To ensure that industrial hygiene professionals continue to be prepared for current and future trends, it is important to regularly assess the value of their education. Described here are the results of discussions with employers and a mailed survey of graduates. Comparisons are made with past mailed surveys of both groups. Two sets of discussions were held in late 2005 with employers of industrial hygienists and other health and safety professionals. Twenty-eight participants were asked to discuss current and future needs for professionals in their organization and economic sector, their expectations for knowledge and skills when hiring professionals, methods for finding and hiring, and the importance of ABET accreditation. At the same time, a survey was mailed to 71 industrial hygiene students graduating in the last 15 years. Respondents were asked to rank the value of and their proficiency in 42 competencies. Questions also assessed employment experience, certification, the importance of ABET accreditation, and demographic characteristics. There was a lot of agreement between the two stakeholder groups (employers and graduates) about the most important skill and knowledge areas. Most employers identified communicating effectively and exposure assessment among the most important skills, with designing and initiating research as among the least. Hazard recognition, exposure measurement principles, and personal protective equipment were the most highly ranked knowledge areas. Employers discussed the need for good "business skills" such as teamwork, communication, and project management, and the importance of problem-solving skills. Graduates reported that skills in the areas of recognition, evaluation, and control were most valuable in their first jobs and generally reported high levels of proficiency in these skill areas. There was a similar dichotomy in opinions about accreditation within each stakeholder group. The reputation of the academic program was important when making hiring decisions; accreditation became an important factor only when a program's reputation was not known. Graduates strongly supported ongoing accreditation but did not apply or attend on the basis of accreditation.
Lisa M. Brosseau ScD, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455