Become an Environmental Compliance Specialist: Career Guide

Mar 10, 2020

Find out how to become an environmental compliance specialist. Research the education and training requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career as an environmental compliance specialist.

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Environmental Compliance Specialist

Environmental compliance specialists ensure that companies and other agencies follow environmental laws and regulations. They may study the environmental impact of a company's protocols and suggest improvements.

Environmental specialists and scientists usually work in offices or laboratories, though they might occasionally have to do field work. They also might have to travel to see clients or to present information at professional conferences. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), environmental specialists and scientists can expect to see an 8% increase in job opportunities between 2018 and 2028, which was faster than average when compared to other professions. Most candidates for this position have a bachelor's degree or higher and a background in environmental science.

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Fields Environmental science or a related field
Experience Several years of experience in the environmental field
Key Skills Critical thinking skills, written and oral communication skills, ability to work within a team, problem-solving ability, familiarity with programs used to create dimensional models and analyze data
Salary (February 2020) $58,459 (Median annual salary for environmental compliance specialists)


Let's find out how you can become an environmental compliance specialist.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Students can pursue a degree in environmental science or a related field, such as environmental engineering, natural resources, or one of the physical sciences. Environmental science programs cover many of the natural sciences, including biology, ecology, and geology. Additional coursework in hazardous waste, environmental law, business, and marketing could be helpful to students interested in becoming consultants or working for the government.

Success Tips:

First, complete an internship. Students can gain experience through internships and fellowships with federal agencies. Duties may include investigating businesses for compliance with environmental policies, compiling information for reports, and doing administrative work.

Also, consider postgraduate courses. Some employers prefer to hire specialists with a master's degree in environmental or natural science. Graduate degree programs in environmental studies often focus on a specific area, such as environmental policies or sustainability. Graduates might broaden their job opportunities by combining one of these programs with a degree program in law or business.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

An environmental compliance specialist position is not entry-level, and most employers look for candidates with relevant work experience. Entry-level positions in environmental companies or those that involve working with environmental rules and regulations can provide the necessary experience. Specialists can begin their careers as environmental analysts, lab technicians, or researchers. They might advance to supervisory or managerial positions before becoming environmental compliance specialists.

Step 3: Obtain Certification

Some environmental compliance specialist positions require industry certification. Individuals who work with or around hazardous waste may have to be certified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard or by the Institute of Hazardous Materials Management as a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager.

To recap, an environmental compliance specialist typically needs a minimum of a bachelor's degree in environmental science or a related field, along with relevant work experience.

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