Are you interested in a career that combines environmental protection, public health and safety, and scientific investigation? If so, you might want to consider becoming an environmental health technician.
Environmental health technicians play a critical role in identifying and mitigating potential environmental health risks, and they work to ensure that businesses and organizations comply with relevant regulations and standards to protect public health and safety.
This article will explain what an environmental health technician is, what they do, where they work, how to become one, and why getting an environmental health technician certification is important for your career success.
Table of Contents
What is an Environmental Health Technician?
An environmental health technician works in the public sector to examine the environment and its impact on the population, determine what issues may exist within it, and then work to find a way to combat those problems.
They are responsible for improving systems and devices that contribute to environmental health, such as water quality, air quality, waste management, food safety, pest control, noise control, radiation protection, and occupational health and safety.
They also ensure that all regulatory codes are adhered to during construction or any environmental activity. They investigate complaints about environmental infractions, maintain records related to environmental issues, and consult with various policymakers or public officials about environmental issues.
Environmental health technicians are also known as environmental health officers, specialists, or practitioners.
What Does an Environmental Health Technician Do?
The main duties of an environmental health technician include:
- Collecting samples from the environment. These include soil, water, and waste samples.
- Documenting those samples and examining them for contaminants or other health issues.
- Ensuring all regulatory codes are adhered to during construction or any environmental activity.
- Investigation of complaints about different environmental infractions.
- Maintaining all records related to different environmental issues.
- Meeting with various policymakers or public officials and consulting about environmental issues.
- Ensuring that all local and state codes are adhered to properly.
- Implementing, installing, repairing, and replacing technology that contributes to environmental health
- Training and educating employees and the public about their obligations and best practices regarding environmental health.
- Conducting risk assessments and audits to identify potential hazards and recommend corrective actions.
Where Does an Environmental Health Technician Work?
Environmental health technicians can work in a variety of settings and sectors. According to 2015 BLS data, the employer of the largest number of this type of employee is government with 18% of the workforce. This includes Federal, state, and local. These employees will work at government businesses ensuring compliance or may work as government consultants for organizations to ensure compliance.
16% work in manufacturing. EPA and other government regulations now ensure strict compliance with regard to practice within manufacturing – the proper use and disposal of industrial chemicals and substances and mitigation of accidents. They will work for the organizing companies, mostly on-site.
10% work in management, scientific and technical consulting. They will work with the government, businesses of all sizes, and the third sector and be hired on a contractual basis to analyze business practices, usually producing a report for decision-makers within that organization.
7% work in hospitals. Medical facilities use implements and substances that are potentially toxic to the environment or if handled by the wrong people. There are regulations and laws on disposal; technicians ensure compliance.
6% worked in mining.
Other sectors where environmental health technicians can find employment include education, research, agriculture, hospitality, tourism, retail, transportation, energy, and more.
How to Become an Environmental Health Technician?
To become an environmental health technician, you will need:
- A high school diploma or equivalent
- A post-secondary certificate or associate degree in environmental health or a related field
- A license or certification from a recognized organization (optional but recommended)
- Relevant work experience in the field
The educational requirements for becoming an environmental health technician may vary depending on the employer and the state. Some employers may prefer candidates with bachelor’s degrees in environmental health or a related field. Some states may require candidates to pass an exam or complete a training program before they can practice as an environmental health technician.
The curriculum for an environmental health program may include courses such as:
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The work experience requirements for becoming an environmental health technician may also vary depending on the employer and the state. Some employers may require candidates to have at least one year of experience in the field. Some states may require candidates to complete a supervised internship or practicum before they can practice as an environmental health technician.
What is Environmental Health Technician Certification?
Environmental health technician certification is a credential that demonstrates the competence and professionalism of environmental health technicians. It shows they have met their field’s knowledge, skills, and practice standards. It also indicates that they are committed to continuous learning and improvement.
There are different types of certification for environmental health technicians, depending on their level of education, experience, and specialization. Some examples are:
- Certified Health Care Environmental Services Technician (CHEST): The Association for the Health Care Environment (AHE) offers this certification for environmental health technicians who work in health care settings. It covers infection prevention, cleaning and disinfection, waste management, safety and security, communication, and leadership.
- Registered Environmental Health Specialist/Registered Sanitarian (REHS/RS): This is a certification offered by the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) for environmental health technicians who work in various settings, such as food safety, water quality, air quality, hazardous materials, vector control, and emergency preparedness. It covers environmental health principles, laws and regulations, assessment and control methods, management, and education.
- Certified Environmental Specialist (CES): The National Registry of Environmental Professionals (NREP) offers this certification for environmental health technicians who work in environmental compliance and auditing. It covers environmental regulations, permits, inspections, reporting, sampling, analysis, remediation, and risk management.
What are the Benefits of Environmental Health Technician Certification?
Environmental health technician certification has many benefits for the technicians and their employers. Some of these benefits are:
- Enhanced credibility: Certification shows that environmental health technicians have met their profession’s standards and proven their competence through rigorous exams. It also shows they are current with their field’s latest developments and best practices. This enhances their credibility and reputation among their peers, clients, regulators, and the public.
- Increased confidence: Certification gives environmental health technicians more confidence in their abilities and performance. It also gives them more recognition and respect from their supervisors, colleagues, and customers. This boosts their morale and motivation.
- Improved career opportunities: Certification opens more career opportunities for environmental health technicians. It makes them more competitive in the job market and more eligible for promotions and salary increases. It also helps them expand their network and access more resources and support from professional associations.
- Reduced liability: Certification reduces the liability of environmental health technicians and their employers. It shows they have followed their work’s care and due diligence standards. It also helps them avoid errors, violations, fines, lawsuits, and reputational damage.
How Do You Get an Environmental Health Technician Certification?
To get an environmental health technician certification, you will need to:
- Meet the eligibility requirements of the organization that offers the certification. These may include education, training, experience, and membership.
- Apply for the certification and pay the required fees.
- Prepare for the certification exam by studying the organization’s outline, objectives, and reference materials.
- Take and pass the certification exam within the specified time frame.
- Maintain your certification by completing the required continuing education units (CEUs) and renewing your certification every few years.
The Bottom Line
Environmental health technician certification is an important way to demonstrate the competence and professionalism of environmental health technicians. It has many benefits for both the technicians and their employers. It enhances credibility, increases confidence, improves career opportunities, and reduces liability.
If you are an environmental health technician or aspire to become one, you should consider getting certified in your field. It will help you advance your career and positively impact the environment and public health.