Prepare for a Career in Environmental Health

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While an economic recession looms over the unemployed and those with little job security, environmental health professionals continue to enjoy relative stability in the job market. According to the Association for Environmental Health Academic Programs (AEHAP), over 90% of environmental health students are able to find a job by the time or soon after they graduate.

An environmental health professional might specialize in areas such as water quality, air quality and pollution control, food safety, environmental law, toxicology, public policy and the environment, occupational health and safety, waste treatment and disposal, pest control, or housing. The main duty of an environmental health professional, or EHP, is to ensure and improve public health in relation to issues of environmental risk. Environmental health professionals might work for the government, environmental consulting companies, private companies, or even the Peace Corps or wildlife parks.

The following is a list of common environmental health positions and how to prepare for them.



Built Environment Specialist

A built environment specialist inspects all types of buildings for evidence of possible risks such as infestation, fire hazards, lead paint, asbestos, and unsanitary conditions. It is the duty of a built environment specialist to make sure that the air in your child’s school is safe to breathe, that the roof over your head is properly supported, and that the fire alarms in your office are in working condition.

Generally, built environment specialists need a bachelor’s degree in a science, such as chemistry, biology, physics, geology, or civil or environmental engineering, followed by a master’s in environmental health science or civil engineering. ExploreHealthCareers.org also recommends completing an internship in the field to gain practical experience.

Environmental Health Advocate

The Teleosis Institute defines environmental health advocates as those who ''educate patients and their communities about environmental health issues — providing leadership while protecting the health of people and the environment.'' In other words, they help to establish guidelines and tips for health and promote awareness of environmental health risks.

In order to prepare for a career as an environmental health advocate, most receive a bachelor’s degree in an area of science such as the ones mentioned for built environment specialists as well as a master’s in environmental health science. ExploreHealthCareers.org also suggests completing an internship in this field.

Occupational Health and Safety Specialist/Inspector

An occupational health and safety expert, as defined by the US Department of Labor, may ''analyze work environments and design programs to control, eliminate, and prevent disease or injury. They look for chemical, physical, radiological, and biological hazards, and they work to make more equipment ergonomic — designed to promote proper body positioning, increase worker comfort, and decrease fatigue.''

Occupational health and safety specialists also need bachelor’s degrees in science, with master’s degrees in either environmental health science or civil engineering. Internships in occupational safety are available, but any internship in environmental health would be helpful in preparing for this career.

Food Safety Specialist

Food safety specialists ensure that the regulations and standards for both home-grown and imported foods are followed in order to guarantee the quality and safety of everything we eat. Most specialize in certain divisions of the food industry and work for the government or food producers.

ExploreHealthCareers.org suggests that those interested in food safety specialist careers pursue the same scientific and environmental health degrees required for other environmental health professions but also recommends gaining experience in food preparation or processing.

Most positions within the environmental health industry require four to six years of college, with degrees in science and environmental health programs. The National Environmental Health Science and Protection Accreditation Council ensures that environmental health degree programs offer satisfactory preparation for environmental health practitioners. Some states also offer certification for EHPs under the conditions that they demonstrate sufficient experience and can pass an exam.
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 degrees  private companies  job security  professions  U.S. Department of Labor  environments  environmental engineers  internships  health and safety  risks


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