how to start a career in health and safety?

How to start a career in Health and Safety

Your Career in Health & Safety

A career in health and safety can be both lucrative and fulfilling. On a typical day, you can expect to be using your knowledge and skill-set to reduce work-related accidents, injuries and illness. You may also be responsible for devising health and safety policies and ensuring that employers and employees follow them. If you’re contemplating a career in healthy and safety, here’s some useful advice:

Health & safety qualifications

CareerThe qualifications you need will depend on the type of job you are looking for. While there are many different professional courses that can be taken, it’s a good idea to start with a short introductory course for beginners, such as the NEBOSH Health and Safety at Work qualification. To gain a broad understanding of health and safety issues, many people go on to study the NEBOSH General Certificate. Largely considered as an essential qualification for most health and safety roles, this course covers key topics such as managerial duties, how to conduct an adequate risk assessment and how to investigate risks.

When you are ready to advance in your career, or you require specialist knowledge, you can then go on to study a more detailed course, such as a NEBOSH diploma. To work as a full time health and safety practitioner, you will usually need a higher qualification approved by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).

Method of study

ElearningAn important factor to consider when training for a qualification is your method of study.

Bear in mind that completing a health and safety course can be challenging, especially if you are trying to juggle work and other commitments. To ensure that you succeed, you may want to consider a study programme that has flexible hours, such as an e-learning course. By using web-based learning methods, you don’t have to be tied down to classroom schedules and you can study at your own pace.

Work experience (in health & safety)

Before you begin studying for a qualification, it’s a good idea to gain practical experience in a health and safety role. This will give you an idea of the types of challenges you may face later in your career and show prospective employers that you are keen and have an interest in the industry. A background in manufacturing, engineering or construction may also be particularly useful.

Another option is to start off by being a health and safety representative or trade union member for your current employer. Any kind of health and safety related work experience will give you a good head start when applying for future roles.

18 replies
  1. Saeed Shishani
    Saeed Shishani says:

    So you advice to start with the introductory then gain the IGC.

    I have good background about Occupational H&S and would like to decide which course I should start with.

    So can you provide more details of subjects covered in both courses?

    And also cost of both e-learning training courses please.

    Saeed Shishani

    • SHEilds Health and Safety
      SHEilds Health and Safety says:

      Thanks for contacting SHEilds.

      With regards to your query and by analysing your previous back ground – We would highly suggest you to enhance your career by choosing the option of NEBOSH IGC, this will be the first step towards your professional development leading onto higher NEBOSH qualification such as International Diploma in OHS.This course will help you understand the core knowledge of Health & Safety whilst making the foundation strong.

      NEBOSH IGC compromises of 3 units:

      • GC 1 – Management of International Health & Safety
      • GC 2 – Controlling Workplace Hazard
      • GC 3 – Practical assessment

      For better understanding of the pricing structure , please see the below link :

      NEBOSH International General Certificate pricing

  2. Evans K. Foli
    Evans K. Foli says:

    Thank you for such a wonderful advice given for global consumption.

    I’m an administration and management first degree holder, humbly seeking to venture into a new field of study thus Safety and Health Management.

    Help me to get the clue please, Since I have no background in safety and health management, can I choose safety and health management career path and how can I be successful in it.

    • SHEilds Health and Safety
      SHEilds Health and Safety says:

      Hello Evans,

      It’s great you’re interested in starting a new career in health and safety management. As you have very little existing knowledge of health and safety, it’s best to start with an entry level qualification, such as the IOSH Working Safely course, which takes around 6 hours to complete. Entry level qualifications introduce basic concepts of health and safety in every day working activities.

      If you are feeling confident you can also opt to go for the IOSH Managing Safely qualification, which covers more topics and does actually focus on management systems specifically. So, the managing safely qualification may be a great option for you, you may already be familiar with some of the management systems covered due to your administration management background. The managing safely course takes around 30 hours of study to complete.

