Julie Pettijohn, MPH, CIH

Julie Pettijohn, MPH, CIH

"My CIH value story is that now being certified, I have finally reached the end of a very long journey, and in retrospect, I'm so glad that I never gave up. I was first a CIH In Training, back when this was the 'certification' for junior level hygienists trying to get enough experience, background and training to take the certification exam. The CIH In Training program was eventually canceled, so I found myself no longer a CIH In Training and removed the title from my resume. I didn't sit for the exam prior to the CIH IT program cancellation because I knew I 'wasn't ready' to take the exam and knew that I would fail. Several years later after working as an environmental health consultant and getting an MPH, I finally got up the courage to really start preparing for the certification exam. This was after years of watching other CIHs get the best assignments, have more credibility with their clients, and of course, get paid more. I decided the CIH credential was a worthwhile professional goal. I took some courses to beef up my occupational health and industrial hygiene knowledge, including taking the preparatory class for the exam. I got a CIH mentor, and I worked through hundreds of problems in prep for the test. I missed passing the exam by something like 0.2%, which I calculated to be about 2-3 missed questions. The laser safety questions were my downfall. I then took the exam again about one year later, after even more studying, time away from friends and family having fun in my absence, and unfortunately had the same result (missed passing by less than 1%). This time it was radiation safety as my weakness!

Finally, in November 2009, a couple of years had passed and I attempted the exam for the 3rd time (this time on a computer not a scantron). I successfully passed, but only with the help of a CIH who took me under her wing at a new job and increased my knowledge base, and another colleague who was also prepping for the exam. This colleague and I divided up the topics and 'briefed' each other at lunch at our workplace for months on the various rubrics and literally worked on hundreds of practice questions together.

Those ventilation questions are tough! I'm happy to say my colleague also passed at the same time that I did. Just minutes after taking the exam, the computer flashed a preliminary 'congratulations you appear to have passed' but ABIH needs to confirm your score, or something to that effect, and I cried and then laughed aloud because I was so relieved to 'be done.' I had achieved my goal and felt such a sense of accomplishment.

Many would not share this story because failure is seen by many as a weakness. Many would have given up but I did not. I saw certification as a CIH as a challenge and one that I needed to conquer, but I’m not too proud to say that I needed help from others in doing so. I take satisfaction in calling myself a CIH and because of my long journey to becoming a CIH, I counsel others seeking certification and share my test preparation secrets. I also tell them the very same story. I’m happy to report that I was recently promoted to a supervisor position at the state Public Health Department and the CIH credential was truly instrumental in securing the promotion since my section and branch are headed up by a CIH! I also chair the branch health and safety committee, and when my co-workers and other supervisors/managers come to me with tough health and safety questions, I feel more confident in my response with the CIH credential after my name. My co-workers and supervisors perceive me as an expert in my field, but it is more than that. The CIH credential truly is held by an elite group of dedicated, knowledgeable, and well-trained occupational health and safety professionals of the highest integrity. This ‘street’ credibility that comes along with certification is, in my opinion, of extreme value to the practicing CIH professional."