Becoming an Environmental Health and Safety Specialist

What does it take to become an environmental health and safety specialist? Read on to learn about desired qualifications and skills, as well as potential salaries and job growth stats for the career. Schools offering Engineering & Technology Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information At a Glance

Environmental health and safety specialists identify, analyze, and solve environmental problems that affect human health or the environment. Deductive reasoning and problem sensitivity are important skills required to succeed in this profession. Check out the following table for more details.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Environmental science, biology, chemistry, physics, geosciences, or engineering
Key Skills Critical thinking, analytical, monitoring, problem solving, interpersonal, and decision-making skills
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 11% (environmental scientists and specialists, including health)*
Median Salary (2018) $71,130 (environmental scientists and specialists, including health)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is An Environmental Health and Safety Specialist?

Environmental health and safety specialists use their knowledge to conduct research and investigations for the purpose of identifying and eliminating environmental hazards or sources of pollutants. Daily tasks include but are not limited to providing scientific and technical guidance or support, reviewing and implementing formal regulations and guidelines, analyzing samples and surveys to assess threats, and preparing technical findings reports. There are various types of specialists depending on their area of expertise, such as climate change analysts, environmental restoration planners, and industrial ecologists.

What Educational and Certification Requirements Are There?

Environmental health and safety specialists typically must hold a 4-year bachelor's degree. Possible fields of study include natural science, biology, chemistry, physics, geosciences, or engineering. A good option may be an environmental science bachelor's degree program, as these generally include an internship which helps students develop the necessary skills needed for this occupation. Many specialists also hold a master's degree in their specialty field for career advancement in this profession.

Certification is totally optional. Specialists can acquire certification for managing hazardous material from the Institute of Hazardous Materials Management which demonstrates that the specialist is staying current with the latest developments of the occupation. Alternately, Ecological Society of America offers a variety of certifications for ecologists to demonstrate their expertise and exhibit their skill level to potential employers.

What Is the Job Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for environmental health and safety specialists (or environmental scientists and specialists, including health) is estimated to grow 11% between 2016 and 2026. Those specialists earned a median annual salary of $71,130 in 2018, said the Bureau. High interest placed by the public on hazards affecting the environment is likely to increase the demand for environmental health and safety specialists. Therefore, the job prospects are better than average.

Where Might I Work?

Most specialists work in laboratories and offices for management, scientific and technical consulting services, and the state government. Although their job requires a good amount of fieldwork, they spend most of their time analyzing samples and preparing reports. They are also frequently required to travel to meet potential clients and share their research at conferences.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Chemists and materials scientists, conservation scientists and foresters, environmental engineers, and hydrologists are some related alternative careers. The educational requirements are very similar as all these professions are related to natural sciences. Similar to the profession of environmental health and safety specialist, a high degree of supervision, operation monitoring, and critical thinking skills are the principal requirements to succeed in these professions, as well.

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