Work Environment

Master of Science Program in Work Environment

The UMass Lowell Department of Work Environment offers a 36-credit master's program with two options:

Dual Option Master of Science in Work Environment

A dual option master's degree that combines these two options is also possible by completing all required courses for both options. This dual option requires completion of 39 credits.

The option master's degree is also available by combining either Occupational & Environmental Hygiene or Environmental Hygiene or Occupational Ergonomics & Safety with either Epidemiology or Cleaner Production & Pollution Prevention.

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 preferred), biology (physiology or anatomy preferred) and physics. For the Occupational Ergonomics & Safety program, technical courses must include college level mathematics (calculus preferred), biology (physiology or anatomy preferred) and physics. For the Epidemiology, Cleaner Production and Policy programs, technical courses include college level mathematics (statistics preferred) and biology (physiology or anatomy preferred). Applicants who are deficient in their technical course requirements may be admitted with the provision that they meet with their adviserr 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 graduate 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 and resuting in a GPA of at least 3.3 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 Adviser

Each graduate student admitted into the Department of Work Environment will be assigned an academic adviser 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. 

Practicum/Capstone Course

This six-credit two-semester sequence (PUBH.6000/PUBH.6010) provides the opportunity to apply practical skills through a culminating practice experience for students in the Master's programs in Work Environment and Public Health. he course is designed to provide students with the opportunity to examine a interdisciplinary problem in depth an propose a solution to the problem by applying technical knowledge an skills obtained in their program to a real world issue. The product will be a report and a Public presentation of the project.  

Master’s Thesis

A student selecting the thesis option will arrange, through the academic adviser, 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 adviser. 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.

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 option fro students with no prior experience. Advanced professional standing as evidenced by a CIH, CSP or CPE can result in a reduction of up to 12 credits. 

Core Courses:

One of the following:

PUBH.5030 Toxicology and Health - 3 credits

PUBH.5510 Work Environment Policy and Practice - 3 credits

PUBH.5750 Introduction to Epidemiology - 3 credits

PUBH.6000 Work Environment Practicum/Capstone - 3 credits

PUBH.6010 Work Environment Practicum/Capstone - 3 credits

Total required core courses: 15 credits

Areas of Specialization

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 an 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 for the debilitating effects of work-related illnesses.

The Occupational & Environmental Hygiene 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:

PUBH.5100 Fundamentals of Occupational Health - 3 credits

PUBH.5300 Ergonomics and Work - 3 credits

    OR PUBH.5400 Occupational Safety Engineering - 3 credits


PUBH.6140 Evaluation of Work Environment Hazards - 3 credits

PUBH.6150 Solutions to Work Environment Hazards - 3 credits

PUBH.6161 Exposure and Risk Assessment - 3 credits

PUBH.6191 Measurement of Chemical Exposures - 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.

Electives can also be used to and for required courses in another option en route to a dual option Master's with Occupational Ergonomics & Safety (39 credits total), Epidemiology (45 credits total) or Cleaner Production & Pollution Prevention (45 credits totals).

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:

PUBH.5300 Ergonomics and Work - 3 credits

PUBH.5311 Occupational Biomechanics - 3 credits

PUBH.5400 Occupational Safety Engineering - 3 credits

PUBH.6140 Evaluation of Work Environment Hazards - 3 credits

Electives - 9 credits

The curriculum allows the Occupational Ergonomics and 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. Tracks include "general practice" in safety and ergonomics: musculoskeletal disorder: and psychosocial strain/work organization. 

Electives can also be used to for required courses in another option en route to a dual option master's with either Occupational an Environmental Hygiene (39 credits total) or Epidemiology (42 credits total).


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:

PUBH.5770 Introduction to Biostatistics - 3 credits

PUBH.6161 Exposure and Risk Assessment - 3 credits

PUBH.6820 Applied Epidemiologic Methods - 3 credits

PUBH.6870 Quantitative Models for Public Health - 3 credits

PUBH.6890 Advanced Regression Modeling - 3 credits

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:

PUBH.5570 Toxic Use Reduction - 3 credits

PUBH.6590 Cleaner Production Principles - 3 credits

PUBH. 6020 Sustainability Assessment Tools - 3 credits

PUBH. 6030 Global Development and Health - 3 credits

The dual option with Occupational & Environmental Hygiene and Cleaner Production & Pollution Prevention requires a total of 45 credits.