What is a Hazardous Materials Management Degree?

A hazardous material is any item or agent – biological, chemical, radiological, and/or physical – that has the capacity to cause harm to humans, animals, or the environment, in and of itself or as a result of interaction with other materials.

The nine classes of hazardous materials are explosives, compressed gases, flammable liquids, flammable solids, oxidizers and organic peroxides, toxic (poisonous and infectious) materials, radioactive / nuclear material, corrosive material, and any other materials that produce a hazard but do not meet the definition of any of the other classes.

Hazardous materials removal workers and other specialists work to ensure that hazardous materials are handled in a safe manner and in compliance with regulatory requirements.

Hazardous materials management programs are designed to train the next generation of these professionals. The curriculum covers product supply, transportation, storage, handling, control, recycling, and waste disposal.

Program Options

Certificate in Hazardous Materials Management – Varying Durations
Certificate programs teach only subjects in the major. They are focused exclusively on the various aspects of hazardous materials management.

Associate Degree in Hazardous Materials Management – Two Year Degree
A hazardous materials management associate program combines courses in the major with some liberal arts classes in subjects such as English composition, math, and the social sciences.

At the foundation of both of these programs are courses in cellular biology, general chemistry, and the chemistry of hazardous materials. Here is a sampling of other courses that make up the typical curriculum:

  • Introduction to Environmental and Occupational Safety and Health –general overview of the Environmental Health and Safety Management (EHSM) field with an emphasis on hazardous materials, hazardous waste management, and their effect upon the environment and worker health and safety; topics include the history of pollution and workplace hazards leading to current legislation, and current best practices of handling hazardous substances to minimize the harmful impact on society and the environment
  • Pollution Prevention – study of various raw materials and chemicals used in industry and the changes that occur as they move through the industrial process; topics include applicable regulations; the material balance concept of inventory; the importance of waste minimization / pollution prevention; pollution and residential waste generation, reduction and prevention; students will develop a waste source reduction plan
  • Environmental / Occupational Health Effects of Hazardous Materials –study of the acute and chronic health effects produced by exposure to chemical, physical, and biological agents with an emphasis on hazardous materials commonly associated with industrial operations, waste disposal, and remediation sites; topics include routes of entry, toxic effects, risk evaluation, permissible exposure limits, medical surveillance, control methods for reducing exposure, and using Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) to develop strategies to reduce worker exposure
  • General Industry Safety Standards – overview of the elements which are incorporated in a comprehensive general industrial safety program; emphasis on methods used to reduce accidents / injuries through the application of workplace health protection and safety fundamentals; topics include protocols, safety audits, data collection and analysis techniques, interpretation of safety data, safety inspections, development and implementation of safety programs, worker education, and the essentials of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • Construction Safety Standards –introduction to state and federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) construction safety standards and regulations; study of hazard recognition and abatement principles related to the construction worksite; topics include compliance issues and challenges facing safety professionals, including mishap and case study analysis; worksite inspection; interfacing with compliance officials; industry-specific and general standards; and common construction industry compliance issues
  • Hazardous Waste Management Applications – overview of hazardous waste regulations with an emphasis on generator compliance, site investigation, remediation, permitting, enforcement, and liability; explains the hazardous waste regulatory framework and the types of environmental resources available; develops research skills in the hazardous waste area; and provides hands-on application of the regulations at the technician level; topics include proper methods of preparing a hazardous waste manifest, labeling of storage containers, sampling and analysis, preparing a Phase I Environmental Audit, and selecting environmental consultants
  • Hazardous Materials Management (HMM) Applications – requirements and applications of federal, state, and local hazardous materials laws and regulations; emphasizes program compliance with OSHA Hazard Communication Plan, EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) Community Right-To-Know, DOT (Department of Transportation), and Emergency Response Plan; the legal framework of hazardous materials laws and requirements and step-by-step program development including written plan, obtaining / interpreting MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets), labeling, emergency responders site map, shipping, handling, and training; students will develop plans related to hazardous materials management through hands-on program development
  • Introduction to Industrial Hygiene and Occupational Health –anticipation, recognition, revaluation, and control of biological, chemical, and physical hazards in the workplace; introduction to the development of industrial hygiene and occupational health and safety as a professional discipline; provides an understanding of basic physiological processes and the effects caused by occupational exposure to hazards; survey of various occupational health and safety programs and government regulations; industrial hygiene monitoring and sampling techniques for airborne contaminants, noise, heat, radiation and illumination
  • Safety and Risk Management Administration – study of how accidents and incidents occur in the occupational health and safety environment; instruction in the establishment and maintenance of safety programs and comprehensive analysis of occupational health programs with an emphasis on safety program management; topics include planning approaches to safety and health management used by international, national, and local regulatory agencies, insurance companies, and professional societies; risk management; worker compensation; and employee accommodations in the workplace; students will develop plans related to safety and risk management
  • Industrial Wastewater and Stormwater Management –overview of water / wastewater regulations with an emphasis on federal, state, and local regulatory standards; study of the principles of wastewater and stormwater management including hydrology, water distribution, wastewater collection, stormwater management, and overall safe drinking water issues
  • Air Quality Management –overview of air quality regulations with an emphasis on federal, state, and local requirements; study of the principles of air permits and permit compliance including source testing, emission reduction, inspections, monitoring, stationary and mobile sources, air toxics, new equipment testing and trial, and overall global air quality issues
  • Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) Certification – instruction in safety and emergency response to chemical and physical exposures in industrial and field settings; topics include hazard analysis; contingency planning; housekeeping and safety practices including proper use and selection of personal protective equipment; site control and evaluation; handling drums and containers; field sampling and monitoring; proper use of instruments; incident response planning; emergency response including field exercises in the use of PAPR (Powered Air Purifying Respirator) and SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus); and an overview of the ICS (Incident Command System); satisfies requirements for generalized employee training under OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration)
  • Cooperative Work Experience – practical application of principles and procedures learned in the classroom to various phases of Environmental Health and Safety Management (EHSM); student placement in positions at local industries or government agencies that regulate environmental industries

