In this weekly feature, the editors of SpringBoard highlight one career in the health care professions–including a basic description, educational requirements, core competencies/key skills needed, and related web sites and professional organizations where you can find more information!
Injury prevention specialists assess safety problems in communities, determine the leading causes of serious injuries, and then work on outreach, education, and policy changes that will help. They collect data from sources such as hospitals, clinics, and death certificates.
They track motor vehicle accidents, assaults, falls, and other events that could cause disability or death. When the best intervention is already known, they tailor those techniques to the local community; otherwise, they devise their own interventions based on the best available evidence. They look for ways to educate the public, to change the environment to reduce the likelihood of injury, and to enforce rules that promote safety. For example, an injury prevention specialist may run a car seat program with classes for new parents and the provision of free or low-cost car seats, while advocating for stronger laws to promote car seat use. An injury prevention specialist may work directly with the community or may coordinate prevention efforts.
Education and Certification
There is no single education requirement for this career. Some employers look for a degree in environmental health, public health, epidemiology, health education, or another related field, and some specialists are nurses with training in injury prevention. An MPH can be helpful. IHS (Indian Health Service) has an injury prevention training program that is open to non-IHS personnel.
Core Competencies and Skills
- Good communication, presentation, and teaching skills
- Ability to make decisions independently
- Interest in learning how and why specific types of accidents occur
- Understanding of personal and cultural differences that can influence responses to safety efforts
- Knowledge of epidemiology and methods of data analysis
- Understanding of local laws related to injury prevention
- Skills in evidence-based program design and evaluation
Differences in responsibilities, educational requirements, and settings make it difficult to give an average salary. State salary data and recent advertisements for injury prevention specialists show salaries from about $35,000 to $70,000 per year, with some program directors earning around $80,000. Salaries can be greater for those with extensive experience and high levels of responsibility.
Injury prevention specialists work for local, state, and federal agencies and for nonprofit organizations. Some hospitals have their own injury prevention centers. Nonprofits often have specific interests such as child safety, water-related injuries, or drunk driving. The military employs injury prevention specialists, both to address everyday injuries and to track combat-related injuries so that protective measures can be optimized.
The field of injury prevention has been gradually expanding in recent years. At present, jobs often combine injury prevention and other responsibilities, but as the issue gains prominence, more opportunities specific to injury prevention may become available.
For Further Information
- American Public Health Association—Injury Control and Emergency Health Services Section
- State and Territorial Injury Prevention Directors Association (STIPDA)
- National Center for Injury Prevention and Control