How to Become an Occupational Health Nurse
Learn about the many career advancement opportunities for an occupational health nurse.
Occupational Health Nurse 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: Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), although some employers may prefer a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).
Certification: Certification is a formal process that validates your qualifications and knowledge on a subject or specialty. In many cases, earning a certification may position you to earn a higher salary and advance in your career. Certification as an occupational health nurse is not required but the American Board for Occupational Health Nurses (ABOHN) offers certification for nurses who meet specific eligibility requirements.
Median annual salary: $77,460*
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 ABOHN highly recommends that OHNs obtain certification as a means of demonstrating professional competency and a commitment to continuous training.
Registered nurses can anticipate an excellent job outlook due to the current nursing shortage. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ current Occupational Outlook Handbook, registered nurses with grow at a rate of 12 percent—which is much faster than average—as a result of retirements and natural attrition.
Sources: AAOHN.org; OSHA.gov; ABOHN.org; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2018-19 Occupational Outlook Handbook, Registered Nurses.
*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.