Degrees Similar to Hazardous Materials Management

Chemical Engineering
This degree field is focused on how the chemical, biochemical, and physical properties of substances can be changed to turn them into something else. Examples of this work are making plastic from oil, developing synthetic fibers for clothing, identifying ways to mass-produce drugs, and finding ways to solve environmental problems.

Civil Engineering
This degree field is focused on the processes of design and planning of civil infrastructure like roads, tunnels, bridges, dams, railroads, and airports. In their work, civil engineers are concerned with such things as how much weight a structure can support and the environmental issues presented by construction. The emphasis of civil engineering degree programs is math, statistics, engineering systems and mechanics, building codes, and statistical analysis.

Environmental Engineering
Students of environmental engineering learn how to apply principles of engineering, soil science, and chemistry to environmental protection and restoration. They examine issues like climate change, pollution, deforestation, the supply of energy resources, and population growth.

Environmental Health
This branch of public health deals with monitoring factors in the environment which affect human health and disease. Coursework includes physics, chemistry, human health law, environmental safety, and toxicology.

Occupational Health
Occupational health (OH) is all about protecting people at work. OH degree programs teach students how to recognize workplace hazards, conduct a workplace safety audit, develop and deliver workplace safety programs, understand factors that impact worker health and performance, develop emergency procedures and fire control systems, deal with hazardous spills, and manage workers’ compensation claims.

We are all exposed to chemicals. Many of them benefit society. Some, however, may threaten our health. Pesticides in the food we eat, pollutants in the air we breathe, chemicals in the water we drink, adverse effects of drugs used to treat disease – these are the subjects of toxicology. These are the concerns of toxicologists, who seek to understand the effects of exposure to harmful substances, to improve the health and safety of humans and other living organisms, and to protect the environment in which we live.

Toxicology connects knowledge from biology, chemistry, medicine, veterinary medicine, pharmacology, public health, and environmental science.

Skills You’ll Learn

The following core competencies gained by graduates of hazardous materials management programs transcend this specific sector and are transferrable to many professional fields.

  • Ability to communicate technical information to non-technical personnel
  • Ability to prioritize work
  • Ability to stay calm under pressure and in emergency situations
  • Ability to work effectively with diverse populations
  • Adaptability in a changing work environment
  • Attention to detail
  • Comfort working outside / in the field
  • Computer and technical capabilities
  • Crisis management
  • Data analysis and interpretation
  • Extensive scientific and mathematical knowledge
  • Leadership, collaboration, and team-building skills
  • Policy and program planning, implementation, and evaluation
  • Problem-solving and critical thinking abilities
  • Records maintenance skills
  • Safety awareness
  • Strong physical stamina and health
  • Verbal and written communication skills

What Can You Do with a Hazardous Materials Management Degree?

Hazardous materials management is a large scale and complex industry, quite simply because few business sectors are untouched by the need to properly handle, store, and dispose of hazardous material. Graduates of hazardous materials management programs, therefore, find employment with:

  • Waste management and remediation services / recycling firms
  • Firms in industries that generate hazardous waste, including healthcare, biotechnology, mining, forestry, petroleum, construction, manufacturing, aerospace, and research
  • Environmental / conservation and engineering consulting firms
  • Federal, state, and local government departments ensuring environmental compliance; at the federal level, opportunities may exist with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and the National Park Service (NPS)

Common titles in the hazmat field include:

  • Asbestos Abatement Worker
  • Decontamination and Decommissioning Operator (D & D Operator)
  • Emergency Response Technician
  • Hazardous Materials / Hazmat Tanker Driver
  • Hazardous Materials Handler
  • Hazardous Materials Removal Worker
  • Hazardous Materials Treatment and Storage Technician
  • Hazardous Waste Handler / Remover
  • Hazmat Technician
  • Irradiated Fuel Handler
  • Laboratory Technician
  • Lead Abatement Worker
  • Radiological Control and Safety Technician


Find out what graduates typically earn.

Read about Salary