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How Do I Become a Certified Industrial Hygienist?

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  • Written By: Vicki Hogue-Davies
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 08 July 2014
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Industrial hygienists are responsible for protecting the health of workers and the public. They look for, identify and recommend solutions to problems related to asbestos, lead, communicable diseases and other hazards in the workplace. People who are certified as industrial hygienists have gained credentialing attesting to their competence in the field through a certifying organization, such as the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH) in the United States. To become a certified industrial hygienist requires a minimum amount of education and experience.

Certification is not always required to become an industrial hygienist, but it does prove expertise in the field, which can lead to better opportunities. To become a certified industrial hygienist, you will need a minimum of a bachelor's degree, typically in a science or engineering area, with at least a certain number of semester hours focused in math, engineering, science and science-based technology. Additional education through college or continuing education courses in industrial hygiene fundamentals, toxicology and related areas also is required. You also will need to gain real-world experience in the field by working as a full-time industrial hygienist for at least four years.

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After you have the requisite education and experience, you can apply to take your certifying examination. This in-depth examination typically covers a variety of topics in the field, including ionizing and non-ionizing radiation, air sampling and instrumentation, health risk analysis and hazard communication, noise and vibration and more. When you pass the test to become a certified industrial hygienist, you can use the initials "CIH" following your name. To retain certification, you will be required to stay up to date in the field through continuing professional development, such as attending seminars and taking courses, teaching in the field, publication in industry journals and other means.

A certified associate industrial hygienist credentialing exam also was offered for several years by the ABIH. This credentialing recognized people who contributed in the field but didn't have the requisite science or engineering education or didn't work in it as a full-time role. The certification has been discontinued, except for maintenance of the credential for people who already had earned it.

If you are in high school, you can prepare to become a certified industrial hygienist by taking all of the advanced math and science courses that your school offers. This will help you get accepted into a college program and will better prepare you for college-level coursework. Getting good grades in English also is important if you want to become a certified industrial hygienist. People working in this role must be able to communicate in a clear and professional manner, both orally and in writing, in what sometimes might be difficult situations.

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