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Environmental Health Sciences

Industrial Hygiene

What Do Industrial Hygienists Do?

Industrial Hygiene is a health profession that uses the concepts of the natural sciences and mathematics, the principles of engineering, and effective public-health management skills to identify, characterize, and control biological, chemical, physical, and psychosocial agents of disease, disability, or discomfort that may arise in or from the workplace and affect the health or standard of living of workers and/or the community at large.

As we move toward a more holistic view of human health and well-being, industrial hygienists' roles are expanding to encompass environmental issues, such as hazardous waste, ambient air pollution, and ecological balance, as well as emotional and mental health issues associated with increased workloads and associated stress on the job. Industrial hygiene is an art and a science that involves technical insight, judgment, creativity, and human interaction.

Each year, thousands of workers throughout the world are killed, injured, or otherwise adversely affected by chemical, biological, and/or physical, agents encountered in the workplace. Common hazards include dusts, gases and vapors, bio-aerosols, pathogens, noise, and ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. Ergonomic stresses and safety hazards are also important causes of workplace morbidity and mortality. The goal of our graduate program is to educate individuals to anticipate, recognize, evaluate, control, and manage such workplace health risks.

The Industrial Hygiene (IH) program at the University of Michigan School of Public Health is one of the longest-standing and most highly regarded IH programs in the country. Graduates from our program have gone on to leadership positions in private industry, government, and academia in the U.S. and throughout the world.

The U-M SPH IH program is a key component of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Education and Research Center (ERC) at U-M, which also includes accredited graduate programs in occupational safety engineering, occupational health nursing and occupational epidemiology. Also complementing the IH program within the Department of Environmental Health Sciences are graduate academic programs in toxicology, environmental quality and health, and human nutrition. Interactions among students and faculty in these complementary programs contributes significantly to the richness of the educational experience.

Qualified students can receive financial support through grants from the Rackham Graduate School or the School of Public Health, traineeships from the NIOSH ERC, various scholarships, and/or research assistantships from faculty research grants. Every effort is made to provide financial aid for admitted students.

Average enrollment in the program is 20 students, with approximately eight graduating each year. With over 820 alumni, the U-M SPH IH program ranks as the leading provider in the U.S. for graduates with advanced degrees in this field. This network of proud alumni spans the world and facilitates internships and employment for students and recent graduates.

We have an active IH student organization, the University of Michigan Industrial Hygiene Student Association (UMIHSA), which is a valuable resource for prospective and current students. UMIHSA sponsors a number of academic, social, and community activities, including welcoming and orienting incoming students to the IH program; providing liaison with the faculty, other student organizations on campus, and various external organizations; assisting with continuing education programs; maintaining a resume book and internship/employment opportunities listing; planning social functions, and participating in community service (e.g., fund raising for local charities).

Internship and employment opportunities abound for our students and graduates. Potential employers regularly contact the faculty and UMIHSA, providing an array of career opportunities to consider.