By: Dr. Ronald G Dotson Ed. D

Occupational Safety and Health Program Coordinator
Eastern Kentucky University


The Importance of Your EKU Occupational Safety Degree

                “A piece of paper does not make the professional; character does!” I could not agree more! In fact, I would challenge anyone to refute this. So why is a degree so important? It is true that earnings over a lifetime increase with education level overall. It is true that employers place importance on degrees, but we all know success stories without a degree being involved. Knowledge can be learned in different ways. These are symptoms that can cloud what a degree really stands for. You must understand that a degree is about your character, and it allows for creative application of hands-on learning.

                A degree is a long-term challenge. It takes commitment, discipline, initiative, empathy and humility above all other leadership traits. Commitment to complete a long-term challenge means sacrifice and overcoming work issues, family issues and life’s little interruptions. No matter when you commit to your education, sacrifice is required. A degree first and foremost demonstrates character associated with commitment over a long haul. It takes discipline. Educational maturity means the ever-increasing ability to convert original findings into application. This means self-directed studies; in other words, initiative. Humility is involved at a higher degree as age increases before degree completion. Adult learners can become entrenched in their ways to the point that creative thought is impeded. Completing your degree demonstrates that you can learn new ideas, be open to change, and handle challenge and critique in a professional manner. Character is developed while you engage in your studies.

                Education is about equality. Equality relies on learning about access and issues, and as analytical thinking ability increases, the recognition of inequality issues and problem-solving skills increase. Theories of foundational importance can then be applied. Individually, it becomes more difficult for someone to take advantage of another. This plays out daily in the field of occupational safety. Workers who are more aware of hazards, regulations and hazard abatement strategy are less accepting of hazardous conditions.

                History is full of tragic disasters centering on occupational safety and intentional exposures to working-class citizens. Incidents like the Triangle Fire in New York and the Hawk’s Nest West Virginia tragedy exemplify social injustices that can occur from one privileged class over another. At Hawk’s Nest a mining contractor intentionally exposed workers to silica dust in order to meet contract incentives for early finish. It is our largest industrial tragedy in the United States. Education can ensure a more equal workplace.

                Your degree is about character. It produces equality in the workplace, at home, at school and in communities. It demonstrates that you are capable of producing positive outcomes, even when the going gets tough. John Maxwell teaches about the “law of the lid” in many of his leadership books and lectures. It means that the higher the level of leadership character possessed by individuals in an organization, the higher the potential for success (Maxwell, 1998). Employers know this. Now you know that in order to reach your potential, you should earn your degree! Quitting is not an option, and not starting is wasting potential talent. If you want to make a difference and learn more about occupational safety, look at the Occupational Safety Program at Eastern Kentucky University.

Learn More

Learn to identify and analyze potential workplace hazards, infractions and risks through a bachelor of science in occupational safety online. At Eastern Kentucky University, you will gain a graduate-level education by industry-experienced educators and fire and safety professionals who are committed to teaching and preparing you for continued success.


  Maxwell, John C. (1998). The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow them and people will follow you. Thomas Nelson, Nashville TN.