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Which qualifications for a job in Safety?

Old 17th Jul 2010, 04:02
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Question Which qualifications for a job in Safety?


I'm currently starting out on the bottom rung in the safety department of an airline. My medium-to-long-term goal is to work my way up to Safety Manager, beyond that... perhaps COO??? (This is my second career. The first was in IT. Following my dreams... )

I follow the job ads on all the popular recruitment sites and a position came up yesterday which asked for "Certificate IV in Occupational Health and Safety" which got me thinking: What qualifications would be most useful in getting me to my goals?

I have, for all intents and purposes, finished a Bachelor of Aviation degree. I only need to do a bit more flying to satisfy all the requirements for the degree. I suspect the studies I have already done on Safety are to a much greater depth, and more relevant, than a Cert IV, but I'm not sure I could use that to get me into an interview for the aforementioned job. I am keen to continue my professional development and am seriously thinking about doing a Masters of Aviation Management someday.

What qualifications - or experience - do the readers of this group think are required or desirable for a career in Aviation Safety?
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Old 20th Jul 2010, 11:18
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Very little is strictly required. But there are a few desirables.

I'd look hard at adding a suitable MSc, or even an MPhil, to your BSc [and you "actually" need the BSc, rather than "to all intents and purposes"]. This is certainly the biggest and most useful addition. I notice that you're in Australia, which may mean that you want to update to an honours degree first.

I'd also look at CRM trainer qualification.

Presumably you already have a CPL, if not you should.

Basic health and safety management is a very good idea, whatever is normal locally.

Apart from that, it will really come down to your experience and personal and professional reputation.

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Old 22nd Jul 2010, 10:35
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Hi Aviast

Academic qualification is part of it, and IT will certainly help,but there are other, more abstract qualities and traits that are required. I have attached an extract from our SMS regarding the position of Safety Manager................

Job description.

The flight safety manager is responsible for the oversight of the companyís Flight safety programme.

They will be responsible for providing information and advice to the accountable manager on all matters relating to the safe operation of company aircraft. The safety manager acts independently of other parts of the company.

Assignments and investigations must be undertaken with little or no notice in irregular and anti social hours.

The safety manager will interact with line flight crew, maintenance engineers, cabin crew and other general managers and departmental heads throughout the company, to encourage and achieve integration of all activities regardless of an individualís status and job discipline.

The safety manager will foster positive relationships with regulatory authorities and outside agencies.


The suggested minimum attributes and qualifications required are;

A broad aviation/technical education
A sound knowledge of commercial operations, in particular flight operations procedures and activities
Experience as a flight crew member or engineer
The ability for clear expression in writing
Good presentation and interpersonal skills
Computer literacy
The ability to communicate at all levels, both inside and outside the company
Organisational ability
To be capable of working alone (At times under pressure)
Good analytical skills
To exhibit leadership and an authorative approach
Be worthy of commanding respect among peers and management officials

Terms of reference

The Safety Manager is responsible to the accountable manager for;

Maintaining the Air safety occurrence reporting database
Monitoring corrective actions and flight safety trends
Co-ordinating with the CAAs MOR reporting scheme
Liaising with the heads of all departments company wide, on flight safety matters
Acting as chairman of the companyís Safety Management Team (SMT), arranging its meetings, and keeping records of such meetings.
Disseminating flight safety related information company-wide.
Maintaining and open liaison with manufacturers flight safety department, government regulatory bodies, and other flight safety organisations
Assisting with the investigation of accidents, and conducting and co-ordinating investigations into incidents
Carrying out safety audits and inspections
Maintaining familiarity with all aspects of the company activities and its personnel
Managing or having oversight of the Flight data monitoring programme (OPTIC)
Publishing a periodic company flight safety magazine


That is just one example, from one European based company and I hope it gives you something to think about. The position is also very much about the personality of the individual, and you are going to have to get used to having "moral conversations" with your inner self from time to time, as some days will be good, some days will be challenging.



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Old 22nd Jul 2010, 10:46
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City University have an excellent MSc.
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Old 30th Jul 2010, 18:06
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G'day Aviast

In Australia the Cert IV is OK if you want to be, and remain, a "safety officer". All the Cert IV qualifications are basically a "trades" certificate. If you are involved in dealing with the paper cuts and the bad backs, worker's comp etc then this is a good place to start.

In the mining industry you'd never get a start in an OHS role without this as a minimum.

When you have your B.Sc(Av) you could possibly consider the OHS program (Graduate Certificate- 1 year or Masters -2 years) at Newcastle Uni.

