What exactly does it take to become a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) or a Certified Safety Professional (CSP)? To get the facts, Industrial Safety and Hygiene News talked to Lynn O'Donnell, executive director of the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH), the organization responsible for certifying industrial hygienists, and Roger Brauer, acting executive director for the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP), which certifies safety professionals.

ISHN-Why pursue certification?

ABIH-The CIH is a credential that shows you have a certain level of education, experience, and have passed a two-day exam. Some companies demonstrated standards and/or contracts requiring a CIH to perform certain tasks.

BCSP-Someone who achieves the CSP can be proud of the fact that they have met the standard set by professional peers. A second reason to get certified is to better compete for employment. Thirdly, you can be more competitive for professional work. More and more contracts specify specialist qualifications contractors must hold.

ISHN-How many professionals out there are certified?

ABIH-There are presently 5,712 CIHs in active practice but 6,847 CIH certificates have been issued since 1960.

BCSP-Since the BCSP was founded in 1969, 13,700 people have achieved the CSP. Currently, 8,800 hold the CSP and 725 hold the CSP (retired) status. 1,900 presently hold the Associate Safety Professional (ASP) designation, indicating progress toward the CSP.

ISHN-Should I get both the CSP and CIH, or just one?

ABIH-Those with responsibility for both industrial hygiene and safety may go for both. The safety definition is generally broader and includes industrial hygiene in the safety umbrella.

BCSP-Today, many organizations combine safety, industrial hygiene and environment into one organizational unit. People who are certified in more than one field have a better opportunity to advance.

ISHN-If I don't have an undergraduate degree, can I still become a CSP or CIH?

ABIH-No, you must have at least a bachelor's degree in industrial hygiene, biology, chemistry, physics, or demonstrate at least 60 semester hours of science. You must also have at least 5 years experience. We must be able to see that you have practiced professional- level industrial hygiene 50 percent or more of your working time to sit for the exams.

BCSP-At present, yes. The basic model for the CSP assumes that one has a bachelor's degree in safety, four years of professional safety practice and has passed the Safety Fundamentals and Comprehensive Practice Examinations. For those with bachelor's degrees in other fields, additional experience may be substituted. However, the board is considering requiring a bachelor's degree. About 80 percent of CSPs have bachelor's degrees and about 20 percent have master's or doctorate degrees.

ISHN-How long will it take to get certified?

ABIH-There is a two-part exam. With one year experience, and the completed education requirement, the applicant can take the core exam, (that makes you an IHIT, or Industrial Hygienist in Training). Unless you have a master's degree, you won't be able to get certified in less than five years.

BCSP-The average candidate is in process for about two years.

ISHN-How much does it cost?

ABIH-That partly depends on when you apply. If you apply with five years or more experience, the application fee is $100. If approved, there is a $100 exam fee for each test, which means $300 for the whole process.If when you apply, you have one year and only want to be reviewed to take the core, it is $75 to review, and $100 for the exam. To be reviewed for the second level exam, retake an exam, or if an exam has been postponed, there is a $50 reapplication fee.

BCSP-The application fee for the CSP is $80. The examination fee for Safety Fundamentals is $155 and $180 for the Comprehensive Practice exam. Those holding the CSP must pay an annual renewal fee of $65.