Environmental Science and Protection Technicians

Explore the career requirements for environmental science and protection technicians. Get the facts about job duties, education requirements, job outlook and salary to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Environmental Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Environmental Science and Protection Technician?

Environmental science and protection technicians evaluate hazards to the environment and human health, such as pollution and food contamination. They collect samples from the field and analyze them in the laboratory, either as part of a team or under the guidance of environmental scientists, geoscientists, ecologists or other types of specialists. Based on their results, they prepare reports for government agencies, businesses and/or the general public. It is important to note that some technicians specialize in either field or lab work, while others divide their time between both settings.

The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required Associate's degree at minimum; bachelor's degree for some positions
Education Field of Study Environmental science, public health, environmental health
Key Skills Use of environmental analysis, GIS and computer modeling equipment; compilation & storage of data; knowledge of environmental regulations
Job Growth (2014-2024) 9%*
Average Salary (2015) $46,540*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Would I Do As an Environmental Science and Protection Technician?

As an environmental science and protection technician, you perform tests to monitor and analyze environmental pollutants and resources. Specifically, you set up equipment to collect pollutants produced by industrial equipment or companies, develop testing procedures and monitoring programs and collect samples of soil, waters and gases to measure pollutant levels. You need to know how to compile, store and maintain your data on hazardous waste and chemical usage. Additionally, you're responsible for the use and care of equipment, such as microscopes, flow meters and water samplers.

What Type of Training Do I Need?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you might be able to enter the field with a college-level certificate or associate degree, though you might need to earn a bachelor's degree for certain positions (www.bls.gov). Programs related to environmental health teach you the fundamentals of soil mechanics, water resources and ecosystem ecology. Environmental science majors typically include classes in biology, chemistry and geology, as well as technical classes designed to teach you computer usage and specific software used for data compilation.

Study in the lab and the field lets you practice gathering and evaluating samples within the confines of environmental laws. You could participate in an internship or study-abroad program through your school to gain practical experience and learn about current research trends. Graduate programs are often available in environmental sciences and could lead to career advancement opportunities, independent research positions or teaching jobs at the high school and college levels.

What Is My Career and Salary Outlook?

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were approximately 34,250 environmental science and protection technicians employed in the U.S. in 2015. The majority of technicians found jobs as consultants or government employees. The BLS anticipates a job growth of 9% during the 2014-2024 decade. This increase will be driven primarily by the public's growing concern over environmental hazards.

Salary statistics reported by the BLS showed that the average yearly salary for this occupation was $46,540 in May 2015. The highest-paid environmental science and protection technicians worked in the electric power industry and earned an average of $76,810 annually, per the BLS.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

You might also be interested in a job as an occupational health and safety technician. These professionals investigate a workplace's compliance with health and safety standards in order to ensure the protection of employees, consumers and the environment as a whole. The minimum educational requirement is a high school diploma or the equivalent. You could also consider a job as a food science technician, where you would run laboratory tests to evaluate the safety and quality of food products. For this, you would need to have at least an associate's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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