You may not realize it, but in the United States, safety, health, environmental and ergonomics practitioners have at least 180 titles to choose from. The titles take the form of licenses, certifications, and registrations. There are titles for professionals, technicians and technologists, specialists, supervisors and workers. There are interim and final titles.

With this as a background, this session will discuss quality of titles. We will discuss pay for safety and health professionals with particular focus on a recent study of safety professional pay derived from survey data provided by about 5500 individuals. We will also discuss the overall value of certification.

How to Determine Quality of a Title

Nearly all of the 180 titles that I referred to are peer operated titles. A few are professional licenses issued by state licensing boards. The peer programs vary considerably. The key to determining the overall quality of any of the peer-operated titles is to look for the program's national accreditation. In the United States there are organizations which set standards for peer certification programs and provide independent, third party evaluations of certification programs to determine whether accreditation standards are met. Generally, the accreditation is for a limited time and must be renewed following re-evaluation.

Of the 180 titles in safety, health, environment and ergonomics in the U.S., there are only 12 which hold national accreditation. Most hold accreditation with the Council of Engineering and Scientific Specialty Boards (CESB). CESB began in the 1980s as the result of a national symposium on peer credentials in engineering and related fields and separate from state engineering licensing. CESB derived most of its criteria from other accrediting bodies.

Another long-standing accrediting body for peer certifications is the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). NCCA began in the 1970s with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The early focus of NCCA was on allied health fields, but it quickly grew to establish criteria for any certification in any discipline at any level. Currently, NCCA accreditation criteria are undergoing a major update.

Medicine and nursing have their own accrediting bodies for specialty practices. Doctors and nurses must pass state licensing board examinations for general practice first and then choose specialty areas of practice. The specialty certifications are peer operated programs, not state licensing board programs. The American Board of Medical Specialties and the American Board of Nursing Specialties each establish standards for the peer certifications for specialty practices and evaluate the programs against the standards.

Some other standard are also significant. Recently, the environmental community established ASTM E1929–98, Standard Practice for Assessment of Certification programs for Environmental Professionals: Accreditation Criteria, as a standard for environmental practice certifications. To a great extent, the contents of this standard were derived from CESB and NCCA standards.

In addition, there is a European standard for organizations granting certifications to practitioners in any field. Draft ISO/IEC 17024, General requirements for bodies operating certification systems of persons, covers almost the exact same matters as the CESB and NCCA standards.

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