionals with peace of mind. With a postgraduate qualification in the field, you can make the field even stronger.

Occupational health and safety is a multidisciplinary field concerned with the well-being of workers. It’s dedicated to instilling high safety standards in any given work environment, as well as evaluating current processes to ensure all is as optimised as can be. With a postgraduate qualification, it’s possible to deepen your knowledge and enter or re-enter a career in the field more qualified and confident than ever. However, it’s not necessarily for everyone.

This article will cover four questions regarding whether or not postgraduate study into physics is for you. In answering each, you should have a better idea of whether or not it’d be something for you:

  1. What does occupational health and safety entail day-to-day in a professional context and what’s required academically?
  2. What are the job prospects like?
  3. What’s the salary like?
  4. What are your study options?

What does occupational health and safety entail?

Day-to-day, professionals in this field will inspect any and all safety procedures deployed by a company to ensure they’re serving their intended purpose: keeping everyone safe. There are enormous quantities of safety protocols, procedures and equipment making up any given operation. Occupational health and safety professionals are responsible for also making sure these procedures, once implemented or refined, are being adhered to. They must be ever-vigilant of those skirting the lines and cutting corners.

Postgraduate study provides students with everything they may need to become proficient occupational health and safety professionals, featuring topics like:

  • Emergency and crisis management
  • Health and safety principles in practice
  • Leadership in workplace health and safety
  • Occupational health and safety management systems
  • Occupational health and safety risk management
  • Occupational hygiene science
  • Systems safety
  • Workplace health and safety law

Applicants can generally enter through any discipline, with experienced applicants gaining the chance to reduce completion times. This makes them highly accessible.

Overall, this is a profession and line of study for those with a keen eye for detail and discrepancies. A successful occupational health and safety professional must think somewhat like a detective while also being strong leaders. If you’re the sort of person who can think analytically while also possessing charisma, this could well be a field for you.

What are the job prospects?

According to the Australian government’s Job Outlook platform, these professions have very strong future growth. If you’d prefer to study less and aim for a safety inspector-type role that requires less skill, you can expect average future growth in your field.

What’s the salary like?

The following job titles and mean salaries are in Australian dollars on a per annum basis.

Where and how can I study it?

There are several ways of undergoing postgraduate study into occupational health. It’s a highly skilled discipline, so if you’re aiming for industry work, try to aim for the highest level position you can.

  • Graduate certificates take six months of full time study or one year part time; graduate diplomas take double that. This makes them very time-efficient ways of absorbing some industry knowledge in combination with another qualification. The Graduate Diploma of Occupational and Environmental Health from Monash University is a great example of this. Despite how short the program is compared to others, it still provides fundamental, useful skills you can use in the workplace. Entry is granted to those with a somewhat related undergraduate qualification. This is up to you to argue; if you think your previous qualification was related, make your case and you could well get in.
  • Master’s degrees are the higher level alternative, to the previous, usually taking about two years of full time study to complete, or up to four years part time. The Master of Occupational Health and Safety Science from the University of Queensland is a good example of these, providing units in occupational health, physical ergonomics, risk management and the fundamentals you’d expect from a two-year course. There are also three electives to choose from: systems safety engineering, resources sector risk management and incident investigation and analysis. This makes them a comprehensive option if you want to explore the intricacies of occupational health and safety across industries.

Hopefully this short article has given you a better idea of what’s available for students in this discipline and the career prospects to follow. No matter where you choose to take your studies and future career, we wish you well!