Environmental science and protection technicians monitor the environment and investigate sources of pollution and contamination.
What they do
Environmental science and protection technicians typically do the following:
- Inspect establishments, including public places and businesses, to ensure that there are no environmental, health, or safety hazards
- Set up and maintain equipment used to monitor pollution levels, such as remote sensors that measure emissions from smokestacks
- Collect samples of air, soil, water, and other materials for laboratory analysis
- Clearly label, track, and ensure the integrity of samples being transported to the laboratory
- Use equipment, such as microscopes, to evaluate and analyze samples for the presence of pollutants or other contaminants
- Prepare charts and reports that summarize test results
- Discuss test results and analyses with clients
- Verify compliance with regulations that help prevent pollution
Many environmental science and protection technicians work under the supervision of environmental scientists and specialists, who direct the technicians’ work and evaluate their results. In addition, technicians often work on teams with scientists, engineers, and technicians in other fields to solve complex problems related to environmental degradation and public health. For example, they may work on teams with geoscientists and hydrologists to manage the cleanup of contaminated soils and ground water around an abandoned bomb-manufacturing site.
Most environmental science and protection technicians work for consulting firms, state or local governments, or testing laboratories.
In consulting firms, environmental science and protection technicians help clients monitor and manage the environment and comply with regulations. For example, they help businesses develop cleanup plans for contaminated sites, and they recommend ways to reduce, control, or eliminate pollution. Also, environmental science and protection technicians conduct feasibility studies for, and monitor the environmental impact of, new construction projects.
In state and local governments, environmental science and protection technicians inspect businesses and public places, and investigate complaints related to air quality, water quality, and food safety. They may be involved with the enforcement of environmental regulations. They also may help protect the environment and people’s health by performing environmental impact studies of new construction. Or they may evaluate the environmental health of sites that may contaminate the environment, such as abandoned industrial sites.
In testing laboratories, environmental science and protection technicians collect and track samples, and perform tests that are often similar to those carried out by chemical technicians, biological technicians, or microbiologists. However, in contrast to the work done by these science workers, that done by environmental science and protection technicians focuses on topics that are directly related to the environment and how it affects human health.
Environmental science and protection technicians typically specialize either in laboratory testing or in fieldwork and sample collection. However, it is common for laboratory technicians to occasionally collect samples from the field and for fieldworkers to do some work in a laboratory.
Environmental science and protection technicians work in laboratories, offices, and the field. Fieldwork offers a variety of settings. For example, technicians may investigate an abandoned manufacturing plant, or work outdoors to test the water quality of lakes and rivers. They may work near streams and rivers, monitoring the levels of pollution caused by runoff from cities and landfills, or they may have to use the crawl spaces under a house in order to neutralize natural health risks such as radon. While working outdoors, they may be exposed to adverse weather conditions.
How to become an Environmental Science and Protection Technician
Environmental science and protection technicians typically need an associate degree or 2 years of postsecondary education, although some positions require a bachelor’s degree.
Environmental science and protection technicians typically need an associate degree in environmental science, environmental health, or public health, or a related degree. Because of the wide range of tasks, environments, and industries in which these technicians work, there are jobs that do not require postsecondary education and others that require a bachelor’s degree.
A background in natural sciences is important for environmental science and protection technicians. Students should take courses in chemistry, biology, geology, and physics. Coursework in math, statistics, and computer science also is useful, because technicians routinely do data analysis and modeling.
Many technical and community colleges offer programs in environmental studies or a related technology, such as remote sensing or geographic information systems (GISs). While in college, students should include coursework that provides laboratory experience.
Associate degree programs at community colleges often are designed to allow students to easily transfer to bachelor’s degree programs at public colleges and universities.
The median annual wage for environmental science and protection technicians was $46,540 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $29,040, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $80,710.
Employment of environmental science and protection technicians is projected to grow 8 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 2,900 new jobs over the 10-year period. Heightened public interest in issues involving the environment, such as fracking, as well as the increasing demands placed on the environment by population growth, is expected to spur demand for environmental science and protection technicians.
Similar Job Titles
Environmental Health Specialist, Environmental Specialist, Environmental Technician, Laboratory Specialist, Laboratory Technician, Process Laboratory Specialist, Public Health Sanitarian, Sanitarian, Water Quality Analyst, Water Quality Specialist
Environmental Compliance Inspector, Environmental Engineering Technician, Geological Sample Test Technician, Precision Agriculture Technician, Freight and Cargo Inspector
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- Academy of Board Certified Environmental Professionals
- Air and Waste Management Association
- American Chemical Society
- American Mosquito Control Association
- American Society for Microbiology
- ASTM International
- Board of Environmental, Health and Safety Auditor Certifications
- Coordinating Council on the Clinical Laboratory Workforce
- National Association of Environmental Professionals
- National Environmental Health Association
Magazines and Publications
- Environmental Science and Engineering Magazine
- National Geographic-Environment
- Journal of Environmental Science and Health
Working to keep ecosystems safe and protect public health, environmental science and protection technicians observe the environment and investigate sources of pollution and contamination. In consulting firms, these technicians help their clients keep an eye on environmental impacts and comply with regulations. They develop cleanup plans for contaminated sites, and recommend ways to eliminate pollution. Government environmental science and protection technicians inspect businesses and public places, and follow up on environmental or health-related complaints. They may perform environmental impact studies of new construction, or evaluate sites that could contaminate the environment, such as abandoned factories. When employed by testing laboratories, technicians collect and track samples, and perform tests. They may also gather samples in the field. Fieldwork is often physically demanding, including long hours walking, carrying heavy equipment, and frequent bending and crouching to set up and monitor equipment. Protective gear such as hardhats and masks is required in some settings, and weather conditions can be difficult. Environmental science and protection technicians typically work full time. Travel to meet with clients or for fieldwork can require additional or irregular hours. Most jobs require an associate’s degree in environmental studies or a related technology, such as remote sensing or geographic information systems, although some positions require only high school, and others, a bachelor’s degree.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org