Jobs in hazardous materials management involve the proper handling and disposal of dangerous chemicals and other hazardous agents. Learn more about work duties, job options, employment outlook and training requirements.
As a hazardous materials manager, you'd work for private companies or the federal government to oversee the removal, transportation and disposal of dangerous waste products from sources such as industry, construction, healthcare facilities and power plants. Products are considered hazardous if they are toxic, flammable, corrosive or reactive in ways that are harmful to living things and the environment. Chemicals, metals, flammable materials, biological agents and radiation are just a few examples of such products.
Your work location might be at a remote landfill, nuclear power plant, hospital or industrial plant. The facilities, equipment and protective gear used would depend on the degree of hazard. For instance, a dust mask might be sufficient in some cases, whereas in others you might need to wear a protective suit covering your entire body. Your work environment would be highly structured to reduce the risk of dangerous accidents. Although most hazardous materials managers work a standard 40 hour week, overtime and responding to emergencies and disasters can be part of the job.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that job opportunities for hazardous materials workers would increase by 14% from 2012-2022, which is as fast as the average of all occupations (www.bls.gov). Hazardous materials workers earned a median income of $37,930 in 2013, with the electric power industry offering some of the highest paying jobs.
Postsecondary education isn't required in order to work in hazardous materials management, but government regulations may call for up to 40 hours of job-specific training. You can earn a certificate in hazardous materials to learn regulations and the methods used to handle dangerous waste. Degree programs could lead to better job prospects or advancement to higher positions.
An associate's degree in hazardous materials management and waste technology can be a good option and includes hazardous material courses in environmental laws, industrial safety and air monitoring methods. You could also get a bachelor's degree in hazardous materials management or environmental science. A bachelor's program in environmental technology and management teaches you how to observe, analyze and manage environmental processes. You're likely to have multiple hazardous materials certification options after completing this program.
Some jobs require a license for working with one or more specific hazardous materials. As mentioned above, there are also certifications, such as the Certified Hazardous Materials Manager (CHMM), that could improve advancement opportunities. The CHMM designation requires a bachelor's degree in hazardous materials or a related field, three years of experience working with hazardous materials and successful completion of an exam.