How to Become an Occupational Health Nurse

Learn about the many opportunities for occupational health nurses.

The Basics

What you'll do: An occupational health nurse (OHN) specializes in promoting health and safety practices in the work place. Bringing their health care expertise and business knowledge to a wide range of work environments, occupational health nurses deliver health and safety programs and services that help prevent illness, injury and environmental hazards inside organizations.

Minimum degree you'll need to practice: Bachelor's Degree in Nursing (BSN)

Certification: Certification is not currently required but the American Board for Occupational Health Nurses (ABOHN) offers certification for nurses who meet specific eligibility requirements.

Median annual salary: $71,799*

Career Overview

occupational health nurse

Occupational health nurses perform a wide range of job duties, from workplace hazard detection to case management. Typical activities for occupational health nurse jobs include mentoring and training co-workers, counseling employees on health and wellness, designing disease-prevention programs and ensuring compliance with government regulations for workplace safety.

As a career, occupational health nursing promises diverse opportunities, with OHNs making their living as clinicians, educators, corporate directors and consultants.

Occupational Health Nursing Education

Occupational health nurses are registered nurses (RNs) with experience in community health, ambulatory or critical care, or emergency nursing.

Typically, OHNs hold a 4-year bachelor's degree in nursing and gain experience as occupational health nurses before entering the field. Many decide to go back to school to earn their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with a specialty in public health or a related field. Others may choose to earn a master's degree in a business-related field.

Currently, working in an occupational health nurse job does not require specialized certification. But the AAOHN highly recommends that OHNs obtain certification as a means of demonstrating professional competency and a commitment to continuous training.

Career Outlook

Registered nurses in general can anticipate an excellent job outlook due to the current nursing shortage. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook, registered nurses with grow at a 19 percent rate—which is faster than average—as a result of retirements and natural attrition.

Sources: AAOHN.org; OSHA.gov; ABOHN.org; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statisticss 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook; Registered Nurses; Salary.com, January 2014 Survey; Staff Nurse-RN-Occupational Health.

*The salary information listed is based on a national average, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.