Making the break: a new career in health and safety

As our recent Backstage Pass interview explored, a career in health and safety can be a rich and rewarding journey. However, despite the enormous range of opportunities available, some people are still unsure of how to get a job in health and safety. As the oldest and most trusted name in the industry, some of the most common questions RoSPA receive include: ‘What is the best health and safety qualification?’, ‘What skills are required for a health and safety job?’ and ‘Which is better, the NVQ Level 5 or the NEBOSH Diploma?’

In this short guide we aim to answer these questions, giving you the low-down on your new career in health and safety!

Health and safety qualifications

The qualifications you choose to undertake will depend on your current situation and experience. One of the best places to start is with short courses on topics that are core to the job role: basic health and safety management, risk assessment, accident investigation and training on PUWER (Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations) are all great introductions to the world of health and safety.

When a greater level of knowledge is required, a NEBOSH General Certificate qualification (which takes around two weeks to achieve) is well recognised within the industry. In reality, a NEBOSH National General Certificate is an essential minimum qualification for any full time health and safety job and can be seen as the first step on your journey to a career in health and safety.

Following successful completion of the NEBOSH General Certificate, many people then go on to study the NEBOSH Diploma (approximately six weeks full time study). The Diploma is the required level for most health and safety manager roles, and as a result is a more demanding qualification, designed for anyone who needs to have a full grasp of practical health and safety knowledge.

It is worth noting that according to the 2013 NEBOSH Jobs Barometer, a NEBOSH health and safety qualification is specified in nearly three-quarters of job advertisements. Overall, 74% of positions mentioned at least one NEBOSH health and safety qualification, up from 72% the year before.

If you think you may find it difficult to accommodate the NEBOSH Diploma, an NVQ Level 5 Diploma is available. This offers a work-based qualification suitable for those in a health and safety management role, which recognises a person’s competence using on the job performance for assessment, rather than relying on examinations. Candidates use an online system to help with the process of putting together their portfolios and are mentored by a CMIOSH assessor throughout.

For more information please read our post NVQ level 5 Diploma Vs NEBOSH Diploma, as well as our range of free NEBOSH revision guides.

What is CMIOSH?

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) is the biggest health and safety membership organisation in the world, with over 40,000 members in 99 countries.

Employers are legally obliged to make sure that the people that they employ are competent, and becoming a Chartered Member of IOSH (CMIOSH) is THE most popular way of demonstrating that you are capable and knowledgeable.

You can become a corporate member through a mixture of sitting external exams and acquiring experience. You join IOSH as an affiliate member and then progress through the levels of membership with increasing levels of experience and examination.

With a National General Certificate and five years’ relevant experience you can progress to TechIOSH level. With a Diploma and two years’ relevant experience the CMIOSH grade is available after a peer review.

Although it is not absolutely essential, CMIOSH status gives access to the widest range of work and the most rewarding jobs. According to the 2013 NEBOSH Jobs Barometer, Membership of IOSH at Technician level or higher was mentioned in 39% of job adverts.

What to look for in a training provider

Whatever course you choose, you should look for a training provider with:

  • Recognised teaching qualifications
  • Experience in delivery and practical application
  • Previous sustained success
  • A delivery which allows discussion and sharing experiences
  • A varied use of getting the information across (i.e. not death by PowerPoint)
  • Trainers that use their experience to develop training material
  • The access to support, and further assistance when doing assignments, before, during and after the course.

For example, RoSPA offers assistance to ensure you select the correct safety training course, personal tutors for each Diploma delegate and tools such as a web forum so that delegates can contact the tutor in person, over the phone or electronically at the time of their choice. Diploma students also have free use of our health and safety library and Infocentre, where they have access to virtually every health and safety book, report, and magazine ever written.

Read More

Career Advice

NEBOSH revision

Health and safety vacancies


If you would like to speak to someone in more detail about kick-starting your career in health and safety, please call our expert training advisors on +44 121 248 2233.

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