Embarking on a career as a safety manager can be a fulfilling journey, but without a well-thought-out plan, it’s easy to get lost in the complexities of professional growth. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the key steps to create a robust safety manager career plan that can lead to success in the safety management field.

Setting Clear Safety Manager Career Goals

Setting clear and achievable career goals is the foundation of a successful career plan. It’s crucial to strike a balance between aiming high and ensuring your goals are within a reasonable timeframe. Consider establishing one, three, and five-year goals to maintain focus and steadily progress toward your desired positions.

Formal Education: A Crucial Building Block

Formal education is a crucial building block for a safety manager’s career. Whether pursuing a bachelor’s or master’s degree, consider the duration, cost, and potential return on investment. A strategic approach, such as opting for community colleges and public universities, can minimize costs while maximizing educational benefits.

Informal Education for Skill Development

Beyond formal education, focus on informal education for skill development. Build a list of necessary skills for your desired role and actively seek out workshops, seminars, and webinars to enhance your competency. A strong skill set can often outweigh the importance of formal qualifications in the competitive job market.

Navigating the Certification Maze

Professional certifications can significantly boost your career prospects. Research job postings to identify certifications in demand and prioritize those aligned with your career goals. Budgeting for certification costs is crucial, and allocating a percentage of your salary to a dedicated education fund can facilitate seamless career progression.

Financial Planning for Safety Manager Career Growth

Ensure financial planning is part of your career growth strategy. Setting aside a portion of each paycheck for continuing education expenses demonstrates a personal investment in your career. This financial commitment reinforces your dedication to professional development.

Regularly Reassessing and Balancing

Regularly reassess your career plan to ensure alignment with evolving goals. Finding a balance between work, education, and personal life is crucial. Negotiate with employers for dedicated study hours or seamlessly integrate education into your daily routines to avoid burnout and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

A well-crafted career plan is essential for safety managers seeking long-term success in their dynamic field. By setting clear goals, strategically pursuing education, acquiring practical skills, obtaining relevant certifications, and maintaining a balanced life, safety professionals can navigate their career paths successfully and achieve their aspirations in the safety management field.

Take Action

Remember, your career is a journey, and strategic planning is the compass that can guide you to success. By setting clear goals, continuously learning, and balancing your personal and professional life, you can thrive in the dynamic field of safety management.

Safety Manager Career Planning: Your Path to Success

Safety Brye: [00:00:00] One of the pivotal moments in my career was about 15 or 20 years ago, and I took a week long. Yes, an entire week long. It might only been three days, but I remember taking up the entire week of a time management course. And part of this training, even though it was time management, part of the training was creating ten year goals, five year goals, and it taught you goal planning and goal setting.

And it taught you how you take like every month or every week or every year, and you're always making steps towards those goals. Because it was a business class, we made career goals and I attribute a lot of my success to creating and maintaining the career plan that they taught me how to do in this class. Because I was constantly focused on that 10 year

[00:01:00] goal. Now granted, I probably should have made it a 5 year goal and I would have reached it quicker, but I was young and I didn't understand it at that point. And I didn't understand how well the process worked. But what happens when your goal is too far out is that life happens and you end up stalling and just thinking, oh, I got time.

I got 10 years. But strangely enough, 10 years hit and I hit the goal, like, within months of that 10 year mark. And then I said another goal and I hit that goal as well. That career goal as well. Actually, quite recently. So I really attribute a lot of my success to career planning and having that plan and maintaining that plan.

However, I see a lot of would be safety executives without a plan. So today, I want to share the steps to creating a career plan that you can follow. And hopefully, you'll reach your career goals too. So let's

[00:02:00] get to it. Hey there, safety friends, welcome to The Safety Geek Podcast. I'm Brye Sargent, CSP and 20 year safety professional.

After spending years training safety leaders across the globe for a large corporation. And creating safety programs from the ground up over and over again. I am now sharing my processes and strategies with you. At the Safety Geek, you will learn how to manage an effective safety program that increases your management support and employee engagement, all the while helping you elevate your position and move up in your career.