      Progressing further you can then go for a NEBOSH General Certificate, which comes in two flavours. The National General Certificate and the International General Certificate. If you are working in the UK, go for the National variety, however if you are working outside of the UK, it’s the International General Certificate you should study. The primary difference between these two qualifications is that the National version covers legislation and UK based law, however the International version covers international best practices and there is not so much legal/law jargon to learn.

      If you’d like any further advice, we have dedicated course advisers who can help you make your decision.

      Kind regards

  3. Zubair Aslam
    Zubair Aslam says:

    I have just started a new role in HSE, previously I was trainee process engineer in a petrochemical industry. I have Bachelors degree in Chemical Engineering. Kindly suggest me the career path best suited for me.
    Thanks in advance.

    • SHEilds Health and Safety
      SHEilds Health and Safety says:

      Hello Zubair,

      Congratulations on your new role.

      The best career path is the one that makes you happiest, If you have a job you love you never need to work a day in your life :-)

      As you have a role in HSE already I would suggest that as a minimum you should take the NEBOSH general certificate which will give you the base core knowledge to be able to undertake your duties professionally. If you then decide that an HSE career is for you I would suggest specialising in your chosen area (environmental, Fire safety, Oil and Gas etc).

      Why not speak to a course adviser at your local SHEilds office who will be able to suggest an educational route that fits your ambitions and goals.


  4. Sammie
    Sammie says:

    Hi, this is a great piece and I am most grateful not just for my personal insight, but for those users who will come after me to read and direct the course of their career path. I am Sammie from Nigeria, I have Bsc in Microbiology and I want to take Health and Safety as my primary goal and build my career. I was advised to take the NEBOSH IGC course which I will take next month in Abuja Novelle Centre, I want to know if that alone qualifies me to venture into HS or will I need adhoc certification on top of my BSC. Also what are the job opportunities in HSE ? It would be sad after spending time and money to get this certification and there are limited opportunities. I will love if I can be granted a personal adviser to speak to me on this journey. Once again Great job guys !! Sammie from Nigeria

    • SHEilds Health and Safety
      SHEilds Health and Safety says:

      Hello Sammie,

      Thank you for your kind words regarding our blog.

      Taking the IGC is an excellent place to start your NEBOSH education and will allow you to start applying for HSE related roles providing a platform for you to continue your growth and gain valuable workplace experience. There are many opportunities for employment for NEBOSH holders both within Nigeria and worldwide.

      I would suggest speaking with one of our advisers who will hold a professional discussion with you and offer suggestions on further education based on your employment goals.


  5. Eugene
    Eugene says:

    Hi! I’m planing to start a career in health and safety, but I’m not sure if my previous work experience can be considered as H&S experience. At the moment I’m working in the large distribution center as a security officer and before I use to work on construction site, army and mearchant navy. I’ve got First Aid cert, SOLAS safety of life at sea, Gas & Oil tanker familirisation course, I also had couple live experience in preventing oil polution spiladges. In nearest future I’m planning to do a general NEBOSH course. So if anyone can help me with any advice I’ll b very thankfull!

    • SHEilds Health and Safety
      SHEilds Health and Safety says:

      Hello Eugene,
      Your previous experience and qualifications within the safety field will definitely put you in a good position to start building towards your goal of becoming a HSE expert.

      Your plan of taking and passing your NEBOSH general Certificate will build on the knowledge you have gained and provide you with a professional globally recognised occupational health and safety management qualification that is demanded by many companies as a minimum to apply for HSE related roles.

      I would suggest contacting your local SHEilds office and speaking with one of our course advisers who will be able to delve deeper into your previous exposure to HSE related duties and your ambitions and advise on the correct study route for yourself.

      Local office contact details can be found at


  6. Christiana
    Christiana says:

    Good day please I need some career advice. Two years ago(2017) I completed my bachelor’s degree in Environment and Development studies. Then I did a compulsory service for my nation in a government budget office for a year. I want to proceed to gain a health and safety qualification like Nebosh or Master’s in. Oil and Gas management with Iosh managing safely as part of the course but I don’t have any work experience in what I want to do. How do I proceed?

