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How to Become an Environmental Health and Safety Manager

Environmental Health and Safety Managers are responsible for leading programs that protect people from environmental hazards and workplace hazards, as well as, protect the environment from human hazards. Here we provide an in-depth Environmental Health and Safety Manager description.

EHS Managers Fast Facts

Education Requirements 4-Year Bachelor’s Degree (B.S.)
Recommended Degree Program B.S. Environmental Health and Safety
Average Salary (2018) $71,130 (Average for all environmental scientists and specialists)
EHS Managers Employed in U.S. (2018) 98,000
Projected Job Openings by 2028 6,300
Projected Growth Rate 4-6% (As fast as average)
Other Job Titles Safety Engineer, Hazard Control Specialist, Safety Director
Related Careers Environmental Engineer

What is an Environmental Health and Safety Manager?

According to the National Association of Environmental, Health, Safety and Sustainability Management (NAEM), Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) is a multi-faceted practice. NAEM states that “from an environmental standpoint, it involves creating a systematic approach to managing waste, complying with environmental regulations, or reducing the company’s carbon footprint. From a health and safety standpoint, it includes measures to address ergonomics, air quality, and other aspects of workplace safety that affect employee health and well-being. The differently ordered ESH, HSE or SHE all refer to the same professional practice.” 

With this considered, an EHS manager leads the planning, execution, monitoring and continuous improvement of environmental health and safety programs in the entity where they are employed. The EHS manager is responsible for the health and safety of company employees, visitors and contractors, as well as the company’s compliance with environmental regulations. This includes identifying and correcting potentially dangerous work duties and ensuring that employees are informed on safety and health protocols and that environmental health and safety training is conducted as required.

What Do Environmental Health and Safety Managers Do?

An Environmental Health and Safety Manager is tasked with acting on behalf of a company or institution, specifically with regard to the promotion of safe, professional work practices and conditions that are in compliance with environmental, health and safety policies and regulations.

An aspiring EHS manager needs to be inclined to detail and have strong interpersonal, communication and observation skills. They also should have a thorough understanding of local, state and federal safety and environmental regulations as they apply to their workplaces. EHS Managers should also be comfortable working in dynamic environments, which sometimes means being able to work well under pressure. This might include conducting incident investigations on severe workplace injuries or being called upon as a witness in court cases involving environmental accidents or employee injuries and illnesses.

Infographic showing the illnesses and injuries that environmental safety professionals deal with the most

An aspiring EHS manager needs to be inclined to detail, have strong observational skills, and should have a thorough knowledge of environmental law. They also need to work well under pressure, as they will be directly involved in potentially dangerous or high-stress situations. This might include conducting investigations into workplace injuries or being called upon as a witness in possible persecution.

Front-line Environmental Health and Safety Managers Duties

Job duties for a front-line EHS manager may include:

  • Ensuring alignment of environmental health and safety policies with local, state and federal regulations. 
  • Building comprehensive management systems that measure compliance and performance as well as ensure continuous improvement
  • Being a subject matter expert on many topics in environmental health and safety
  • Being a technical advisor to internal customers that work for the company
  • Conduct need analyses for company environmental health and training programs

A front-line EHS manager is actively involved with training and oversight of company employees as it relates to environmental health and safety. They also function as a direct line of communication between stakeholders and the company with which they work.

Senior Environmental Health and Safety Managers Duties

A senior EHS manager has similar duties as a front-line EHS manager. They also have a higher level of authority and additional responsibilities, which can include the following:

  • Partner with company and stakeholder leadership and serve as a subject matter expert (SME) regarding the interpretation of federal, state, and local EHS regulations
  • Align corporate, regional and local EHS goals and strategies
  • Lead, develop, and manage EHS staff members
  • Lead EHS audits and inspections developing corrective and preventative action plans as needed
  • Lead environmental compliance workshops on water, waste, and air
  • Build and maintain positive relationships with federal, state, and local regulators
  • Lead continuous improvement initiatives on EHS policies and programs
  • Manage budgets and hire EHS staff
  • Ensure compliance with all relevant federal, state, and local EHS regulations
  • Lead environmental health and safety training programs 

A key difference that may exist between the front-line EHS manager and the senior EHS Manager is that the senior EHS manager may be more involved with the development and maintenance of relationships with external stakeholders, such as customers, contractors, community partners and government agencies. They are also more concerned with employee education and compliance with EHS standards and policies on all levels of government.