If you're ready to step into the role of a safety influencer and leader, you're in the right place. Let's get to it.

Now, on to creating your career plan. For starters, you can't create a plan without a destination, so we need to know where you want to go.

[00:03:00] Otherwise, you would end up just being like a safety nomad going out there doing whatever, which unfortunately is what I see a lot of people doing. So step one in our planning process is deciding where you want to go and setting those career goals.

Where do you want to be? You know, 1 year from now, 3 years from now, 5 years from now. And I really don't want you to go further than 5 years just because I don't want you to end up like I did, where I could have reached my goal in 5 years if I had set it as a 5 year goal as opposed to a 10 year goal. So step 1 is just like, where do you want to be?

And you might not know. And here's the thing about goals that a lot of people, they get stressed out about it. Because like, let's say you set a goal that you want to be a director of safety at a large corporation overseeing multiple locations. Right and then as you're going along. It's not really getting close to that. You see that you're not going to meet the

[00:04:00] goal. One of the key points of goal setting is remembering that it's your goal and you can change it. It's your plan and you can change it. There's nothing wrong with going off your goal or going to a different goal or going off your plan or changing your plan.

The only thing that is wrong is staying still. The only thing that is wrong is not making the plan and not trying to go for something. Right? So, I want you to not get stressed out over whatever this goal is because you want to reevaluate your goals every single year anyway, and you can change them.

In fact, I change my plan probably every six months, but as long as I'm always looking at it and I'm always working towards it, it makes me feel good. And I know that in the end, I will end up reaching some higher achievement than where I am now. All right, so start thinking about where you want to be, and if you're not really sure where you want to be, maybe it's a dollar figure you want to make. Maybe

[00:05:00] it's something that you want to do. I know one of my goals one time was keynoting at a safety conference, right? Maybe it is a vacation that you want to be able to afford or take, whatever it is. So set your career goals and write them down. So that way, you know what it was that you were working for.

Now, as you were looking at this step one at what you want to do, I want you then to go, I want you to make a list as to what you need to do in order to achieve that goal. If you're sitting as a manager of a plant right now, but you want to be the director over all of the plants. What do you need to do?

And the first thing you might want to consider is formal education. And unless you already have your masters or your doctorate. You don't want to skip this step. I want you to be looking at your formal education. This means, you know, your university education, your

[00:06:00] degree, not just like seminars or workshops. We'll get to that next, but look at your formal education and go, what formal education do I need? How long will it take me to complete it? How much will it cost me? And what will I get as a return from that investment? So what I tell people all the time is that if you're new in safety, if you're just getting started and you don't have your bachelor's degree already, you need to start working towards it.

Even if it is just one class a semester and in the beginning, that's all it needs to be is one class a semester because there's other things you need to learn first but eventually, you're going to need that degree. So you might as well be working towards it. And there are ways to do it at a low cost. So that way, you're not putting out a ton of money to get that degree.

Like, you could do community college and it might not necessarily need to be a safety degree and go to public university, but you do need to have that bachelor's degree.

[00:07:00] If you're young and you already have that bachelor's degree, then you need to be working towards your master's. And I would, if you wanted to stay in the safety field, I would go for a master's in safety.

I would, or an MBA, one or the other, master's in business or master's in safety. So those two will give you a leg up once you get stuck. Cause what'll happen in your career is you'll go so far and then you will get stuck. Um, where. You are competing against people that already have these things, or you're, you're not getting past the talent acquisitions people because you're not meeting some minimum requirement.

Right? So. Make sure that you have a plan to get that in place. And if you have never attended college, it could take you on a part time basis anywhere from 6 to 8 years to complete that. So, plan that out and MBA or a masters that can take you anywhere

[00:08:00] from 2 to 4 years to complete it. And there are some great masters in safety that you can get online or look at your local wherever you can get, like, an in state discount would be good as well.

