A study by the National Research Council pegs the current supply of occupational safety and health professionals at between 75,000 and 125,000. Supply seems to be adequate for current employer demand, according to the study, but researchers say considerable need exists to safeguard the growing number of employees in small firms, temporary jobs and transient jobs in construction and agriculture.

Here's the current educational pipeline supplying OSH professionals:

  • 300 students graduate annually with masters degrees in occupational safety;

  • 600 graduate with undergrad degrees in safety;

  • less than 10 students are awarded doctoral degrees in occupational safety each year;

  • 400 masters-level industrial hygienists graduate each year;

  • 90 students complete occupational medicine residencies each year;

  • 50 students are awarded masters-level degrees in occupational health nursing each year.

Researchers are particularly concerned by the low number of doctoral students in occupational safety, which they say threatens the future viability of academic departments in the area of safety.

The number of graduates in occupational medicine and nursing are too low to replace existing practitioners, according to the study. The number of masters-level graduates in safety is "extremely low," says the study, but appears to be offset by employers' preference for hiring students with undergraduate degrees. The number of masters-level industrial hygienists seems equal to employer demands in the industrial sector, according to the study.

For more information on the report, "Safety Work in the 21st Century: Education and Training Needs for the Next Decade's Occupational Safety and Health Personnel," go to www.nap.edu.