I suggest you will need much more than Cert IV to move up the ladder, but aviation "safety" decisions never cease to amaze me

PM me for more info on the Newcastle program.
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Old 31st Jul 2010, 07:59
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Thank you everyone for your feedback!

Genghis: I already have a BSc with honours That was my IT degree.
As for my Bachelor of Aviation degree: I'm only about $20k away from achieving that so just in the last stages. I'll have my CPL by November!
I don't think the BAvn has any value in and of itself but it would be a pre-requisite for a Master of Aviation Management which, as you indicated, is probably more useful.

Horatio: I've been looking specifically at the Masters at Newcastle so I will definitely be in touch. You've identified the issue that prompted my first post: the Cert IV appears to be fairly general and I was surprised that the airline in question was setting the bar so low. But if they're going to make it a requirement for a safety role than that's what I'll have to get...
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Old 2nd Aug 2010, 12:27
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What qualifications - or experience - do the readers of this group think are required or desirable for a career in Aviation Safety?
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First of all gain meaningful flying experience -and not just pottering around a circuit with student pilots. Get yourself a real job flying general aviation charter work up North somewhere. Experience the weather, the thunderstorms which you are bound to hit one night without radar and see for yourself the shonk operators who abound all over Australia. Before you go, you will need an instrument rating. Pick up a couple of thousand hours IFR experience.

Only then will you qualified to talk and teach flight safety from a sound background of been there-done that. All the theoretical qualifications, degrees and other business card decorations are worth little without experience of decision making that equips you to teach flight safety subjects and be respected in the job.
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Old 3rd Aug 2010, 13:03
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City University have an excellent MSc.
Indeed it does. They run three related courses:

MSc Air Transport Management
MSc Air Safety Management
MSc Aircraft Maintenance Management

The course is modular and you complete eight modules plus a project for the MSc. A Diploma or Certificate is also feasible if you want to do just the taught parts.

The modules are three days taught lectures each (though I think this is soon to increase) as is the extent coursework. They can be taken over up to four years.

I have just finished the Air Transport Management one and I thoroughly recommend it....

1) almost all students are professionals in their mid 30s and above. I don't recall meeting anyone that was completely new to the industry. The information exhange and networking possibilities are therefore very good.

2) Partly because of (1) the knowledge imparted relates to the real world, and is practical and current.

3) Because of the shared courses it is possible to study elective modules from a different stream and broaden your outlook if you wish. For example: I studied "Accident Investigation", "Crisis Management" and "Safety by Design".

4) This wealth of choices means that it gives the student with a day job plenty of flexibility in attendance. This was important for me.

Having finished the course, it left a void in my life and I looked around for another similar course. A few I considered

MSc Positioning and Navigation Technology (Nottingham)
MSc Human Factors and Safety Assessment in Aeronautics (Cranfield)
MSc International Defence and Security Marketing (Cranfield)

What I noticed is that while they all claim to be "part time" and "modular", completion is over a short period (especially for a Certificate or Diploma) and more importantly the modules are only run once per year with compulsory modules and some with prerequisite modules such that you cannot afford to miss it first time around. This makes these courses much more inflexible. It is worthing asking all these questions before you sign on the dotted line. Be aware that is you already have a qualification at the same level, you will pay more than a UK student that doesn't.

Regarding the "Jack of All Trades" approach of an ATM MSc, for some people that is exactly the objective: as an engineer my experience of the user and infrastructure was limited: study of Airports, Airline Operations etc gave a very good appreciation of the real benefits that equipment provide.

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Old 10th Aug 2010, 20:11
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The above mentioned MSc programs are a combination of all all relevant fields. I think, they make you a generalist and so able to become the safety manager. But they don't turn you into a sepcialist. I guess, the generalist can become the safety manager, not the specialist.

If you're looking for the specialist's qualification, then I'd suggest a MSc in human factors or cognitive psychology ore something else in this field.
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Old 11th Aug 2010, 00:32
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Hey Aviast...

Are you applying for the Safety Advisor position at Q that's currently advertised? They don't mention salary and I can't find out internally what they earn...also it's one of a team of 4 that reports up to the Safety Manager. I see they only want a Cert1V in training and assessment which means you're probably going to be doing much instruction as things continue to change..... Good luck mate...I see them out there sometimes in the rain...

