How to Become an Environmental Site Assessor: Career Guide

Research the requirements to become an environmental site assessor. Learn about the job description and duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career in environmental site assessment. View article »

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  • 0:00 Career Info
  • 1:04 Get a Bachelor's Degree
  • 1:32 Gain Experience
  • 1:53 Earn a Master's Degree
  • 2:24 Get Certified
  • 3:51 Advance in Career

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Video Transcript

Career Info

Environmental site assessors may also be referred to as environmental professionals, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These professionals investigate and report on a site's actual and potential hazards. This often gives them the chance to visit a variety of sites, ranging from lakes and streams, to manufacturing facilities, to private residences. Since sites are often outdoors, they must have the ability to work in all kinds of weather, but also will likely spend time in climate-controlled laboratories.

Environmental site assessors should have excellent written and verbal communication skills, organizational and reporting skills, and knowledge of environmental safety policies, regulations, and procedures. Environmental science and protection technicians as a group earned a median annual wage of $43,030 in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Environmental science, related engineering discipline or similar field
Experience Varies, related experience is required; 3-10 years of relevant experience is necessary for some EPA professionals
Certification Asbestos certification may be preferred by some employers; voluntary professional certification is available
Key Skills Excellent written and verbal communication; organizational and reporting skills; knowledge of environmental safety policies, regulations and procedures
Salary (2015) $43,030 per year (median salary for all environmental science and protection technicians)

Sources: Job listings from employers, The Environmental Protection Agency, The Academy of Board Certified Environmental Professionals, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Get Bachelor's Degree

Most entry-level positions in this field require a bachelor's degree in environmental science or a related engineering discipline. Coursework in these programs generally covers air quality, ecology, environmental change, and hydrology. Students may also choose to major in environmental management, which focuses on toxicology, hazardous waste, and air pollution, as well as environmental regulations and risk assessment.

Gain Experience

Experience in this industry can be just as important as formal education. Entry-level positions, like those of environmental science or protection technicians, can help individuals gain experience in using geographic information systems (GIS), reviewing records, and completing written reports based on their findings.

Earn Master's Degree

While a master's degree isn't required in order to work in this field, completing a graduate program may increase career opportunities. Some colleges and universities offer programs specifically for environmental professionals in areas like river restoration, soil bioengineering practices, wetland delineation, and environmental regulations and compliance. Master's-level topics can include environmental stressors, risk and exposure assessment, geographic information systems, and global policies.

Get Certified

While it's not always necessary, certification is preferred for some environmental assessment positions. For example, employers may look for site assessors who have asbestos certification.

Additionally, all environmental investigations conducted under the EPA's Brownfields Program must be led by a qualified environmental professional. The Brownfields Program fosters the redevelopment of possibly contaminated land by offering grants to local and state agencies as well as community groups. Qualified environmental professionals who investigate brownfields must have an engineering or geology license and at least three years of experience. Alternatively, these professionals can have a relevant bachelor's degree and at least five years of experience. It's important to note that unqualified personnel are still permitted to work under the supervision of qualified environmental professionals.

Voluntary certification is also available. The Academy of Board Certified Environmental Professionals (ABCEP) offers the Certified Environmental Professional credential with specialties in five areas, including environmental assessment, environmental documentation and environmental planning. Certification requirements include a bachelor's degree and at least nine years of relevant experience. A master's degree may be substituted for one experiential year.

Advance in Career

Environmental compliance specialists or site assessors often work for government agencies and environmental companies. Professionals may be required to travel to sites and work with teams to survey the environment. Some site assessors must renew certifications by taking continuing education classes. For example, professionals who hold state asbestos certification are often required to take an annual refresher course.

Environmental site assessors wishing to advance their careers may move up to senior positions in management at a government agency or firm, or go to work as private environmental consultants. They may also pursue a PhD in an environmental science field and become professors or research scientists.

Once again, environmental site assessors typically need to earn at least a bachelor's degree in the field; gain some experience on site and in a laboratory setting; consider earning certification; and then work on securing a position.


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