Men rule the roost in OH on pay and career prospects

The more highly-qualified occupational health professionals are, the higher their earnings are likely to be. But male OH staff are more likely to earn high salaries than their female colleagues, a survey carried out by Occupational Health Review has found.

More than 150 occupational health professionals were surveyed, with questionnaires sent to subscribers of Occupational Health Review and Occupational Health magazines and to members of the British Occupational Hygiene Society, in April and May of this year.

Its findings include the following:
– The median full-time salary for an occupational health professional in 2004 is £32,000

– Practitioners in the private sector can expect to earn a median salary of £33,000, while pay is slightly lower in the public sector, at £31,200

– Women in the sector typically earn 81 per cent of the equivalent male wage

– Most OH professionals have an annual salary increase. In 2004, this stood at a median of 3 per cent across all occupations. However, this is often based on individual performance and is not up for negotiation with the individual concerned.

– The newest recruits to OH can expect a basic annual salary in the region of £23,500. Someone with more than 15 years’ experience can expect to earn around £35,279

– One-third (33 per cent) of the sample benefit from additional payments from schemes such as individual bonuses and company profit share.

– The median payment under these schemes was £2,000.

-Most OH professionals are expected to work 37 hours per week, but in reality seven in 10 employees work in excess of this, with no extra pay.

– OH professionals are most likely to be in receipt of a final salary pension from their employer

– The typical benefits package in the OH field includes private medical insurance, a mobile telephone and a company car

– Occupational health workers typically receive 27 days off in annual leave, but can boost this by working in the public sector, where holiday increases to 30 days per year.

– Employees typically receive five days training per year, most of which is paid for in full by their employer.


The most commonly held qualification for an occupational health professional was a NEBOSH certificate (held by 25 per cent of respondents), followed by an OH degree (21 per cent) and a certificate in occupational hygiene at 20 per cent (see above).

Highly qualified OH professionals are likely to be at the top of the earnings range. For example, an OH professional with an OH degree can expect a median basic salary of 33,000. For those with a masters degree, this can rise to £37,000, while PhD holders have a median salary of £38,500.

Holders of a NEBOSH cert-ificate could expect earnings of £28,750, but this jumps to £34,476 for those with a NEBOSH diploma.
Among respondents who hold a certificate in OH nursing, the median salary level is £28,310, but those with a diploma in OH nursing can see this rise to £29,835.

Holders of a certificate in occupational hygiene have a median basic salary of £32,700, compared with £37,101 for those who have studied towards a diploma in the field.

OH nurses – an overview of pay and benefits 

– Salary  The median salary for OH nurses is £29,000 per year, 9.4% below the rate for all OH occupations.

– Sector  The sample is split fairly evenly between those working for the public sector (30) and those in private companies (39). For OH nurses, working in the public sector (median salary £29,835) is slightly more profitable than the private sector (£28,750).

– Gender  The median salary for a female in the profession is £29,000, compared with £33,455 for a male employee.

– Region  The lowest paid region is East Anglia and the Midlands, where the median salary is just £27,420. However, this rises to £28,320 in the – North and Scotland, £28,500 in the South West, Wales and Northern Ireland, and £30,700 in London and the South East.

– Experience  An OH nurse could see their pay rise from £22,000 shortly after qualification, to £30,582 when they have between five and 15 years’ experience.

– Other financial rewards  Additional payments were most frequently available through an annual company profit scheme or an individual performance-linked award. The median payment under a profit share scheme was 700, while performance awards typically paid £2,000. Other bonus payments brought in a median £1,200 for the individuals affected.

– Salary increase  Pay rises in the past year ranged from 0.5 per cent to 10 per cent, with a median payment of 3 per cent. One-third of OH nurses have their pay rise determined by the outcome of a national pay review body. 

The sample was broken down as follows:

– By occupation Some 43 responses were received from occupational hygienists; 73 from occupational health nurses, 26 from health and safety practitioners; and 13 from occupational physicians. The remaining seven respondents work in other OH occupations.

– By sector The majority of respondents (56 per cent) work in private companies. Around one-third (31 per cent) work in the public sector. Less than one in 10 (eight per cent) are consultants, and just three per cent are self employed. The remaining two per cent of respondents did not specify the sector they work in.

– By gender Just over half (59 per cent) of the sample is female, with the remaining 41 per cent male.

– By region The sample is spread widely across the UK, including 32 per cent from the North and Scotland; 30 per cent from London and the South East; 23 per cent from East Anglia and the Midlands; and 15 per cent from the South West, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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