Long post alert! Yes this is going to be pretty long but you will understand why soon.
As much as I say professional designations shouldn’t get into our heads, I have to admit that getting chartered should be at the front of the mind of every Safety professional. Somehow being chartered gives you an edge over others. In the UK, we have the OSHCR (Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register) where you have to be chartered to have your name on it. For those who are registered with IIRSM, you must have the Fellow status with degree level qualifications.
The OSHCR is a register of consultants who can offer Health and Safety advice to businesses in the UK. I am yet to hear of a company in Nigeria who insists a consultant should be on this register to work with them so fret not.
IOSH has different levels of membership. For Safety pros, ideally you start as TechIOSH if you have the Nebosh Cert or NVQ Level 3. If you have none and want to join IOSH, you start and remain an Affiliate. With the Nebosh Diploma, NVQ Level 5 and Masters from recognised institutions, you get the GradIOSH. Everyone starts off as an Affiliate but once you send IOSH evidence and documentations they need and they have verified it, they upgrade you to Associate, Tech or Grad.
Once you are a Graduate member, you can start working towards Chartered status. You have to apply to start an IPD (Initial Professional Development). Alongside IPD, all members must join the CPD (Continuing Professional Development) scheme. On the CPD scheme, you have to create a Development plan and start working towards achieving what you stated in your plan. Will talk more about this in a different post.
Never take a break from IOSH
I am a step of away from getting chartered. As easy as that sounds, it is not a one-day thing. I took a 2-year break from my membership with IOSH and how bitterly I had to pay back for that. So my friends, once you get started don’t turn back.
I first got registered with IOSH in 2011 and of course thanks to my masters program, was awarded the Graduate status. I started working on my CPD and wanted to be a Safety guru before starting my IPD (not that you must, as you have 2 years to work on it once you start the IPD. It’s just how I wanted things).
The Graduate membership was given to me just like that. Yeah I wasn’t so thrilled even though I knew at the back of my mind that I worked hard and paid dearly for it. I thought that I needed lots of experience to be awarded it but I am sure IOSH knows exactly what they are doing when they award inexperinced people the GradIOSH title. Since I wasn’t sure of myself, I decided to get some experience before going the IPD route. I worked on my CPD for a little over 2 years.
In 2014, once my membership with IOSH was due for renewal, I decided not to renew. After all, I was now in Nigeria and of what good had it been to me all the time I was in the UK, I thought to myself. It wasn’t important until a few months back when I got contacted by a company who wanted me to be one of their NEBOSH trainers. But the catch was that I had to be a Graduate member of IOSH. Say what?!
Now being a member made sense. They need evidence that I am continually improving and working on myself and career. How can someone who can’t verify themself or keep a traceable CPD teach NEBOSH or any professioanl course? This is how I concluded it. Membership with a professional body is necessary. Hmmm… You need to be a member even if it is just to put yourself in check.
Now I knew it was time to renew my membership. Ike needed to take her life and career a little more seriously. I logged into My IOSH and discovered I couldn’t renew online. Then I contacted IOSH and was told that since I hadn’t renewed my membership for 2 years, they ended it and I would have to start all over again as an Affiliate, complete the transfer form and wait to be audited and accepted. Oh my!
Even worse, my CPD record I had worked on for over 2 years disappeared the minute I paid my new membership fee. I nearly fainted. Why didn’t I save it when I could?!
My dear friends, once you start the IOSH journey, make sure you never turn back. Just keep at it unless you are ready to start all over like me.
The main thing is becoming a Graduate member first. But how?
The most common courses are the NEBOSH Diploma, NVQs and master degrees from recognised institutions to mention a few. I am going to talk about all 3 of them I just mentioned – the pros and cons and why I think the NVQ is the best thing since sliced bread.
1. NEBOSH Diploma
This is the most common in Nigeria and of course it is recognised globally so why not?
Most people actually do the NEBOSH certificate which we famously call IGC in Nigeria. This IGC gives you just TechIOSH which is a good thing but not good enough for me. The IGC is done 10 days of serious lecture which I think isn’t fun. The brain doesn’t even get the chance to process it all and relax! The thought of it alone is mega stressful. Once you get the exam over with, you have the IGC3 practical assessment which is sometimes difficult but of course possible to pass.
Then the NEBOSH Diploma is even tougher then the IGC. I always recommend that people who decide to take them get some experience or complete and pass any of the NEBOSH certificate first. The NEBOSH Diploma comes as either in Occupational Health and Safety or Environmental Management (great for those who want to go the environment route).
The Diploma lasts for 6 weeks with 3 half day exams and an 8,000 word work-based project.
