Thanks to Dominic Cooper, a safety professor at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., we have some insight about how students see future careers in workplace safety. There's been concern in recent years about declining enrollment in college safety degree programs, and students giving safety the cold shoulder. Cooper asked his students what future they see for the field.

The safety profession's future is very bright, post 9/11, according to Cooper's students. "Most see the profession transitioning from its current 'technical' role to a high-powered managerial role, with others saying both managerial and technical aspects are important," he says.

Here are some comments from IU safety students about what attracts them to the field:

  • "Safety has personal meaning to me following a tragic event in my life."
  • "It enhances management skills."
  • "Safety is about learning the psychological aspects of the workplace."
  • "It enhances 'life skills'."
  • "Makes joining the fire department easier."
  • "There is the growing significance that safety plays in the world now."
  • "Safety teaches management to people from 'blue-collar' backgrounds."
  • "Lots of job opportunities in safety, especially since 9/11."

Cooper says most of his students are high-school graduates who have gone on to college, and chose safety as a way to learn about the world of work. A few have worked previously and see safety as a way of gaining a formal education. About half intend on being safety professionals. Some see a future in risk management.