Environmental technology is an emphasis offered in certificate and associate's degree programs. Students learn about occupational health and safety, environmental safety regulations and issues in hazardous waste and water treatment. After graduating, students are prepared for entry-level positions in the environmental health and safety industry. They also qualify for professional certification by the Council on Certification of Health, Environmental and Safety Technologists.
Both programs require a high school diploma or GED to enroll.
Certificates in Environmental Technology
Program options include a Certificate of Achievement or Basic Certificate in Environmental Technology. These programs take one year to complete. The first includes concentration areas like hazardous materials and occupational safety and health. The latter consists of studies in occupational safety, regulatory requirements, emergency response and pollution control. The curriculum includes coursework in environmental laws, health and safety and the handling of hazardous materials. Topics discussed in coursework include:
- Atmospheric science
- Natural disasters
- Alternative energy
- Disaster response drills
Associate of Applied Science in Environmental Technology
In a two-year associate's degree program, the curriculum includes concentration areas like water-plant operation, utilities maintenance and occupational health and safety. Students learn how to properly handle and dispose of hazardous materials, treat water supplies and respond to emergencies like floods and other extreme weather events. Other focus areas are the Incident Command Structure (ICS) system, industrial safety and environmental laws. The program consists of both lectures and labs. Coursework may cover some of the following topics:
- Product safety
- Fire prevention
- Accident investigation
- Response planning
- Air toxics regulations
Popular Career Options
After graduating, you may find jobs in emergency management, environmental compliance and a variety of other settings in the environmental health and safety industry. Job titles you may obtain include:
- Emergency response technician
- Waste management technician
- Water quality specialist
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Occupational health and safety technicians were employed in 16,050 positions in 2015 and earned a median annual salary of $48,070 in 2015, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also states that jobs in this profession are expected to grow 9% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov).
Continuing Education and Certification Information
Once you've obtained a certificate, you may wish to further your studies by completing an associate's degree program in the field. These programs build upon the certificate program with additional classes and general education units.
Beyond that, bachelor's and master's degree programs are available in environmental technology management; this related field is more advanced and introduces legal, business and leadership aspects to the core studies in this field. After graduating, you'll be eligible to take a certification examination offered by the Council on Certification of Health, Environmental and Safety Technologists (CCHEST) to obtain Occupational Health and Safety Technologist (OHST) or Certified Loss Control Specialist (CLCS) designations. Depending on your professional background, you may also be eligible to sit for the Certified Safety Professional (CSP) examination.
Both undergraduate certificate and AAS programs in environmental technology provide interested students with an introduction to the field, though AAS programs are longer and also include more general education. Either of these programs can prepare students for entry-level occupational health jobs or more advanced studies in related fields.