    • SHEilds Health and Safety
      SHEilds Health and Safety says:

      Hi Christina,

      Already having completed a degree in Environment and Development, you’ll have a lot of previous knowledge to draw upon and are more likely to success in passing the Oil & Gas certificate. The main difference between an Academic Degree qualification you already have and NEBOSH qualifications, such as the Oil & Gas is that NEBOSH qualifications are a lot more practical and the courses train you how to deal with real-world situations when applying your knowledge and skills learnt during your studies. There’s also a lot of industry specific terminology you’ll need to learn.

      The NEBOSH International Technical Certificate in Oil and Gas Operational Safety certificate is particularly difficult for a certificate level qualification. Those studying the Oil & Gas cert are usually already familiar with the industry and there’s a lot of engineering processes you are already expected to be aware of prior to undertaking the qualification. I would say the Oil & Gas cert is probably the most difficult out of the certificate level qualifications from NEBOSH to achieve. However, once qualified your career opportunities will be greatly improved – the NEBOSH Oil & Gas is highly esteemed internationally and is the go-to industry de-facto qualification for Oil & Gas safety.

      We offer IOSH Working / Managing safely qualifications, which for someone at your level of study should be relatively easy for you to achieve. The IOSH Managing Safely course in particular will help you become familiar with basic safety management systems, applicable to all environment types. You’ll find this a great stepping stone to help get you started within Health & Safety as a career.

      If you feel you are capable of learning a lot of new technical aspects of the Oil &Gas industry along with the safety aspects covered within the course, then this would be a great choice you for. If you have any doubts of are curious what to expect in your studies, please contact us via a contact form and state you’d like a trial of the Oil & Gas cert where you’ll be able to see some materials, which will allow you to gauge the level of study expected from this course.

      Good luck!

  7. Muhammed Damilola Adigun
    Muhammed Damilola Adigun says:

    Hello Eugene
    I am a fresh graduate studied ,microbiology in Nigerian. I want to have a career in health and safety, so I recently completed my HSE LEVEL 1-3 course and I am about enrolling for me NEBOSG IGC. What I want to know is what next do I need to do after this. Would really appreciate your swift reply.
    Best regards

  8. Tarun Tiwari
    Tarun Tiwari says:

    Hey, currently I’m pursuing NEBOSH, I have appeared for IGC1 and I will be facing GC2 and GC3 next month. I have already completed IOSH training. I have an experience in civil and environment field for just 2 years, but not switching to safety, now this is my current status. What should be my approach after appearing GC2 and GC3.

    • SHEilds Health and Safety
      SHEilds Health and Safety says:

      Hello Tarun,

      Firstly I’m guessing you intended to say “now switching to safety” rather than “not switching to safety”. If the interpretation is incorrect, please post back here for more guidance.

      It’s great that you have the experience within the civil and environmental field – some of the knowledge you have learnt in these fields will be useful during your H&S studies.

      If you wish to pursue a career in Health & Safety you are definitely on the right track. Once you’ve successfully completed your GC2 & GC3 exams and have gained the NEBOSH International Certificate qualification, it’s a good idea to look at two things to consider first.

      Do you want to specialise in any particular area of H&S or do you want to progress further to gain higher level qualifications.

      1. To Specialise: Consider, are you working in any specific areas of environmental safety, construction safety, fire safety or oil & gas operational safety? These are specific to the industry in which you work or intend to work. It’s a good idea to get the right qualification for the right kind of role/job position. You’re also more attractive to employers if you have the right set of qualifications for a job role. We have a number of specific courses for particular areas, you can find those here: Types of NEBOSH Courses

      2. Gain Higher Qualification(s): The other consideration is if you want to gain a higher level qualification. This is often the approach for those wishing to achieve a higher salary or to move up within senior management. In this case, we would recommend you either attempt the NEBOSH International Diploma. or the ProQual NVQ Level 6 Diploma.

