The role of an environmental technician is very important. They conduct tests and field investigations to acquire soil samples and other data. Their research is further deployed by engineers, scientists, and others who help clean up, monitor, control, or prevent pollution.
An environmental engineering technician usually specializes in air, water, or soil pollution. Although there is usually a difference in the job description, depending on employer and specialty.
Technicians generally gather samples for laboratory analysis with specialized instruments and equipment; monitor pollution control devices and systems, including smokestack air “scrubbers”; and execute various other tests and investigations to assess pollution problems.
Strict procedures are ensured in collecting and recording data in order to meet the requirements of environmental laws.
Generally, it is not the job of the environmental field technicians to actually operate the equipment and systems designed to avert pollution or eliminate pollutants. Instead, they test environmental conditions. They also analyze and report on their findings.
There are approximately 34,800 environmental science and protection technicians, including health technicians, in the United States. Environmental engineering technicians are also known as pollution control technicians and environmental science and protection technicians.
Environmental field technicians usually work under the purview of environmental scientists. In addition, they might be part of a team that includes engineers, scientists, and technicians from other disciplines, working together to solve complex environmental issues affecting public health.
An environmental field technician is sometimes referred to as an environmental science and protection technician. About 17,000 environmental engineering technicians worked in the US in 2016.
Environmental Technician Duties & Responsibilities
Specific tasks include designing, modifying, testing, and operating equipment to aid in the prevention and resolution of environmental problems. Environmental field technicians use measuring tools and computer equipment to accomplish their goals.
They analyze samples from the environment by conducting physical and chemical tests to determine the amount and type of pollutants found. Using their results, they figure out ways to remove impurities or destroy harmful creatures. Part of their job involves writing up and organizing reports and summaries to reflect their results.
An environmental field technician’s daily duties generally include the following:
- Conducting bacteriological or other tests related to research in environmental or pollution control activity.
- Executing project monitoring and air sampling for lead, asbestos, and mold abatement projects.
- Gathering water samples from raw, semi-processed, or processed water, industrial wastewater, or water from any other sources to ascertain pollution issues.
- Installing and maintaining data collection instrumentation.
- Operating light and heavy equipment including pumps, vacuum, generators, equipment, oil spill boom, and bobcats.
- Performing basic calculations and computer data entry.
- Preparing and maintaining necessary reports and records as necessary.
- Setting up equipment or stations to monitor and collect pollutants from sites, such as manufacturing plants, smokestacks, or mechanical equipment.
Starting environmental field technicians work under the direct supervision of an environmental scientist or a more senior technician. With experience, they will receive only general supervision and can further supervise those with less experience.
Environmental Technician Salary
The most well-compensated environmental technicians work for the government. Below is the average environmental technician salary by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- Average Annual Salary: $50,560 ($24,31/hour)
- Top 10% Annual Salary: Over $82,800 ($39.81/hour)
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Below $32,380 ($15.57/hour)
Education, Training and Certification
To occupy this position, you need some education and training.
Education: You should get an associate degree or a certificate in applied science or science-related technology to work in this field. In fact, some jobs demand a bachelor’s degree in chemistry or biology.
License: In some states, environmental engineering technicians will need a license before doing certain inspections. The National Registry of Environmental Professionals has different first-time certifications and information.
Specialized training may substitute for an associate degree, but you will need two years or more experience.
Environmental Technician Skills and Competencies
Aside from a license and formal training, an environmental engineering technician should have certain soft skills or personal qualities to succeed in this field.
- Good Reading comprehension skills
- Critical thinking skills
- Excellent Communication skills
- Great Observational skills
The above skills are crucial in succeeding in this profession.
Employment Outlook for Environmental Technicians
The job outlook for environmental field technicians is great. Employment is estimated to grow faster than the average for all occupations from 2016 through 2026, by about 13%.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, management, scientific, and technical consulting services and the architectural and engineering industries have been among the largest employers for environmental science technicians. The BLS has estimated that the employment of environmental field technicians will increase by 8% between 2019 and 2029.
This faster-than-average rate is predicted due to companies’ anticipated need for professionals to help them comply with government regulations, as well as increased public interest in environmental concerns. Environmental science technicians earned a median annual wage of $46,540 as of May 2019, the BLS indicates.
An environmental field technician needs to know how to operate, design, and test industry-related equipment; they should also be proficient with computers and in writing reports based on their collected data. BLS projected an 8% increase in employment opportunities from 2019-2029, a much-faster-than-average growth rate.
Most environmental field technicians work for consulting firms, local and state governments, and testing laboratories. Aside from working in offices and laboratories, they might also do fieldwork, taking soil samples or water samples from rivers, lakes, and streams.
Most jobs in this field are full-time, but those that involve fieldwork can include irregular hours. Some jobs, particularly those that rely on warmer weather for collecting samples from water or soil bodies that are not frozen, might be seasonal in regions with colder climates.