So, I'm always a fan of public universities, just because there is no advantage over public institutions compared to private, unless that private is Ivy League, when you look at the span of income that they can make from it. So the public universities, if you stay within your state, you typically get a cheaper rate.

So that gives you the chance to get the bigger return on investment. I know I have a whole episode on this somewhere, but when it comes to career planning, just make sure that you have some plan to get your formal education completed. What I hear from a lot of people is they up front their formal education.

They decide that they want to stay in safety. So they're like right away they're like, I'm going to get my bachelor's degree. I'm going to get my

[00:09:00] CSP and that's all they're focused on. And honestly, that is not where you need to be focused on in the beginning. In the beginning, you need to know how to do the job and do it

well. And you need to build a network and that comes to step 3 in our career plan is how can you plan for your informal education outside of the university system. So what I would do is list out all of your skills. And then looking back at that dream job or career goal, what skills are you lacking and then start taking classes and seminars and webinars and attending conferences, based on those needs. Because

it's more important that you learn those skills than it is that you have that piece of paper with the bachelor's degree. The sooner you can learn the skills and the processes and systems of doing your job, the better you can get at the job. So you can build up that braggable track

[00:10:00] record of results that when you combine it with your degree, it kind of makes you unstoppable in the job market.

Okay. So go back to that career goal, look at everything they're looking for. What can you obtain through informal education, through online classes, through maybe your local safety council. So like local safety councils typically do like a monthly training. So maybe you can go to that monthly training. I know ASSP, they have monthly meetings.

You can go to those meetings and start learning the skills. You don't need a piece of paper to prove that you learn the skill. You just need to learn the skill. You need to get really good at the job and build up that braggable track record of results. So as you are looking at your career plan, that is what I would front load is getting the skills and knowing how to do the job. And then on the back end, you're just taking one or two college classes to finish off that degree. All right.

[00:11:00] The next step in your career plan is certifications. And this is where it gets tricky because anyone who's downloaded, you can go to thesafetygeek.com/certifications this is a document I created because I get this question so much about whether or not I give a certification with Safety Management Academy.

And what I do is I give you a certificate of completion. But I am not going to certify you as a safety professional because of lots of things that I say in that document, but it gets tricky because there is no governing body over certifications for safety. Any organization can say, I certify you as a safety professional.

I could do that. I could say you're certified safety professional, right? Or you're certified by The Safety Geek. I could do that. But honestly, it's worthless.

[00:12:00] It is worthless until the job market recognizes it. So interestingly enough, I had this question recently that said, does OSHA recognize Safety Management Academy?

Is it a recognized training? And I'm like OSHA doesn't recognize any training other than the OTI center. Which is the centers they operate and they oversee. But there are organizations out there that have OSHA in their name. In their website name that people believe are certified by OSHA. It's like, no, that's not the way that it works.

It's just companies saying that because there is no governing body. So, I'm a certified safety professional by the board of certified safety professionals, which is a company, but it is a recognized company. And who is it recognized by? By the marketplace. So look at the job postings and look what they're looking for. And if it is a certification, they want to see, then

[00:13:00] that's what you need to go for. A lot of times what you'll see is they're looking for a CSP, which is what I have. They may also be looking for a C. H. S. T. which is the construction health and safety technician. I've also seen them looking for a C. I. H.

which is the industrial hygiene 1, which is probably one of the hardest ones to get. But look at what they're looking for. I think, like, if you're in another country, if you're not in the U. S. it's like a NEBOSH certificate, whatever the job market recognizes. That's what you want to go for. And honestly, it's just a piece of paper.

It doesn't really have much meaning. The reason why people ask for certifications is because they don't know how to do our job. And the only way to prove that you know how to do your job is this, to them is this certification. This is why I say building up that braggable track record of results and getting the skills will also help you prove that you can do your

[00:14:00] job. So let's say you're not an academic and you're never going to get your bachelor's degree. That means you can never get your CSP, but if you had a portfolio of positive results and you had a strong network, they will overlook that. They're really just looking for you to be able to prove that you can do your job.