3 half day exams. I wonder why that shocks me when I had to write more exams than this when I did my masters lol.
NEBOSH had many good sides but it blesses with more theoretical than practical knowledge (please correct me if I’m wrong. Never did a NEBOSH so clearly I don’t know the ins and outs that well).
Maybe that is why most safety pros who went the NEBOSH route speak like a textbook. Too much cramming I would say. I once met a Safety professional who told me the NEBOSH exam sat at his centre some years back was cancelled by NEBOSH for exam malpractice. He claims they didn’t cheat. I think they all crammed and wrote down the same notes they got from same training provider. Maybe NEBOSH was shocked by too much similarity and just had to cancel the results. Or maybe they cheated as NEBOSH assumed.
I learnt one thing from studying abroad, ok not just abroad cos abroad could be cotonou. So let me rephrase that. One thing I learnt from studying in the UK is to apply yourself and critically analyse. When you sit for an exam, you need to be able to explain in your own way not just the textbook way.
I remember the research methods exams I sat for when doing my masters. The questions that we were given were not part of what I studied for the exam. Everyone was in shock. It shocked so much that all I could do was to sit back and remember what was taught in the many classes we attended. I gently wrote what I could remember and explained in the best way that I could. I got a miraculous C in that exam. Many of my colleagues failed the exam and had to resit it. That C was way better than the A I got in one of my modules. Applying myself helped me pass that module.
Oh NVQ my love. The joy and surprise I felt the day I found you!
I hate exams. With the NVQ there are no exams just real hands-on experience that leaves you seasoned even before you qualify as a Safety Professional. Nothing beats that. The NVQ level 3 gives you a TechIOSH designation but the Level 5 gives you the same GradIOSH as the NEBOSH Diploma and the recognised masters degree.
The sweetest part is that doing the NVQ is the fastest way to being chartered! Yes you read that correctly! Once you complete the NVQ 5 and are awarded the certificate, did you know you could actually sit for an open book exam for 2 weeks which if you pass, blesses you with the gift of CMIOSH?!
Well more to come on this after I’m done talking about the master’s route.
3. Masters Degree
I did a masters degree in Occupational Health and Safety Management with Brunel University in West London. A lot of what I use today is what I learnt while studying for this degree so of course I am glad I went for it. When I did it, I never knew about the NVQ. Not even sure when the NVQ started (maybe I need to do some research?).
I chose a master’s degree over the NEBOSH because it was a step in the right direction towards becoming a real professor. Yep. For those who don’t know, I am not a real professor. The same way Professor Green the artist isn’t one lol.
With the master’s degree from an IOSH recognised institution comes the GradIOSH award. If you decide to do a masters (by all means) and it is with an institution not on IOSH list but still dream of being GradIOSH, I strongly advise you at least go for the NEBOSH Diploma.
I would say that a master’s degree is a mix of the NEBOSH and NVQ. Why I say this is because there is the theoretical aspect and also the practical aspect where you have to do your research and complete certain aspects of the module through really practical means.
For example, once we had to create a policy and something like a safety management system for a fictional automobile company that had some really hazardous processes. We had to research and understand each of their processes, the risks present in them and a whole lot of stuff. It was tough but I loved it! This is what the NVQ is like. Lots of practical stuff!
NVQ – The Faster Smarter Way to CMIOSH!
The NVQ is a vocational qualification from City & Guilds. It is designed to recognise competence based on performance on the job instead of exams. Those of you who know me now, know that I am all for what one can do not the amount of certificates we tend to accumulate.
Remember I said competence on the job? So yes to do the Safety NVQ, you must have a job in Health and Safety popularly called HSE in Nigeria. You do your job and at the same time work towards certification without studying for exams!
If you have completed the IGC (NEBOSH certificate), you can go for the NVQ level 5. There is no strict timeframe but it can be done in as little as 4months to a couple of years. Once you have been awarded the NVQ Level 5 Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety, you can them take the NEBOSH open-book exam over a 2-week period to gain the Chartered member status. So technically, you can go from TechIOSH to CMIOSH (chartered member) in a matter of months! What a Wow!
The Unfortunate Situation
The sad part is that NVQs are currently only done in the UK. Sobs… My good lord why didn’t I do this when I was in the UK?!
Dear Nigerian, at least for now, you are stuck with the globally recognised NEBOSH and a masters from an IOSH recognised institution, if you have possibly £12,000 (could be more or less but that’s a good figure to have in mind).
For those in the UK, feel free to try the NVQ route if you want to get chartered too fast – I know you will be pleased. Or go for a master’s degree and get the best of both worlds (NVQ and NEBOSH). You not only learn about Health and Safety, you gain research skills, ability to work in teams and the much desired MSc.