      The difference between NEBOSH Diplomas & ProQual NVQ Diplomas is that NEBOSH is more academic, similar to what you’ve already studied, but obviously covers more in-depth concepts and is also more difficult to pass. You will need to sit at least 3 examinations & a practical project. NEBOSH Diplomas take around 18 months to complete typically.

      NVQ Diplomas can be studied along side your job role and is more about practical application.
      NVQ Diplomas are not a traditional academic course, such as the likes of NEBOSH courses. There are no exams and you can use the evidence you may already have towards a set of competencies to pass. Basically, you use the documentation for the role you perform at work to contribute to passing the qualification. This is a great option and avoids the need to turn up to an exam centre also, which is a cost saving. The time frame to complete an NVQ is around the same as a NEBOSH Diploma, however it is possible to complete the NVQ much quicker if you already have the right documentation to contribute – that’s right, you can use your historical documentation towards the qualification too!

      I hope this information helps you with your options, if you need any thing else, please contact us via an enquiry form and a course adviser will provide all the guidance you may need.


  9. Hazel
    Hazel says:

    I am interested with Nebosh IGC, however I do not have any job experience and I am not a degree holder however I am a college undergraduate in BS Industrial Engineering and is done with my undergraduate research. Is it advisable to take nebosh igc without a bachelors degree and what job will I be qualified with onlu nebosh certificate?

    • SHEilds Health and Safety
      SHEilds Health and Safety says:

      Hi Hazel,

      Great question! The first thing you should be aware of is that a NEBOSH International General Certificate is not a degree level qualification. The IGC is approximately equivalent to a British A-Level qualification and is a level 3 on the National Qualification Framework.

      To give you an idea, University Degrees are considered as Level 6 on the same NFQ framework. Therefore as you are already studying a Level 6 qualification in Industrial Engineering, you should have no problem taking on an IGC qualification as you have already demonstrated you can study at a higher level.

      There are no prerequisite requirements or limitations that may prevent you from enrolling on the course. This means you can enrol without a degree. The only stipulated requirement is that the student candidate must have an adequate understanding of the English Language in order for them to articulate the concepts covered within the IGC syllabus.

      SHEilds have produced an English test, which helps evaluate a students English capability if they are a none native English speaker or where English is not an official language in the country the student is from. However looking at your comment, you clearly have no issues with the English language!

      In terms of job roles, you will be a qualified health & safety professional once you’ve pass the IGC. You may not be qualified at the higher end of the scale, but qualified none the less! This means you can perform health & safety inspections and manage health & safety systems in a number of roles and more.

      Something to consider is that being IGC qualified doesn’t mean you can’t use your other knowledge and qualifications to boost you job prospects. For example, your knowledge of Industrial Engineering would be ideal combined with an IGC for the role of “Quality and Safety Engineer” – you’ll find these roles in many factories or other industries like car manufacturing, medical or pharmaceutical production, metal works, plastic fabrication, etc. The list goes on!

      Suitable Jobs for NEBOSH IGC Holders
      I’ll provide a quick list of the types of job roles you would be suitable for; and include some which have an emphasis on Engineering:

      • Quality and Safety Engineer.
      • Quality Assurance Engineer.
      • Facilities Manager.
      • Manufacturing Engineer.
      • Production Improvement Engineer
      • Health & Safety Supervisor.
      • Health & Safety Coordinator.
      • Health & Safety Officer.
      • Site Supervisor.
      • Risk Assessor.
      • Manager.
      • Warehouse Manager.
      • Risk Engineer.

      Remember, the IGC qualification may assist you land an Engineering job or another role, which also relates to your other interests.

      Gaining a IGC will open more job opportunities for you. Good luck with your options, if you need any more advice don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll guide you.


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