And it's also for you to get past that talent acquisitions piece where they have a stack of 100 applicants that they need to weed through. And you having your CSP, which is typically the most recognized certification out there, it then goes like, Oh, okay, they're acceptable to even go to the next level so that that's where you end up getting stuck.

If you don't have to have your college degree or your certification. So, I would never front end these things. These are things you're doing on the back end. And I believe a CSP, you might have to have 3 or 5 years verifiable experience before you can even sit for the exams. And it's a beast of an exam. And if you don't have, like, an AA in safety, then you actually have to take 2 exams.

[00:15:00] So. And they're hard. They're very hard. They're like six hour tests, but they are worth it to at least say, yep, I'm done. And then I will go. So the next thing, as you have, like, now, you know, what, what skills you need to gain.

And now, you know, what degrees you want to go for. And now, you know, what certifications you want to go for. The next thing you need to consider is budgeting because all of this stuff costs money and you will get a return on your investment. 100 percent you will. But you need to make sure that you're setting aside a budget.

And this is where I like to make that plan for my career and what I need to gain, right? Because once I get that CSP, there's an annual fee for it. Plus, I have to get CEUs every 5 years. That's a cost as well. So you need to make sure that you're planning for those costs. So that way you don't lose your certification or you don't reach your career goals because you didn't make a budgeting plan. So the research that I have done, I know, I

[00:16:00] invest a lot in my education every year, probably like 10 grand a year. And I know a lot of people can't do that. So I researched like, what is a good amount of your salary to be putting away for continuing education? And the number that I got was anywhere from 5% to 15%.

So what I say is that you put away a percentage that you can afford. Like maybe you open up like a separate savings account. I'm a huge fan of like the high yield say, I'm not even going to get into that, but put your money away every single paycheck. You have a portion of it go away into a continuing education bucket.

So that way you can pay for these things. And I mean, and it's nice that, like, if you go to the public university system or an accredited college, you can probably get some financially to help you out. There are chances that you're boss may reimburse you for this training that's always an option, but you should never rely on that because this is

[00:17:00] what I want to tell you. I used to have the mindset of that, I don't pay for my own stuff, if you want me to learn something, you need to send me to the class to learn it. You need to pay my travel and you need to pay my hotel and pay my food because I'm a single, you know, I'm a young mom with kids and I can't afford it. But they were paying me a really high salary.

And they expected me to know my job, but that was my mindset and I didn't learn a lot for a long time. And my salary stayed pretty much like this. And then finally I made the decision was like, I need to get this bachelor's degree. I need to learn these, the communication and leadership skills. If they're not going to pay for it, I'll just pay for it myself.

So that way I can leave this company that isn't supporting me and go somewhere else. And the moment I made that decision. My salary went like a hockey stick, and it's because I was no longer limited by my employer. So I'm all about asking your employer for reimbursement. But the moment that you, you say, I can't do that because my employer won't

[00:18:00] pay for it. You're stopping your own career growth. So instead of that, just put away a percent. Maybe it's 2%. I'll put 2 percent into a savings account, every paycheck. And then that's going to be my budget to pay for my continuing education. So if I have $89 in there, then I'm going to take that webinar that came across for VPPPA because I need to learn this skill because it's on my skills list

that I created in my career plan, you know. And then once you have the budget and then you have that list, you can compare, you can become very discerning about where you spend your budget on. So that way, you make sure that you're looking out for your career growth. And the last thing. That I wanted to touch on was that once you have your career plan, you know what your goals are, you know, your education requirements, I would say your next step is that you're always looking at it. That is the key to what really got

[00:19:00] me to meet my goals was that every month at a minimum, I would pull out my plan. And I would just look at it. I very rarely made any changes, but the fact that I looked at it and I read it again made me make decisions that were right for me. Once again, hockey stick.

