Environment health is a rapidly growing field that encompasses many different specialties. Becoming an environmental health practitioner generally means assessing a particular environment to assure its safety for those who work or live in the area. This assessment may be based on factors such as air, soil, noise and potential hazards. While environmental health professionals spend much of their time behind a desk, analyzing data and making recommendations, there is also a considerable amount of field work involved with this occupation.
Environmental health can cover everything from safe food preparation to proper disposal of hazardous materials. Sometimes the work is general, but in other situations, environmental health practitioners choose an area of specialty, such as workplace safety, food hygiene or noise pollution. The work will consist of evaluating the safety of an environment in regards to public health and enforcing guidelines to improve questionable or unsafe conditions.
In most cases, environmental health practitioners earn a four-year degree in a scientific field of study like chemistry, geology or environmental engineering. Many also go on to obtain a master’s degree in environmental science from an accredited university. If interested in working within the federal government, this accreditation may be required. To ensure that a university is accredited in this particular area, applicants can refer to the National Environmental Health Sciences and Accreditation Council. In some cases, certification is required to work in particular areas.
A day in the life of an environmental health practitioner may provide a variety of tasks. Some will work in an office setting while others conduct field research. It is not unusual to meet with resistance from some business owners when providing guidelines or mandates for safe business practices. Therefore, it is important that environmental health practitioners have good interpersonal and communication skills for dealing with business owners as well as other professionals in the field.
Other duties of an environmental health practitioner might include:
Other specific duties will vary based on the specialty of the environmental health practitioner and specific concerns related to the location of the work. Because much of the work may be done in the field, sometimes using heavy equipment, professionals in this industry must be prepared for a level of physical activity that is much higher than the typical office job.
The salary range for environmental health practitioners is a wide one that can range from $45,000 per year to well over $100,000, depending on location, specialty and level of education and experience. The job outlook for this industry is very good, with more opportunities arising and concern increases over environmental safety.