You may know someone that is a CSP or have heard of this professional certification, but it is not always clear how to become a CSP yourself. Becoming a Certified Safety Professional takes time, professional experience, and a formal evaluation of your skills and knowledge (through an exam). Fortunately the Board of Certified Safety Professionals, also known as BCSP, provides a number of great resources to help you understand each requirement and how to obtain your own CSP designation. Below are a few general guidelines to get you started.
Are you a prospective CSP?
If you are thinking about getting your CSP, the first question you need to ask yourself is “Are you on the right track to become a CSP?” This may seem like a basic question, but if you are not in a career that is related to occupational health and safety (or at least a student studying in this field), then getting your CSP may prove to be difficult. Certain careers have a more obvious connection to the CSP and it is clear why individuals in these type of jobs would pursue the certification (i.e. Safety Engineer, Industrial Hygienist, General Health and Safety Specialist). Then there are other positions that seem to have no connection whatsoever (i.e. a floral decorator, stock broker, attorney). The tricky jobs are those positions that could benefit from a CSP, but don’t necessarily require it (i.e. a manager responsible for a health and safety department, an attorney specializing in OSHA litigation, an occupational health physician). If you are serious about getting your CSP, take a few minutes to evaluate your life and determine if the CSP is really going to benefit you in the future. If you do happen to be in a job that seems completely unrelated but you still want your CSP, don’t give up! There may be ways to get more safety experience in your current job.
Also keep in mind that before you can sit for you CSP exam, you must first meet the requirements of the ASP (Associate Safety Professional) unless you meet one of the BCSP exception criteria. See the BCSP site for more details.
Evaluating your experience
Once you determine that you are ready to pursue the CSP, you will need to evaluate your professional safety experience. This is a required section of your application that you will need to provide to BCSP. First you must add up your total experience points. You get 1 point for each month of professional safety experience. A minimum of 96 points is required to sit for the CSP (only 48 are required to sit for the ASP), however points can also be awarded for degrees completed. Different types of degrees and majors of study are awarded different point values, whether or not your program was ABET accredited also makes a difference in points received. For general health and safety related degrees from an ABET accredited program, the following points would be awarded: Associate: 24 points; Bachelors: 48 points; Masters: 12 points; PhD: 24 points. In addition to knowing how long you have been in each position that you are seeking credit for, you will also need to be able to breakdown how much of your time was spent working in various health and safety responsibilities. This information will be required for your application.
Submitting your application
Once you have determined you meet the 96 point requirement and have the appropriate professional experience, you can submit your application to BSCP. The application is fairly straightforward but it does take some time. In addition to the application form, you will need to provide academic transcripts from all programs you have been enrolled in, as well as 2 professional reference letters. BCSP provides a template for the reference letters to be competed on. Fill out your name on these forms and send to to those individuals that will be providing your reference. Once they have completed and signed, they can return to you to be submitted with your application. The application fee $160.00.
Studying for the exam
Now that you have applied, and hopefully your application was accepted, it is time to get serious about studying for the exam! Develop a program that works for you! You may want to use flashcards, software, or even attend a preparation class. The amount and type of resources you use can look different if you are paying for everything out of your own pocket or if your employer will be helping out. Each preparation method can be valuable but you will need to find what works for you and your budget. If your resources are tight, my recommendation is to use the ASP or CSP software from Datachem. This software provides a large number of test questions very similar to what you will see on the exam.
Becoming a CSP
You have prepared, studied, and now all you need to do is pass the exam! Once you pass the test, you will receive your CSP but you must continue to develop yourself to maintain your certification. Remember, the CSP is more than just three letters after your name. The CSP means you are qualified to ensure the safety and health of those employees that you are responsible for. It is important that you take this responsibility seriously throughout your life and career.
For additional information I recommend you visit the BCSP Website. Photo on homepage by Bradley Hahn and courtesy of US Department of Labor.