MS in Exposure Science or Occupational Hygiene

Teacher and students in hard hats on job site

How does the environment affect our health? To answer this question, we must be able to define and measure exactly what we mean by “environment,” whether it is at work, at home, or in the community. We also need to know how a person interacts with their environment, that is, what is their "exposure." The science dedicated to quantifying environmental exposures is called exposure science. The MS in Exposure Science and Occupational Hygiene degree options train scientists and professionals to recognize, evaluate, and prevent exposures that may increase the risk of disease or injury. Students work with faculty members to research a variety of health problems and learn to identify, quantify, reduce, or eliminate hazards on the job and in communities. Research topics include biological, chemical, and physical hazard assessment and controls; respiratory, reproductive, and chronic diseases; epidemiology of occupational and environmental cancers; bio-monitoring and medical surveillance; and occupational or environmental health policy. Students gain a comprehensive knowledge of health and safety principles, strong technical skills, and practical experience.

Career Paths of Recent Graduates

Graduates pursue careers as health and safety professionals in a range of private, public and academic organizations, which include primary industry; manufacturing; consulting firms; state and federal health and environmental regulatory agencies; product safety evaluation organizations; chemical, consumer products, pharmaceutical industries; and major universities. Recent graduates from this degree option are currently working as:

  • An Environmental Health and Safety Engineer with Intel Corporation (Class of 2015)
  • A Tribal Waste Coordinator with the U.S. EPA Region 10, Office of Air and Waste (Class of 2013)
  • An Industrial Hygienist with Boeing (Class of 2013)

Current Student Profile

Jessica Porter

"I first became interested in exposure sciences while discussing career opportunities with a professor at Boise State University during my undergraduate studies. I told him that I had a passion for helping to create safer workplaces after having lost a family member in a work-related incident and he encouraged me to pursue a BS in Public Health with an Environmental and Occupational Health emphasis.

Since starting my graduate studies in exposure science here at UW, I’ve been impressed by how many professional development opportunities, such as internships and support to attend conferences, are available. For example, this past summer I worked for a large wine distribution company as an Environmental Health and Safety Intern. My main project involved developing and conducting a traffic risk assessment at company sites to determine the risks that on-site traffic posed to pedestrians. Another strength of the program is the wide range of research opportunities available to students. I am currently working as a research assistant with Dr. Noah Seixas to evaluate biomarkers of stress among construction workers. This project exemplifies the department’s commitment to the emerging field of Total Worker Health, an area I’m particularly passionate about.

After I graduate, I plan to pursue either a research coordinator position or an environmental health and safety position before applying to PhD programs."

Degree Options

This degree offers three distinct options. The MS in Exposure Science and the MS in Occupational Hygiene are both 2-year degrees that requires a thesis as a culminating experience. The MS in Applied Occupational Hygiene is an accelerated 5-quarter degree that requires a project/portfolio as a culminating experience. 

MS in Exposure Science

This is a two-year (21-month) research-based degree program. The curriculum includes courses in the supporting sciences of biostatistics and epidemiology, as well as foundational courses in exposure science and environmental health. Additional courses provide in-depth training in environmental exposure monitoring methods and exposure controls, and students select additional electives in consultation with their faculty advisor. Students in this degree option complete a present a research thesis as a culminating experience.

A list of degree requirements is available here.

MS in Occupational Hygiene

This is a two-year (21-month) research-based degree program focussed on workplace exposures and health. The curriculum includes courses in the supporting sciences of biostatistics and epidemiology, as well as foundational courses in exposure science and occupational and environmental health. Additional coursework provides training in occupational and environmental disease; exposure monitoring, measurement, and control; and occupational health and safety management. Students in this degree option complete a present a research thesis as a culminating experience.

Students who complete this degree program receive training in the domains of knowledge specified by the American Board of Industrial Hygiene for the Certified Industrial Hygienist credential. Trainees in this degree program who are US citizens are eligible to receive stipend and tuition support through the NIOSH-funded Northwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety.

A list of degree requirements is available here.

MS in Applied Occupational Hygiene

The accelerated path to the MS in Occupational Hygiene degree is designed for students who plan to pursue careers as industrial hygiene practitioners, and who have prior experience in the fields of Industrial Hygiene or Health and Safety. Students in this degree option complete most of their required coursework during their first three quarters in the program. They then complete a practice-based internship during summer quarter, collecting and analyzing the data that will form the basis of their project/portfolio culminating experience. During their fifth and final quarter, they complete, present and defend their project/portfolio. Many students choose to work full-time in their chosen field during this final quarter while they prepare and present their project/portfolio. Click here to view a final project presentation by a recent graduate from this degree program

Students who complete this degree program receive training in the domains of knowledge specified by the American Board of Industrial Hygiene for the Certified Industrial Hygienist credential. Trainees in this degree program who are US citizens are eligible to receive stipend and tuition support through the NIOSH-funded Northwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety.

A list of degree requirements is available here.