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Training Programs

ERC Continuing Education Opportunities

In 1970, the U.S. Congress passed Public Law 91-596, The Occupational Safety and Health Act, in part, establishing the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Under Section 21(a), the Act mandated that “… the Secretary shall conduct, directly or by grants and contracts, education programs to provide an adequate supply of qualified personnel to carry out the purposes of this Act....” Consistent with this mandate, NIOSH established 11 Educational Resource Centers, renamed as the Education and Research Centers (ERCs) in 1998, in universities throughout the country. NIOSH has now expanded its network of ERCs to include 17 centers.

ERCs are academic institutions that provide interdisciplinary graduate training in Industrial Hygiene, Occupational Health Nursing, Occupational Medicine (OM), Occupational Safety (OS), and other fields of occupational safety and health (OSH). The ERCs are multidisciplinary/interdisciplinary programs that address OSH training and research training in a cross-cutting and integrated manner. ERCs result in cross-fertilization among the various disciplines and impact occupational safety and health practice and research. The ERCs are the major part of a network of training grants that help ensure an adequate supply of qualified professional occupational safety and health practitioners and researchers. These training programs are intended to provide multi-level practitioner and research training.

ERCs also conduct continuing education programs for OSH, providing training courses for physicians, nurses, industrial hygienists, safety professionals, and other occupational safety and health professionals, paraprofessionals and technicians, including personnel from labor-management health and safety committees.

An essential component of ERCs is outreach and research to practice activities with other institutions, businesses, community groups, or agencies located within the region. Programs are encouraged to address area needs and implement innovative strategies for meeting those needs with a focus on impacting the practitioner environment.

ERCs Benefit to Businesses

ERCs have both direct and indirect benefits to local economies and businesses.  For example, students enrolled in coursework at ERCs provide services like on-site exposure assessment surveys at a much lower cost to businesses than they would otherwise pay to have the work contracted out.  Moreover, ERC graduates who currently work in industry have sought more advanced training or continuing education units in order to improve their ability to carry out their job duties, which is also of substantial benefit to companies.

See a list of employers benefiting from ERCs [PDF - 687 KB]

Current Enrollment

NIOSH support for graduate academic training in OSH is the foundation for most programs. NIOSH support of trainees through stipends and tuition and fee reimbursements and of the salaries of academic staff is critical for continuing to produce the nation’s supply of OSH professionals. About half of the financial support for professional OSH training programs comes from NIOSH. Measured in terms of graduate trainees, for the academic year 2010-2011 there were 825 full-time trainees enrolled in the major OSH disciples in the ERCs. Of these, 462 (56%) were supported by NIOSH. There were 213 part-time trainees of which 76 (36%) were supported by NIOSH.

ERC Enrollment by Discipline for Training Year 2010-2011

ERC Enrollment Training Year 2010-2011
Discipline Full Time Trainees Part Time Trainees
  Total Enrolled NIOSH Supported % of Total Total Enrolled NIOSH Supported % of Total
Industrial Hygiene 248 129 52 96 26 27
Occupational Medicine 92 77 84 3 1 33
Occupational Health Nursing 103 88 85 47 36 77
Occupational Safety 154 69 45 39 2 5
Other 228 99 43 28 11 39
Subtotal 825 462 56 213 76 36

Program Results

In academic year 2010-2011, 329 professionals graduated from the ERC training programs with specialized training in disciplines that include occupational medicine, occupational health nursing, industrial hygiene, occupational safety, and other closely related occupational safety and health fields of study. Of the 329 ERC graduates in 2010-2011, 289 (88%) entered careers in occupational safety and health or entered more advanced degree programs in OSH.

The following table summarizes program graduate data over the most recent 5 years for which data reporting has been completed (2006-2011).

ERC Discipline 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11
Industrial Hygiene 101 70 62 93 98
Occupational Health Nursing 37 31 40 52 47
Occupational Medicine 38 41 39 47 39
Occupational Safety 36 52 33 36 51
Other 33 29 18 43 94
Totals 245 223 192 271 329

Graduates of the program will also attest to the value of the training they received through the ERCs.

The following chart illustrates employment of ERC graduates staying in the field of occupational safety and health, 2010-2011

  Industrial Hygiene(n=98) Occupational Health Nursing(n=47) Occupational Medicine(n=39) Occupational Safety(n=51) Other(n=94) Total(n=329)
27 1 2 17 21 68
Federal Government 10 2 14 7 9 42
State/Local Govt. 8 0 0 0 2 10
Academic Institutions 17 4 3 8 21 53
4 7 13 0 2 26
Seeking Advanced OSH Degree 9 1 1 4 27 42
To Be Determined 17 19 3 2 7 48
Total 92

n= number of graduates


The 17 academic institutions who receive the funds each have an extensive set of stakeholders who participate and benefit from the ERC training program. These supporters include health state and local health departments and departments of labor, other federal agencies and businesses in all occupational sectors (e.g. mining, agriculture, construction, manufacturing, healthcare, etc.), affiliated academic institutions in each region served, professional organizations, and many different organized labor organizations. Some examples include:

  • National Institutes of Health
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Department of Defense
  • Department of Labor
  • Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education
  • American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
  • American Industrial Hygiene Association
  • American Board of Preventive Medicine
  • American Association of Occupational Health Nurses
  • American Society of Safety Engineers
  • Society for Occupational Health Psychology
  • International Association of Firefighters, AFL-CIO

Annual Reports

Annual reports for each of the 17 ERCs over the last five years
These reports contain more specific information about each ERCs accomplishments, activities, program products, and future plans.

ERC Links and Contact Information

NIOSH-supported ERC short-term continuing education (CE) programs
For occupational safety and health professionals, and others with worker safety and health responsibilities.

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