ASSE Address Quality Concerns of Higher Ed Programs for Occupational Safety, Health Practitioners

March 17, 2005

As the demand for occupational safety, health and environmental (SH&E) professionals reportedly continues to grow so to do the questions concerning reputable degreed safety programs, which the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) address in its newly adopted position statement titled “Accreditation Relative to the Quality and Integrity of Safety, Health or Environmental Academic Programs.”

“We are providing important guidance to those seeking a profession in the growing occupational safety, health and environmental field,” ASSE President Gene Barfield said. “This guidance provides students and the public with the information they need when searching for institutions of higher learning, information that is extremely valuable.”

The ASSE Educational Standards Committee developed the position statement as a result of the many questions from members and the general public regarding the quality and integrity of occupational safety and health programs offered by institutions of higher education.

Institutional accreditation serves many purposes – it assures a level of quality; it is required for student access to certain federal funds such as student aid; it eases school transfers, as many regionally accredited colleges and universities will only accept transfer credit or admission to graduate school from students from regionally accredited colleges or universities; and, it creates employer confidence.

According to the ASSE position statement, “The public should be aware that institutions of higher education are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education through the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) in one of two ways. First, colleges and universities may be regionally accredited by one of numerous regional bodies recognized by the CHEA – regional accrediting bodies accredit public and private, nonprofit and for-profit two-and four-year institutions. This is a comprehensive review of all institutional functions. Secondly, colleges and universities may be nationally accredited by a national body recognized by CHEA – national accrediting bodies accredit public and private, nonprofit and for-profit institutions, frequently single purpose institutions, including distance learning colleges and universities, private career institutions and faith-based colleges and universities.”

As for program-specific accreditation, CHEA also recognizes specialized and professional accrediting bodies that accredit schools or specific programs including law, engineering, medical and safety. Program accreditation is a process normally taking place in addition to accreditation of the institution.

For instance, ASSE has worked through the Applied Science Accreditation Commission (ASAC) of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technologies (ABET) to establish outcomes, what the graduates are expected to know – the skills and abilities they will bring into the workplace, for graduates of ABET-accredited safety programs.

A tool for students is the recently updated ASSE College and University Directory that provides listing of schools by state; ABET/ASSE Accredited Safety Degree Programs, Safety Related Degree Programs, Distance Learning and Continuing Education Programs and Continuing Education in Safety and Related Areas along with schools having limited safety courses. This directory can be found on the ASSE Web site at

The ASSE Educational Standards Committee also developed safety program curriculum guidelines to assist universities in the development of safety curricula and also to assist in the ABET accreditation process. These guidelines can be found on ASSE’s Web page at

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