Work Environment

Master of Science Program in Work Environment

The UMass Lowell Department of Work Environment offers a master's program with several areas of specialization:

Program Information:

Admission Requirements

Successful applicants will meet the standards of the Graduate Admissions at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and, in addition, will have demonstrated the ability and motivation necessary for independent creative work and an interest in issues of the work environment.  Strong preference will be given to candidates with both a quantitative academic background and experience in industry, government or health care. At the same time, the faculty of the Department of Work Environment believes that the program (and the profession) is strengthened by admitting students from a wide diversity of backgrounds, and therefore students with non-traditional educational or work backgrounds will be considered carefully.  Excellent written communication skills are important in graduate school, as well as in professional careers. For this reason, the Department places special emphasis on documentation of writing ability. The applicant’s statement required as part of the graduate application is one such document, but applicants may also submit other writing samples if they wish.

To be admitted applicants must have a BA or BS with an overall GPA of at least 3.0.  Applicants must have a grade of C or better in required, prerequisite technical courses. For the Occupational and Environmental Hygiene Program the technical courses must include at a minimum one semester of: college-level mathematics (calculus or statistics preferred), general chemistry, organic chemistry, biology and physics.  For the Ergonomics/Safety program, technical courses must include college level mathematics (calculus preferred), biology and physics. For the Epidemiology, Cleaner Production and Policy programs, technical courses include college level mathematics (statistics preferred) and biology. Applicants who are deficient in their technical course requirements may be admitted with the provision that they meet with their advisor before or during their first semester to make a plan to compensate for any deficiencies.  

GRE’s are required unless the student has completed a previous American Masters degree. For students who graduated from a university in a country where English is not the official language, TOEFL scores should be at least 550 (paper-based), 213 (computer-based), or 79 (internet-based).

A faculty committee will evaluate each applicant’s complete packet of application materials including GPA, GRE, TOEFL, experience, recommendations and essay. Meeting minimum requirements does not guarantee acceptance. In some cases, applicants who do not meet one of our entry requirements may be admitted if other parts of their application outweigh the deficiency. In addition, applicants who do not meet one of our entry requirements may be admitted if they have completed 9 credits of Work Environment Department courses, all with a B+ or better as a non-matriculated student.

An applicant interested in part-time study may wish to first enroll in a Work Environment core course as a non-matriculated student (see the Graduate Catalog application procedure for details) to learn more about the program, and so that faculty can get to know the prospective degree candidate as well. A maximum of 4 courses (12 credits) may be taken before matriculating. An applicant who has taken one or more Work Environment courses is strongly encouraged to obtain at least one letter of recommendation from a Work Environment instructor.

Application dates: The Department of Work Environment has rolling admissions, and will consider applications at any time. However, the following points should be considered.

Departmental Financial Assistance:  An applicant for full-time study who wishes to be considered for departmental funding should have a completed admissions application (including undergraduate transcripts, letters of recommendation, and GRE scores) submitted to the Office of Graduate Admissions by April 15 for admission the following September.  Applications received after that date risk not being considered for departmental funding.  Awards are generally announced beginning in June. The Department will try to accommodate students who request an early decision because of the need to respond to competing requests. Please contact the Department if you are in this situation.

Mid-year Admissions: A student may begin in January, the start of the second semester. However, course sequences are designed for the student who starts in September, and so it is more difficult to plan an orderly course schedule beginning in January.  Also, departmental funding is not generally available for those starting in January. If a student starting in January wishes to be considered for departmental funding, she/he may apply for the next cycle, starting in September of the same year.

Accelerated Bachelor's-Master's Program

Please see Accelerated Bachelor's-Master's Program for details.

Academic Advisor

Each graduate student admitted into the Department of Work Environment will be assigned an academic advisor who will assist in the selection of courses and who will develop, with the student, a program which will meet the needs and requirements for the desired concentration. For a master’s degree candidate who selects the non-thesis option, the academic advisor will supervise the advanced research project.

Master’s Thesis

A student selecting the thesis option will arrange, through the academic advisor, to have a three-member faculty committee appointed at the time a thesis proposal is submitted. At least two of the committee members shall be from the student’s area of concentration. The committee is responsible for approval of the proposal. The report on the research work will then be performed primarily under the supervision of the academic advisor. The thesis must be prepared in appropriate form and be presented to the thesis committee for final approval. The student is required to give an oral defense of the thesis before the committee and other faculty members. The completed thesis must conform to the format specified in the "Thesis Guide," available from the Registrar’s Office.