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Old 11th Aug 2010, 12:14
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I've done the MSc in HF at Cranfield and it was excellent, I'd recommend it. I have friends who have done the City MSc and they really rated that course too so I think you have to look at the modules and decide which course interests you most, if you're not interested it's hard to keep the motivation going. If your ambition is to reach Safety Manager and beyond I would recommend looking at an MBA or other business qualification, you'd be surprised how many business techniques overlap with safety ones and an awful lot of systems and methodology in both fields have come from engineering disciplines in the first place. Plus you have the advantage of being able to talk the language of those who hold the purse strings. Other than that I agree with most of the other posts which say that experience in different fields of aviation is at least as important as the qualifications.
Good luck
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Old 11th Aug 2010, 14:43
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I think the original question was about a long-term goal of reaching Safety Manager. With that in mind he could do well on a MSc course that is entitled "Air Safety Management". I'm not sure being too specialised if you seek a managers role is a good thing.

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Old 22nd Aug 2010, 07:55
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Amongst others, skills are required in the QA, Auditing/compliance areas. This is also best backed up with a reasonable amount of line flying and/or aircraft engineering & maintenance. Then an investigator's course from someone like these people. Then, assuming you are in the right place at the right time and the finger of fate is pointed in your direction...

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Old 24th Aug 2010, 11:19
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One interesting phenomenon may be seen in Burr Styer's post , namely that none of the qualifications specify any feature that directly has to do with safety. Imagine a job posting for a pilot which didn't actually specify you had to have demonstrated you can fly a plane!

Contrary to the impression this may leave, there is a corpus underlying studies of safety. The University of York Continuing Professional Development courses (Master's and Certificate) run through the Computer Science Department, have an on-line syllabus which indicates what they think this corpus consists in, and it's not bad. (Rob Weaver, who looks after safety management at AirServices Australia, used to work at York.) As others have mentioned, Cranfield and City are places worth looking at also.

It seems to me that, with your one, soon to be two, B.A.'s (or B.Sc.'s), including one in IT, a short program, such as a Master's-by-study or some Certificate (such as that at York), would be a worthwhile addition.

I don't specifically know about opportunities to study safety (technical safety rather than the OHS variety) at the CPD level in Australia, but I can ask if info is desired.

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Old 2nd Sep 2010, 06:05
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I can heartily recommend the SCSI courses (Southern California Safety Institute) which can now be done by distance learning. I also attended the 'SMS in Aviation' week-long course in Cranfield which was an excellent starting place if you are just getting into SMS.
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Old 7th Sep 2010, 08:57
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Not sure if you read all of my post. It does state under the "Terms of Reference" what is required of the individual, and the word safety does occur in the narrative on quite a few occasions.

The point I was trying to convey, was that being a safety manager requires more than just academic qualification or operational experience. It also requires abstract qualities (the first part) and that you have to carry out specific activities (terms of Reference).

I would be the first to say the list is not exhaustive, but I think it conveys the idea.

Just out of curiosity, and based on your experience, how would you state the roles and responsibilities of an aviation safety manager within an organisation ?

Burr Styers is offline  
Old 18th Sep 2010, 23:27
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In Australia, Safety Manager is focused on facilitating an operators Safety Management System.

You should ensure you have a thorough understanding SMS. There is good documentation on the CASA website ( and in particular you should know the three advisory publications associated with SMS implementation.

To equip your skills and knowledge in the areas to support this, I'd recommend gaining a solid awareness in:
- Risk Management
- Quality Assurance / Auditing (think of a Lead Auditors Certificate)
- Safety Investigations

Possible extensions to this might be
- Human Factors
- Environmental Requirements
- Security
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Old 19th Sep 2010, 13:39
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Isn't an SMS a system where the local aviation authority withdraws its own requirement to oversee airline safety and leaves it to industry best practice? Wasn't that the same system that the worldwide banking system had?
Correlation doesn't prove causation though.
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Old 21st Sep 2010, 04:42
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Hobbit - a common misunderstanding

The National Aviation Authority must always have regulatory oversight, that is why they are called regulators.

SMS is one method of requiring certificate holders to carry out their own safety, risk and quality management.

The regulator then turns up to check for regulatory compliance and that your SMS is working.

If they have a finding - that is a double whammy

a. you are out of compliance
b. your SMS is ineffective

All you have to do is fix it!
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Old 24th Sep 2010, 13:38
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On an international level the most recognized safety qualification is still, arguably, the Certificate in Aviation Safety by the University of Southern California, Viterbi.

Anyone who has been through it will vouch for its quality.
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