Certified Safety Manager vs. Certified Environmental and Safety Compliance Officer®

As environmental professionals start looking to begin or further their careers, one of the most confusing topics they encounter typically becomes the various professional certifications available and whether or not they apply to them. Some represent very specific segments, and others span multiple fields. Even figuring out how to get certified can make one's head spin like the proverbial top.
Think about the Certified Safety Manager (CSM) and Certified Environmental and Safety Compliance Officer® (CESCO) certifications. They sound pretty similar, don't they? But what really is the difference between them? Are they both among the best safety certifications to have? What are their courses of study? And for what positions do they prepare holders? We'll answer all of those questions and more below.

CESCO Certification Basics

The CSM is radically different focus than CESCO certification. Whereas CSM touches on environmental concerns as part of its overall instructional framework, CESCO puts those concerns front and center. As we state on our Certified Environmental & Safety Compliance Officer page, the certification “is intended to identify professionals claiming to understand the basic and most significant laws and regulations pertaining to air, water, waste water pollution, solid/hazardous wastes and safety.”

Note how CESCO serves as an identifying certification rather than an educating one. It points out those who already have mastered the most significant prerequisites required of a safety professional. The fact is reflected in CESCO’s educational requirements. While CSM has no prerequisites, CESCO aspirants need to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university OR a 40-hour HAZWOPER training OR OSHA 10/30 HR training. Additionally, they must have at least two years of applicable employment experience and cannot substitute it for education.
Like CSM, CESCO requires an exam, and applicants must answer at least 75 percent of all questions correctly in order to pass. But if the percentage required for passing is similar to CSM, the cost to apply certainly isn’t. CESCO has a $100.00 application fee and an exam fee of $200.00. If applicants fail the exam, they can retake it for an additional $100.00. NREPSM also has study materials and sample exam questions available for purchase.  

CSM Certification Basics

CSM certification is provided by the National Association of Safety Professionals (NASP’s), a nonprofit dedicated to providing training for members across a variety of fields. These include general industry, construction, petroleum, and environmental. 

According to the NASP, CSM “is an indication to employers, potential employers, regulatory agencies, and the courts that you have the knowledge, skills, and abilities equivalent to a level of proficiency expected of a professional who is capable of working with little or no supervision while managing the safety programs, policies, and procedures common to business and industry.” Learning outcomes focus primarily on:

  • Familiarization with common workplace safety
  • Development of safety programs
  • Remaining compliant with local and federal safety regulations
  • Managing safety inspections and audits
  • Instilling proper safety habits in employees

Studying for CSM involves an online or in-classroom course. Because it’s not the NASP’s highest safety certification, it doesn’t require any prerequisites, although the nonprofit recommends that enrollees know the fundamentals of workplace safety. The NASP estimates that most students will require 40 hours to complete the course. It requires passing an exam by answering at least 80 percent of the questions correctly, and once certified, you will need to complete a refresher course and an additional exam once every three years. CSM initially costs $2,295.00, and the refresher course costs $395.00.

Note that NASP’s environmental certifications don’t include CSM. Instead, they include:

  • Certified Environmental Manager (CEM)
  • Environmental Health and Safety Professional Certificate (EHS)
  • Environmental Specialist (ENS) 
  • Hazardous Waste Management Specialist (HMS)
  • Spill Containment Specialist (SCS) 
  • Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER)

CSM is part of the organization’s general-industry specialization.

Why CESCO Is the Superior Choice for Most Professionals

For environmental professionals already ensconced in their careers, the choice is plain: CESCO offers far more value. CSM best serves those with minimal educational and job experience, while CESCO shows the wider world that safety professionals with an environmental emphasis possess the skills necessary to meet various laws and regulations.