Master’s Project

The project will consist of a scholarly investigation, such as a review, report, synthesis or design in the student’s field resulting in a written document. Each project is awarded three credits and is intended to be completed within the time limit of one semester. If the work for a project is not completed by the end of the semester, the instructor will give the student a grade of "I" which is to be treated the same as an incomplete for a regular course.

Capstone Course

This three-credit two-semester sequence (19.600/19.601) is designed to provide students with the opportunity to examine a problem in depth and propose a solution to the problem. The product will be a term paper and a public presentation of the proposed approach. Students will be assigned a faculty member to serve as a consultant to the process of developing a solution, although the faculty’s role will be to provide guidance and general advice, not detailed directions.

Course Requirements for the Master’s Degree

This is a 36 credit program. A core of 15 credits is required of all students in the master’s degree program. An additional 21 credits is required for each of the concentrations for students with no prior experience. Requests for waiver of any specific course requirements will be considered on a case- by-case basis and will depend on documentation of equivalent course work at another institution, or upon satisfactory evidence of advanced professional standing.

Core Courses:

One of the following:

19.500 Analytical Context of the Work Environment - 3 credits

          Or 19.651 Work Environment Policy and Practice - 3 credits


19.503 Toxicology and Health - 3 credits

19.525 Introduction to OEH-IH and Ergonomics - 3 credits

19.575 Introduction to Biostatistics & Epidemiology - 3 credits

19.600 Work Environment Capstone - 0 credits (first of a 3 credit, two-semester sequence)

19.601 Work Environment Capstone - 3 credits

Total required core courses: 15 credits

Areas of Specialization 

Occupational Ergonomics/Safety

Ergonomics provides the scientific basis for optimized design of the work environment compatible with the capabilities and limitations of the working population. An ergonomist is trained to recognize, evaluate, and control hazards in the work environment that result from a poor fit between the worker and the work-place; these hazards may result in acute injury, chronic musculoskeletal disorders, or mental/psychosocial "stress."  The physical demands of machines, tools, and work methods must accommodate the range in size, strength, mobility, and endurance of the workforce. Information flow must be structured so that the worker can process and respond appropriately without being mentally overstressed to the degree that errors result. Job content and work organization should be designed to optimize skill utilization and learning, physiological and psychological well-being. The option in Ergonomics/Safety is designed to develop an understanding of human anatomy, physiology, and psychology, of industrial hygiene and epidemiology and modern manufacturing technology and work organization, industrial safety. It provides a multidisciplinary background in these basic areas, as well as their application to the practical ergonomics and safety problems that are encountered in industrial and service work environments.

The following courses are required in addition to the core:

19.531 Occupational Biomechanics - 3 credits

19.540 Occupational Safety Engineering - 3 credits

19.542 Human Factors - 3 credits

19.638 Methods in Work Analysis - 3 credits

Electives - 9 credits

The curriculum allows the Ergonomics/Safety students to choose 9 credits in electives. These electives will be selected by each student in accordance with her/his background, interests, and career goals. It is expected that the set of chosen electives will represent a coherent "track" or "option" within the concentration. These choices should be thoroughly discussed with the advisor. Options include a joint concentration with Occupational and Environmental Hygiene; "general practice" in safety and ergonomics; musculoskeletal disorders; and psychosocial strain/work organization.

Occupational and Environmental Hygiene

Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (OEH-IH) is concerned with the protection of worker health through the prevention of occupational illness and injury. Occupational and environmental hygienists accomplish this goal through the recognition, evaluation, control and prevention of chemical, physical, biological, and psychosocial hazards in the work environment. The control of such hazards allows the worker to perform his/her job in a productive manner, free from the debilitating effects of work-related illnesses.

Educational Goals 

Graduates will be prepared in the initial diagnosis of exposure problems in the workplace and general environment, in the development of sampling and evaluation strategies to characterize the problem, in field collection and laboratory techniques to measure environmental exposures, and in the development and evaluation of environmental controls and innovative alternatives. A new aspect of our program is to train industrial hygienists to be involved in the design and implementation of more sustainable systems of production.

