Environmental Science and Protection Technician

Environmental science and protection technicians monitor the environment and investigate sources of pollution and contamination, including those affecting health.

Environmental science and protection technicians typically 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; and perform scientific tests to identify and measure levels of pollutants in samples.

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, they 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 state or local governments, testing laboratories, or consulting firms.  They usually specialize in either 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.

Other titles include: Environmental Technician, Environmental Specialist, Laboratory Specialist, Process Laboratory Specialist, Environmental Health Specialist, Laboratory Technician, Sanitarian, Public Health Sanitarian, Industrial Pretreatment Program Specialist (IPP Specialist), and Sanitarian Specialist.

Education & Training: 

Environmental science and protection technicians typically need an associate’s degree in environmental science, environmental health, 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 mathematics, statistics, and computer science also is useful because technicians routinely do data analysis and modeling.

Many schools offer internships and cooperative-education programs, which help students gain valuable experience while attending school. Internships and cooperative-education experience can enhance the students’ employment prospects.

Many technical and community colleges offer programs in environmental studies or a related technology, such as remote sensing or geographic information systems (GIS). Associate’s degree programs at community colleges traditionally are designed to provide easy transfer to bachelor’s degree programs at colleges and universities.

In some states, environmental science and protection technicians need a license to do certain types of environmental and health inspections. For example, some states require licensing for technicians who test buildings for radon. Licensure requirements vary by state but typically include minimum levels of education and experience and a passing score on an exam.

It may be helpful to have the degrees or certificates listed below. Click these links to learn about these degrees and programs on the Bio-Link website.

InnovATEBIO programs offer degrees, certificates, or teach skills in these related areas.

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