Right? So always make sure every, at a minimum every month. Maybe every year, definitely. I would say the year you actually redo the plan to make sure you're, you're still on track because some stuff you might have knocked off and you might have a new thought as to what you want to do in your career. So every year you reevaluate it, but every month you just kind of look at it and make sure that you're still on track.

All right. So I hope that that helps you. In the end the last thing I want to touch on is balancing work and career and education and family, because you have a life, right? And you're working to support that

[00:20:00] life. Your life is not your work. Your work is just supporting that life. So you want to make sure that you're building a life that makes you happy, that you have your hobbies and your family.

And that when somebody says what you do, like, you know, Hey. Hey, hey, Joe, what do you do? Your first thought should be like, I fish every weekend or I play ball with my kids or I'm a dad. You know, maybe it's that and not like I'm a safety manager. Your job is supposed to support your life. So, as you are looking at this career plan and this career goal, remember that the goal is to give you enough money to support that life, but you want to have a nice little balance between

your daily work life with your family and then doing this, continue education or formal education or certifications, right? When I went for my CSP, I just study for it every single day. So you have to think about how am I going to fit this into my life? Maybe you make a compromise with your

[00:21:00] boss and you say, hey, I need an hour every week in my office undisturbed. So that way I can work on my education. That way you, you're not cutting into family time, you're cutting into work time. But they see the benefit. This is where I think it's better than asking them to pay for it is just asking you to give me one hour a week or 30 minutes a day to actually work on it and it's going to benefit them.

All they're giving up is time, which honestly they probably think you're scrolling Facebook anyway. So, you might as well just ask for it. So that's where I like to balance the education with work is trying to do it during work hours. But when I can't do it during work hours, if they say, no, you can't have that 30 minutes a day or that hour a day or hour a week or whatever, then try to fit it into your schedule where it can.

And it's just compromise like we do with when we ask employees or supervisors to do safety tasks, we don't ask them to spend hours and hours doing it. It's like just a little bit. So if every day you're making just a little

[00:22:00] bit of progress towards it, this is why I love online courses, because every day you make a little bit of progress towards it.

Even if you just have 20 minutes, you can learn something and then go on about your life. So make sure that you are definitely being proactive in doing that work, education, and family and life balance. So it's not all about work. I know I talk about increasing your salary a lot and making sure that you're getting the most out of this career.

But It's so that you can support that life. So I hope you understand. And as I say that, just know that I am, as you're watching this, I might be out on my paddleboard on the river, because to me, that is what I enjoy most right now. So I want you to be doing what you enjoy most too. And if you have a job that supports you, get rid of all that stress.

And you can go do what you like to do. Alrighty. Thank you so much for listening. Make sure that you subscribe to either the podcast or the YouTube channel, wherever you are listening or watching this from,

[00:23:00] and I will see you in the next one. Bye for now.

Highlights From This Episode:

  • Setting the Course for Success: The Power of Safety Career Planning
  • Navigating the Educational Landscape: Degrees and Safety Certifications
  • Building Safety Skills Through Informal Education: A Practical Approach
  • Budgeting for Safety Career Growth: Investing in Your Professional Development
  • Consistent Evaluation: Keeping Your Safety Career Plan on Track
  • Life Beyond Work: Finding Balance and Fulfillment


Take a moment to evaluate your own professional path. Consider dedicating time each month to revisit and refine your career plan, aligning it with your evolving goals and aspirations.

The key lies in proactive planning and continuous learning. Embrace the balance between work, education, and personal life to craft a fulfilling and successful career.

Share your thoughts, goals, or actions you plan to take in the comments below. Let’s support each other on this transformative journey!

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Hi, I'm Brye (rhymes with sky)!  I am a self-proclaimed safety geek with two decades of general industry safety experience.  Specializing in bringing safety programs to a world-class level and building a safety culture, I have trained and coached many safety managers, just like you, on how to effectively manage workplace safety in the real world.   I would love to help you too.

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