Environmental protection technicians assist in various environmental projects, such as checking air quality, testing water samples, and cleaning up hazardous waste. Many technicians work in the field collecting data, but others work in laboratories or offices researching environmental topics, writing reports, and helping with experiments. This job can require physical strength and endurance necessary for carrying, setting up, and monitoring tools and equipment in the field. Fieldwork can also mean exposure to natural hazards, like bad weather, swollen rivers, or radon in developed areas.
|Degree Level||Associate's degree; bachelor's degree for some positions|
|Degree Field||Environmental science, environmental health, public health, or related field|
|Training||On-the-job training is common|
|Licensure and Certification||Some states require licensure to perform certain tasks; voluntary certifications avaiable|
|Key Skills||Communication, analytical, critical-thinking, interpersonal, and speaking skills|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$43,030 per year (for all environmental science and protection technicians)|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET OnLine
Earn Associate's Degree
Although some jobs in environmental science do not require formal postsecondary education, an associate's degree is normally required to work as an environmental protection technician, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Students in environmental science programs study courses in ecology, biology, chemistry, and global environmental issues. These degree programs usually require students to participate in laboratory and fieldwork. Conducting controlled lab experiments teaches students how to assist scientists in procedures, such as testing soil samples for industrial contaminants. Fieldwork varies by program but can include observing certain environmental conditions or participating in a local cleanup project.
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Gain Experience in School
Many undergraduate programs, as well as professional organizations, offer internships and cooperative-education programs for aspiring environmental protection technicians. Students may be placed at a local division of a government agency or nonprofit organization. Fieldwork may help students obtain basic skills like handling hazardous waste products and performing data collection.
Find Entry-level Position
With the necessary education, prospective technicians can find employment with scientific consulting services companies, testing laboratories, or government agencies. Once hired, technicians typically complete on-the-job training under experienced environmental protection workers. In this training, they may learn about health regulations and how to conduct inspections.
In some states, technicians need licensure to do some of their duties, such as using pesticides or performing radon testing. Requirements typically vary by state, but will include some combination of education, experience, and examination.
Various environmental trade organizations provide certification programs in this field. For example, the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) offers the Certified Environmental Health Technician (CEHT) designation and the World Safety Organization offers the Certified Governmental Environmental Technician (WSO-CGET) credential. Each professional organization has different eligibility requirements. To renew certification, many organizations require workers to receive additional training through continued education.
Once again, those who aspire to work as environmental protection technicians would benefit from earning at least an associate's degree in the field, completing an internship, building experience at an entry-level job, and getting certified.