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UA Receives CDC Funding to Educate Next Generation of Occupational Health Professionals

The industrial hygiene program at the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health is the only one of its kind in Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico ― making it key to meeting the strong demand for well-trained occupational health professionals in this region of the United States.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) supports professional-level occupational safety and health training to ensure a steady stream of trained professionals to serve the needs of the U.S. workplaces. 

To meet this goal, NIOSH has awarded the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health an $800,000 grant to for graduate student education in the industrial hygiene (IH) program. The grant will support seven students in both the Master of Public Health (MPH) and Master of Science (MS) degree programs. The students will receive $12,000 in stipends to pay for housing, books and other expenses, and as much as $7,000 toward their tuition expenses in the 2019-2020 academic year.

Industrial hygienists protect the health and safety of people in the workplace, where occupational illness and injury affect millions of workers and their families each year, causing tremendous economic burdens on our society. Highly qualified, technically competent professional industrial hygienists are needed to prevent occupational illness, injury and fatalities. 

Occupational safety and health professionals work in a variety of industries, such as public utilities, colleges and universities, government, insurance companies, chemical companies, research laboratories, consulting firms, hospitals, manufacturing companies and hazardous waste firms.

The UA has been providing graduate-level industrial hygiene training for more than 30 years. The graduate degree programs are designed to prepare students with undergraduate degrees in engineering, chemistry and other physical and biological sciences for a professional career in the field. 

“We are excited to offer our students such generous financial support from NIOSH while they prepare for promising careers in occupational safety and health,” said Stephanie Griffin, PhD, CIH, assistant professor and manager of the Industrial Hygiene Training Program Grant. 

The master's programs require 42 credit hours to graduate, usually accomplished in two years. Coursework is designed to provide comprehensive knowledge of sources of exposure, material toxicity, effects of physical hazards, legal and professional health standards and engineering and administrative methods for achieving safe and healthful work environments. 

The MPH program also involves an applied practical experience to prepare students for professional practice, advanced academic training or for a research career, should they desire it. 

During the past 10 years, nearly 66 percent of UA Zuckerman College of Public Health NIOSH-supported graduates launched careers in industry or industrial hygiene consulting; 19 percent are working in state or local government and the remaining students went on to pursue doctoral degrees. 

According to the American Industrial Hygiene Association, industrial hygienists typically are well-compensated and enjoy diverse employment opportunities. With the education obtained in the program, and depending on their previous background, students can expect to sit for professional certification exams (Certified Industrial Hygienist or Certified Safety Professional) early in their career. 

“One of the unique strengths of our program is our focus on mining health and safety,” said Jeff Burgess, MD, MPH, professor and associate dean of research at the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health and principal investigator of the industrial hygiene training program grant. “Arizona and the Southwest have one of the richest sources of copper and related commodities on the planet. The mineral resource development industry has a long history of occupational exposures that require workplace controls. Solving these problems and providing a healthful and safe workplace is the role of the industrial hygiene professional.” 

Prospective students are encouraged to visit the website to learn more about the educational programs, research, internships and career opportunities. 

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health Grant No. 2T03 OH009631

The University of Arizona