Where Do Environmental Health and Safety Managers Work?

Environmental Health and Safety managers almost always work on a full-time basis. However, they do have the option of working either as a permanent employee or a contractor who responds to business needs as they arise.

EHS managers can work for a variety of entities, in a number of industries including manufacturing, research and development, healthcare, warehousing and distribution, logistics and supply chain, at privately and publicly-held corporations, hospitals and long-term care facilities, universities and colleges, consulting firms as well as in city, county, state and federal government agencies.

Environmental Health and Safety Manager Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary of environmental scientists and specialists (including EHS managers) was $71,130 in 2018. The EHS managers who found themselves in the lowest 10% of those surveyed earned less than $42,520, whereas the highest 10% earned more than $124,620.

According to industry, here are the general divisions of EHS manager salary:

  • Federal government: $103,440
  • Engineering services: $72,100
  • Management, scientific, and technical consulting services: $70,000
  • Local government: $67,500
  • State government: $64,600

Front-line Environmental Health and Safety Manager Salary

A front-line or entry-level environmental health and safety manager position can expect an average salary of at least $64,600 per year.

Senior Environmental Health and Safety Manager Salary

A senior EHS manager, on average, can make anywhere from $73,000 -124,600 per year and more. 

The salary for a Senior Environmental Health and Safety Manager depends in large part on their work experience, educational background and professional certifications. Those who hold an EHS master’s degree, for example, may earn higher salaries.

Environmental Health and Safety Job Outlook

There will always be a need for EHS managers in all industries. It was reported that, in 2018, approximately 98,000 EHS managers were employed in the U.S. That number is expected to grow by about 6,300 jobs in the next 10 years, at an average rate of 4-6%. Given the expected growth, this job outlook does not appear competitive.

Below is a brief snapshot of the current professional climate of EHS managers in the U.S.:

State Estimated Number of EHS Managers Employed Average Hourly Wage Average Annual Salary
California 12,570 $44.18 $91,890
Florida 4,920 $28.26 $58,790
New York 4,400 $38.15 $79,340
Texas 4,170 $38.88 $80,880
North Carolina 3,790 $31.18 $64,850

Environmental Health and Safety Manager Educational Requirements

Aspiring EHS managers should earn at least a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, business, industrial management, or related disciplines. Of course, an environmental health and safety degree is ideal if you are able to locate such a program. A master’s degree in Occupational Health and Safety, Engineering, or other related disciplines will strengthen your qualifications even more.

If you’re pressed for time and finances, one of the best options you can take when fulfilling these EHS manager requirements is to pursue your EHS degree online. Not only will this save you time and money, but it will also make your schedule more flexible. This allows you to have the chance to simultaneously earn or participate in any of the following:

  • Environmental health and safety training courses
  • Environmental health and safety manager training
  • EHS manager certification

High School Recommendations

To get an early start on the educational requirements of a health and safety manager career path, it is recommended that in high school you take classes in environmental sciences and focus on mathematics such as geometry, trigonometry, and calculus.

Additionally, any roles that require leadership and delegation would do well to strengthen your resume and give you an early start in developing your professional reputation regarding leadership capabilities.

Undergraduate Requirements

The vast majority of EHS managers have a bachelor’s degree, and the primary fields of knowledge include:

  • Chemistry
  • Political science
  • Mathematics
  • Biology
  • Engineering
  • Physics
  • Computer science
  • Psychology

An obvious addition to this list would be a Health and Safety degree or, more specifically, an EHS degree.

There is no standardized specification on the number of years for the desired undergraduate education. However, a four-year undergraduate education is typically the strongest educational background, especially if it is the only advanced degree you have on your resume.

Post-baccalaureate Information

A number of EHS managers have master’s and doctoral degrees. For those who would like to continue their education in EHS, a master’s degree or doctoral degree, in EHS, Occupational Health and Safety, engineering, environmental sciences, and/or other physical sciences are all great options.

EHS degree programs are offered both in-person and online.  Online degrees are a great option if the in-person format is not feasible.

With an online degree program, you can maintain a full- or part-time student status as an Environmental Health and Safety major while obtaining additional certifications and training to strengthen your qualifications.

unity environmental university logo

Work Experience for Environmental Health and Safety Managers

The average expectation for professional experience for Environmental Health and Safety managers is at least seven years working in environmental health and safety-related roles.

However, you can find your way into an entry-level position with only 1 to 3 years of related experience, including internships and volunteer experience.