How to become an Environmental Technician
An environmental field technician receives most of their training on the job, so they do not require as much education as other positions. Below are some crucial steps you can take to become an environmental technician:
· Get a degree
Minimally, environmental field technicians have an associate degree in a field related to science. Some positions require a bachelor’s degree, typically in chemistry or biology, but most do not.
For either degree, consider taking courses in biochemistry, biology or organic chemistry to prepare for your career as an environmental field technician. Research positions to see how much education employers require from candidates. You can use such information to ascertain what level of education is best for you.
· Leverage class labs
Environmental field technicians spend much time in the lab, as many of their responsibilities involve lab work. While working on your degree, leverage classes that demand a lab because the more you practice, the more comfortable you will become in the lab.
Use your lab time to comprehend all available lab equipment and lookout for extensions of your assignments. Ask relevant questions to ensure you are learning proper scientific techniques.
· Look for an internship
Mostly planned in the last semester of your schooling, an internship can be a good start to your environmental field technician career. Your internship can provide a professional experience for your resume alongside a chance to acquire new practical skills. It is also an opportunity to increase your industry connections and even create job opportunities.
· Go for a license
Depending on the state where you want to work, you may have to get certain licenses. Ensure you check your local laws to ascertain what license you might need.
Some employers require certain licenses or training, especially if mandated to execute types of inspections. For instance, some positions demand Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) training. Explore job listings in your area to see if a license or specialized course is often required for positions near you.
· Get a position
Since you have a degree, be on the lookout for an environmental field technician position or a related job that allows you to work in a lab. By acquiring hands-on experience in a lab, you build the skills you need as an environmental engineering technician.
You should think about another internship if a relevant position is not available immediately because this can expand your network in the environmental science field.
· Continue your education
If you desire to become a senior environmental engineering technician, consider returning to school for a bachelor’s degree if you don’t already have one. To specialize in any area of environmental science, you can proceed with specialized training or courses in that area.
It is also advisable and beneficial to take continuing education courses or workshops about current technology and changes in environmental science.
Where can an environmental technician work?
Environmental engineering technicians typically work for testing laboratories within a wide range of industries. They may focus more on research with organizations such as nonprofit organizations, government offices, research foundations focused on the environment, universities, and specialized academic institutions.
They may conduct more specialized work with private companies, consulting agencies, and companies with concerns about the environmental effects of chemicals.
Environmental field technicians can work at industrial farms, water treatment facilities, recycling plants, and the petrochemical industry.
They can also work as consultants in companies that perform environmental impact assessments for large-scale engineering projects.
What are the educational and technical training requirements for environmental technicians?
An environmental engineering technician position usually requires a two-year associate degree in environmental science or other related applied science discipline. Some employers may accept specialized environmental field technician training in place of an associate degree.
Candidates with a bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry, soil science, and other related fields may also apply for environmental engineering technician roles.
The training requirements for an environmental engineering technician depend on the type of work they may do. Technicians handling hazardous materials must complete Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) training on health hazards, personal protective equipment, hazard identification, decontamination, and site safety.
Those that may work in the laboratory may also need to complete lab technician training.
What are the licensing and certification requirements for environmental technicians?
Some states require environmental engineering technicians to hold a license before they can carry out certain functions. For example, the National Radon Safety Board (NRSB) offers certification for environmental science technicians who perform radon tests on buildings.
Technicians who wish to conduct health inspections can get certified by the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA). Environmental technicians can also register with the National Registry of Environmental Professionals for various certifications.
Common certifications environmental technicians can get include certified hazardous materials manager (CHMM), certified environmental, safety and health trainer (CET), and certified safety professional (CSP).
What are the career growth opportunities for environmental technicians?
With further education, environmental engineering technicians can shift into environmental engineering. Environmental engineering technicians can also transition into other related fields, such as the health and safety field and industrial quality control.
They can work in urban design, construction, and green building. However, changing careers might require getting additional training and certifications.
How much money does an environmental technician make?
Below is the average environmental technician salary by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Average Annual Salary: $50,560 ($24,31/hour)
Top 10% Annual Salary: Over $82,800 ($39.81/hour)
Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Below $32,380 ($15.57/hour)
How many years of college do you need to be an environmental technician?
To become an environmental technician, you will need 2 years of specialized training or a two-year associate degree. Don’t forget that experience is also required.
How do I become an environmental technician?
An environmental field technician receives most of their training on the job, so they do not require as much education as other positions. However, a bachelors degree or an associate degree will be an added advantage
What does an environmental technician do?
They conduct tests and field investigations to acquire soil samples and other data. Their research is further deployed by engineers, scientists, and others who help clean up, monitor, control, or prevent pollution.
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