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NIOSH Extramural Research and Training Programs

male and female researcher performing an experiment

Training Programs

Education and Research Centers Portfolio

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. The ERC network has expanded nationally and represents every Federal health region in the United States.

map showing location of ERC by state

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.

ERC Enrollment and Graduates by Discipline for Academic Year 2012-2013

  Full Time Trainees Part Time Trainees Graduates
Discipline Total ERC Enrolled NIOSH ERC Supported % of ERC Total Total ERC Enrolled NIOSH ERC Supported % of ERC Total ERC
Industrial Hygiene 215 154 72% 40 7 18% 70
Occupational Medicine 61 49 80% 13 12 92% 22
Occupational Health Nursing 95 84 88% 57 48 84% 26
Occupational Safety 80 48 60% 17 3 18% 19
Other 250 120 48% 36 16 44% 53
Total 701 455 65% 163 86 53% 190

Program Results

Each year OSH professionals graduate 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. These OSH professionals join the US workforce across a variety of industries.

ERC Graduate Employment in OSH for Academic Year 2012-2013

Employer Industrial Hygiene (n=70) Occupational Medicine (n=22) Occupational Health Nursing (n=22) Occupational Safety (n=19) Other (n=57) Total (n=190)
Private/Industry 24 0 3 9 11 47
Federal Government 10 1 1 0 7 19
State/Local Govt. 2 0 2 0 5 9
Academic Institutions 10 1 2 2 16 31
Clinics/Hospitals 4 9 7 1 1 22
Seeking Advanced OSH Degree 2 3 2 0 2 9
Seeking OSH Employment 10 1 3 0 7 21
Total in OSH Workforce 62 15 20 12 49 158
Percentage in OSH Workforce 89% 68% 91% 63% 86% 84%

n= number of graduates


The 18 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

ERC Annual Reports
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.