An environmental health specialist focuses on health and safety conditions that affect our community. They are responsible for monitoring industrial, residential, recreational and commercial sites for potential risks and health hazards. Basically, anywhere the public touches, eats, or facilities that produce products for public consumption there is an Environmental Health Specialist that has inspected the premises. The mission is to reduce illness and death caused by environmentally related conditions affecting the community. This can extend to disease outbreaks, like the West Nile virus found in the mosquito population or studying how the release of wild Asian Carp affects our local ecosystem. Most Environmental Health Specialists will find themselves in a government position and are responsible for enforcing local, state and federal environmental regulations. They are responsible for inspecting public facilities; swimming pools, restaurants, nursing homes, and day care centers are all inspected and certified by the state based on the specialist’s findings or the specialist will provide a plan of action to minimize any health and safety hazards that need to be addressed. Sometimes, they will be involved in creating public policy as well. An Environmental Health Specialist’s input to public policies focus on changing human behaviors to lessen our ecological imprint on the earth. Good computer skills and the ability to work within a team are essential components to this career.
Environmental Health Specialist Job Responsibilities
Environmental Health Specialists often work for government agencies at the local, state or federal level. Most jobs require a lot of field work, but others choose to focus more on office or laboratory work. Travel and hours spent in a variety of weather climates is expected. It is their responsibility to enforce the laws and issue certifications that keep the public at large healthy and safe. They check the air, soil, and water for signs of pollution or improper disposal of waste materials. They maintain the quality is of the standards set forth by law for the particular service or industry. It is their responsibility to investigate any complaint whether it comes from the public at large or privately. An inspection is conducted and sometimes the Environmental Health Specialist is required to write detailed reports and/or plans of action. Excellent communication skills and the ability to analyze and find solutions are required for this career. The private sectors also hire Environmental Health Specialists. Usually, a private company is looking for someone to help them comply with environmental standards. Often a consulting firm will hire a specialist for a long-term project and expect detailed analysis and solutions to problems that arise. Sometimes a plan of action is needed to limit the impact of human activity on the environment. An Environmental Health Specialist is expected to develop a plan and enact it.
Environmental Health Specialist Training and Education Requirements
To become an Environmental Health Specialist an undergraduate degree is required. A degree specializing in Environmental Health is suggested. Some have degrees in related fields such as Environmental Engineering and chemical/microbiology sciences. Beyond traditional education, most agencies require additional certification in the field of expertise. Obtaining a Master’s degree or entering a doctoral program can greatly enhance career advancement and is quickly becoming the preference for employers.
Environmental Health Specialist Salary and Wages
An Environmental Health Specialist can expect to earn between $35,000 and $78,000 depending on your specialty and education. The median annual wage for 2008 was $59,000 with the lower end of the scale earning near $30,000 and the top 10% earning $102,000 and above. It has been reported in 2009 the new college graduate with a bachelor’s degree can expect to earn around $39,000 a year.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Environmental Health Specialist Certifications
Most positions and employers look for certifications beyond the college degree. A certificate can be earned through the learning and testing programs offered by the National Environmental Health Association. Obtaining these credentials bolsters your career in identifying your area of expertise and specialized knowledge to potential employers.
Environmental Health Specialist Professional Associations
There are general and specialized professional associations Environmental Health Specialists can partake in. For a comprehensive view on public health there are associations like the American Public Health Association or for the more specialized view there is the National Environmental Health Association. Also, there are state-level associations to participate in. Membership to a professional association provides tools and resources to keep an Environmental Health Specialist current. Associations usually offer annual conferences and hold regular meetings. They have a wealth of information to further enhance professional education and provide important networking opportunities.