What is a professional in the field of environmental, health and safety?

What is a professional in the field of environmental, health and safety?

We frequently hear the question "what do I need to do become a CIH or a CSP or a CHMM?"

If you have asked this question, please continue reading. This post is for you.

There are three parts to this essay. In the first part, I briefly define what it means to be a professional and the purpose behind certification. In the second part, I provide suggestions on how to do a self-assessment for determining if certification is the right thing for you. In addition, I make a few recommendations on how you can develop your path forward. Finally, in the third part, I explain why you need to do this yourself. No one else can determine the best path for you.


The Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH), Certified Safety Professional (CSP), and the Certified Hazardous Materials Manager (CHMM) are non-governmental certifications. They are credentials intended to identify persons who meet a minimum level of education, experience and competence in their respective fields. These are certifications for professionals practicing in this career field.

You can find out more about the Certified Industrial Hygienist by visiting the website of the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH) (

You can find out more about the Certified Safety Professional by visiting the website of the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) (

You can find out more about the Certified Hazardous Materials Manager by visiting the website of the Institute of Hazardous Materials Managers (IHMM) (

What does it mean to be a professional?
This definition of "professional" applies to any field. A professional is a person with the knowledge, skills, and experience to enable him to assess a specific problem in the field and make recommendations based on sound judgment. The ability to make sound judgments as a CIH or CSP or CHMM is critical. Those practicing in the field are called upon to make risk assessments that influence decision makers and impact the lives of others (co-workers and the public). In my experience it is very rare that professionals have all the data when making an assessment and recommendation. We are called upon to make judgments with imperfect data. It is the nature of reality.

Professionals know their limitations.
A professional recognizes when she does not have the requisite knowledge to make an assessment or judgment. She refers the client to other professionals who do have such knowledge. A good example of this is the general practice physician who recommends a patient to see an oncologist when a cancerous tumor is found.

Professionals do their own research.
There are times when a professional knows the fundamental concepts, but lacks experience in a specific area. The professional may do additional research to increase his knowledge. Frequently this involves researching the topic by reviewing professional journal articles or using other appropriate methods to gain knowledge. This may involve speaking to a mentor in the field, but it does not mean asking someone else to do the research for you.

Professionals make their own judgments.
In the end, professionals make their own judgments. They take responsibility for their decisions and are able to provide a sound rationale for their decisions.


If you believe the traits of professionalism outlined above accurately describe you, but you're uncertain on how to become certified, here are the first few steps down that path.

Perform a Self-Assessment
A universal path to certification as a CIH, CSP, or CHMM does not exist. Each person has a unique educational background, experience, and skill set. You, the candidate, must do your own assessment of your education, experience and skills. You must compare these to the requirements as outlined by the appropriate board mentioned above. Go to their website, and read for yourself. If you have questions about their material, contact that board directly. They are the best source of information about their specific certification.

Read through comments from our clients
Many of our clients send us emails about what they did to be successful. While it is nice that most of them have positive things to say about our courses and instructors, they also frequently write about their exam experience. Feel free to ignore the kudos for Bowen EHS, but pay close attention the exam experience information. It is invaluable. I encourage you to take time and read through the comments.

Here is a link to the comments from CIH clients:

Here is a link to the comments from our ASP and CSP clients:

Here is a link to the comments from our CHMM clients:

Sign up to access the Free Resources in the Bowen EHS® Member Center

Solutions and explanations to the last 4 free study questions are posted in the free resources area of the Bowen EHS® Member Center. Also available are a couple of exam prep podcasts that explain how to prepare for your exam. To listen to the podcasts, sign in and click the Podcasts tab. Bowen EHS® Member Center Sign In

Do you need a review course?
Determine whether or not you need to take a review course. We're definitely in the business of helping people prepare to take the CIH exam, the ASP and CSP exams, and the CHMM exam. However, we don't believe everyone needs to take a review course before taking their exam. It is not the best fit for everyone. If you are comfortable developing your own study protocol, then you probably do not need us.

Our ideal client exhibits the following characteristics:

  1. Communicates clearly and asks specific questions with details.
  2. Displays patience and respect.
  3. Understands the value of time.
  4. Demonstrates accountability, responsibility, and perseverance.

These qualities are found in highly successful professionals.


We offer courses to help professionals pass a certification exam. Our courses are designed to help candidates review the rubrics covered on the exam. This is information most candidates are already familiar with through education and experience. We offer several tools to help you earn the certification, but in the end, you must do the work yourself. You are the one who will study. You are the one who will pass the test. You are the one who will be working with management in making risk assessments that affect the lives of others.

Professional judgment starts with you. Do your research. Perform a self-assessment. Decide if you are ready. Prepare for the exam. This is not something that anyone else can do for you. If you are ready to make decisions affecting the lives of others, then you must be ready to make this decision about yourself.


~Russell Bowen, CIH, CSP
Bowen Learning Network, Inc.

You Are NOT Guaranteed to Pass!
What does it mean to be a professional?