There are numerous requirements consisting of education and experience to qualify to sit for the Certified Industrial Hygienist exam administered by the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH). Here we present key information from the ABIH pertaining to the current requirements to become a CIH.
A Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) is an individual who has met the minimum requirements for education and experience, and through examination, has demonstrated a minimum level of knowledge in the following rubric (subject matter) areas:
- Air Sampling & Instrumentation
- Analytical Chemistry
- Basic Science
- Biostatistics & Epidemiology
- Community Exposure
- Engineering Controls/Ventilation
- Health Risk Analysis & Hazard Communication
- IH Program Management
- Non-Engineering Controls
- Radiation – Ionizing and Non-ionizing
- Thermal Stressors
- Work Environments & Industrial Processes
What are the Certification Qualifications?
Although the specific qualifications have evolved, the 3-E’s of Education, Experience and Examination have always served as the foundation to be ABIH-certified in industrial hygiene. Currently, to meet the Education qualification a typical qualified candidate comes from a regionally accredited college or university, with a Bachelor’s Degree in biology, chemistry, engineering, physics or an ABET accredited program in industrial hygiene or safety. Other colleges and degrees will be considered by the Board provided there is an emphasis on science, mathematics, engineering, or science-related technology. In addition, the candidate must have academic or continuing education coursework specifically addressing industrial hygiene toxicology, fundamentals, measurements and controls.
However, academic knowledge alone does not qualify an individual to be a competent Industrial Hygienist; rather, it is the Experience qualification that provides the synergistic ingredient. There is an "art" to applying the technical principles in a manner that provides a reasonable solution for a workplace health issue. Often, this is best obtained through a relationship with a practicing Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH), mentors or networks who can teach the nuances in applying the book knowledge in the real world. Further, because the CIH examination covers many broad IH rubrics, the Experience qualification allows time for more exposure to a wide variety of real-world conditions. Therefore, several years of broad experience are necessary before a person may sit for the CIH examination.
Since 1979, the Board has required that all Diplomates participate in a Certification Maintenance (CM) program. CM is primarily focused on the continuous development of the industrial hygiene professional. Every 5 years, each Diplomate is asked to document that they have achieved at least the minimum level of experiences and education. These can take the form of work tasks, educational classes, conferences, committee work, presentations, teaching, authoring and even mentoring, to mention a few. For educational events, ABIH specifies that at least 10 CM points per 5 year cycle must accrued in the IH rubrics, with at least 0.33 CM points in the area of “ethics”. Other than that, the Diplomate may choose any activity that meets the criteria and rules of the Certification Maintenance Program Handbook. This freedom allows the CIH or the CAIH to better manage their career development according to their needs, e.g. practitioners with broad knowledge, or practitioners with deep, specialized knowledge.