The OEH-IH program is specifically designed to achieve the following educational objectives:

  1. Technical Competence: Demonstrate a high level of technical and scientific competence in the application of the fundamentals of recognition, evaluation, control and prevention of occupational and environmental hazards.
  2. Analytic Competence: Demonstrate the ability to solve complex problems through observation, literature review, measurement and data analysis.
  3. Effective Communication: Utilize effective oral and written communications to interact with technical and lay audiences around occupational and environmental health issues.
  4. Effective Teamwork: Work independently and as part of an occupational and environmental health team to address complex problems in occupational and environmental health.
  5. Ethical Practice: Understand the moral, ethical, legal and professional responsibilities for the protection of occupational and environmental health and integrate an awareness of social and global issues into practice.
  6. Life long Learning: Understand the need to engage in life-long learning and undertake appropriate activities to address this need, including professional advancement leading to professional certification

The following courses are required in addition to the core:

19.540 Occupational Safety Engineering - 3 credits

19.614 Evaluation of Work Environment Hazards - 3 credits

19.615 Solutions to Work Environment Hazards - 3 credits

19.616 Exposure and Risk Assessment - 3 credits

19.619 Measurement of Chemical Exposures - 3 credits

19.651 Work Environment Policy & Practice - 3 credits

Elective - 3 credits

The curriculum allows the Occupational and Environmental Hygiene student to choose 3 credits in electives. Each choice should be thoroughly discussed with your advisor.


Epidemiology is the study of the distribution and determinants of disease in human populations. Today's occupational epidemiologist is called upon to identify previously unsuspected diseases caused by exposure to hazards in the work environment, to assess the health risks of new technologies, to recommend a scientific basis for the setting of occupational standards to protect worker health, and to evaluate the ability of control technologies or other interventions to limit health risks. Epidemiology is a rapidly evolving discipline using increasingly sophisticated statistical methods to quantify the risks of low level, long term exposures to hazardous physical and chemical agents. The field is highly interdisciplinary, drawing on physiology, toxicology, biostatistics, industrial hygiene and ergonomics.  To meet the need for epidemiologists in industry, government and academia, the student in the epidemiology concentration will be trained in the full spectrum of epidemiologic methods.

The following courses are required in addition to the core:

19.577 Biostatistics for Health Data - 3 credits

19.682 Applied Epidemiologic Methods - 3 credits

19.687 Quantitative Models in Environmental Health Assessment - 3 credits

One of the following:

19.610 Exposure Assessment - 3 credits

          Or 19.614 Evaluation of Work Environment Hazards - 3 credits

          Or 19.638 Methods of Job Analysis - 3 credits

Electives - 9 credits

In addition to the above requirements, students would choose three additional 3-credit courses in consultation with the advisor. The courses are expected to have some subject area coherence, but would not be otherwise defined.

Courses from which to choose might include:

19.540 Occupational Safety Engineering 
19.542 Human Factors 
19.634 Cardiopulmonary Effects of Work 
19.643 Healthy Work Organization 
19.675 Reproductive Epidemiology 
19.683 Risk Assessment 
19.684 Musculoskeletal Epidemiology 
19.688 Research Synthesis 
19.685 Injury Epidemiology 
19.690 Critical Reviews of Occupational Health Standards   
19.725 Epidemiologic Theory

Work Environment Policy

The policy analyst must understand the interaction between science (and scientific uncertainty) in occupational and environmental health, and the politics of the workplace setting. The fields of occupational and environmental health are integrated by the practical focus on actual workplace conditions: policy is based on the science; engineering and political economy provide the solutions. The Work Environment Policy concentration will provide master’s level education to graduates from a wide variety of backgrounds, including the social sciences and law, who wish to be administrators of occupational health and safety programs in the private and/or public sectors, or who wish to be policy analysts in agencies and organizations concerned with affecting environmental health and worker safety and health.

The following courses are required in addition to the core:

19.550 Environmental Law & Policy - 3 credits

19.643 Healthy Work Organization - 3 credits

19.651 Work Environment Policy and Practice - 3 credits

19.655 Economic Analysis - 3 credits

19.683 Risk Assessment - 3 credits

Electives - 6 credits

The Policy student must take 6 elective credits derived from courses agreed upon by the advisor and student.

Cleaner Production and Pollution Prevention

This specialization is one of the few programs of its kind in the country. It combines a working knowledge of the work environment in its core curriculum and an intensive study experience in the principles and techniques of production for sustainability. The sustainable production systems of the future must integrate economic performance with sound environmental policy and strong safeguards for workers and public health. Pollution Prevention or environmentally conscious manufacturing is characterized by sound management, creative and productive design, environmentally friendly products, waste minimization and work organizations that protect health while assuring economic returns.

The following courses are required in addition to the core:

19.550 Environmental Law & Policy - 3 credits

19.557 Toxic Use Reduction - 3 credits

One of the following:

19.610 Exposure Assessment - 3 credits

          Or 19.614 Evaluation of Work Environment Hazards - 3 credits

19.651 Work Environment Policy and Practice - 3 credits

19.659 Cleaner Production Principles - 3 credits

Electives - 6 credits

The Cleaner Production student must take 6 elective credits derived from courses agreed upon by the advisor and student.