Environmental Science and Protection Technicians

Summary

environmental science and protection technicians image
Many environmental science and protection technicians work outdoors measuring levels of pollution and collecting samples.
Quick Facts: Environmental Science and Protection Technicians
2012 Median Pay $41,240 per year
$19.83 per hour
Entry-Level Education Associate’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2012 32,800
Job Outlook, 2012-22 19% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 6,200

What Environmental Science and Protection Technicians Do

Environmental science and protection technicians do laboratory and field tests to monitor the environment and investigate sources of pollution, including those affecting public health. Many work under the supervision of environmental scientists and specialists, who direct the technicians’ work and evaluate their results.

Work Environment

Environmental science and protection technicians work in offices, laboratories, and the field.

How to Become an Environmental Science or Protection Technician

Environmental science and protection technicians typically need an associate’s degree or 2 years of postsecondary education, though some positions may require a bachelor’s degree.

Pay

The median annual wage for environmental science and protection technicians was $41,240 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of environmental science and protection technicians is projected to grow 19 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. Environmental science and protection technicians should have good job prospects overall.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of environmental science and protection technicians with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about environmental science and protection technicians by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Environmental Science and Protection Technicians Do

Environmental science and protection technicians
Environmental science and protection technicians use laboratory equipment, such as microscopes, to analyze samples collected in the field.

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

Duties

Environmental science and protection technicians typically do the following:

  • 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
  • Clearly label, track, and ensure the integrity of samples being transported to the laboratory
  • Perform scientific tests to identify and measure levels of pollutants in samples
  • Prepare charts and reports that summarize test results
  • Discuss test results and analyses with clients

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.

In state and local governments, environmental science and protection technicians spend a lot of time inspecting businesses and public places, and investigating complaints related to air quality, water quality, and food safety. Sometimes they may be involved with enforcement of environmental regulations. They may protect the environment and people’s health by performing environmental impact studies of new construction or by evaluating the environmental health of sites that may contaminate the environment, such as abandoned industrial sites.

Environmental science and protection technicians work in testing laboratories collecting and tracking samples, and performing tests that are often similar to what is done by chemical technicians, biological technicians, or microbiologists. However, the work done by environmental science and protection technicians focuses on topics that are directly related to the environment and how it affects human health.

In consulting firms, environmental science and protection technicians help clients monitor and manage the environment and comply with regulations. For example, they help businesses develop cleanup plans for contaminated sites, and they recommend ways to reduce, control, or eliminate pollution. Also, environmental science and protection technicians conduct feasibility studies for, and monitor the environmental impact of new construction projects.

Environmental science and protection technicians typically 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.

Work Environment

Environmental science and protection technicians
Environmental science and protection technicians work to protects us from threats, such as air pollution.

Environmental science and protection technicians held about 32,800 jobs in 2012. The industries that employed the most environmental science and protection technicians in 2012 were as follows:  

Management, scientific, and technical consulting services23%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals19
Testing laboratories13
State government, excluding education and hospitals8
Engineering services7

Most environmental science and protection technicians work for state or local governments, testing laboratories, or consulting firms.

Environmental science and protection technicians work in laboratories, offices, and the field. Fieldwork offers a variety of settings. For example, a technician may investigate an abandoned manufacturing plant, or work outdoors testing the water quality of lakes and rivers. They may work around streams and rivers monitoring the levels of pollution caused by runoff from cities and landfills, or they may have to use the crawl spaces under a house to neutralize natural health risks such as radon. While working outdoors, they may be exposed to adverse weather conditions.

In the field, environmental science and protection technicians spend most of their time on their feet, which can be physically demanding. They also may need to carry and set up testing equipment, which can involve some heavy lifting and frequent bending and crouching.

Work Schedules

Environmental science and protection technicians typically work full time. In some cold climates, the ground may freeze, thus limiting the ability to take samples. This may cause some workers to work seasonally. They may also need to travel to meet with clients or to perform fieldwork. This may occasionally require technicians to work long or irregular hours.

How to Become an Environmental Science or Protection Technician

Environmental science and protection technicians
Environmental science and protection technicians need an associate’s degree or comparable postsecondary training.

Environmental science and protection technicians typically need an associate’s degree or 2 years of postsecondary education, though some positions may require a bachelor’s degree.

Education

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.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Environmental science and protection technicians must be able to carry out a wide range of laboratory and field tests, and their results must be accurate and precise.

Communication skills. Environmental science and protection technicians must have good listening and writing skills, because they must follow precise directions for sample collection and communicate their results effectively in their written reports. They also may need to discuss their results with colleagues and clients.

Critical-thinking skills. Environmental science and protection technicians reach their conclusions through sound reasoning and judgment. They have to be able to determine the best way to address environmental hazards.

Interpersonal skills. Environmental science and protection technicians need to be able to work well and collaborate with others, because they often work with scientists and other technicians.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

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.

Pay

Environmental Science and Protection Technicians

Median annual wages, May 2012

Environmental science and protection technicians, including health

$41,240

Life, physical, and social science technicians

$41,130

Total, all occupations

$34,750

 

The median annual wage for environmental science and protection technicians was $41,240 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,330, and the top 10 percent earned more than $68,620.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for environmental science and protection technicians in the top five industries employing these technicians were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals$44,720
State government, excluding education and hospitals41,390
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services40,330
Engineering services39,040
Testing laboratories36,680

Environmental science and protection technicians typically work full time. In some cold climates the ground may freeze, thus limiting the ability to take samples. This may cause some workers to work seasonally. They may also need to travel to meet with clients or to perform fieldwork. This may occasionally require technicians to work many or irregular hours.

Job Outlook

Environmental Science and Protection Technicians

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Environmental science and protection technicians, including health

19%

Total, all occupations

11%

Life, physical, and social science technicians

10%

 

Employment of environmental science and protection technicians is projected to grow 19 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. Heightened public interest in the hazards facing the environment, as well as the increasing demands placed on the environment by population growth, are expected to spur demand for environmental science and protection technicians.

Most employment growth for environmental science and protection technicians is projected to be in consulting firms. More businesses and governments are expected to use these firms in the future to help them monitor and manage the environment and comply with regulations.

Job Prospects

Environmental science and protection technicians should have good opportunities for employment. In addition to openings due to growth, many job openings are expected to be created by those who retire or leave the occupation for other reasons. Job candidates with an associate’s degree and laboratory experience should have the best opportunities.

Employment projections data for Environmental Science and Protection Technicians, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Environmental science and protection technicians, including health

19-4091 32,800 38,900 19 6,200 [XLS]

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of environmental science and protection technicians.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2012 MEDIAN PAY
Agricultural and food science technicians

Agricultural and Food Science Technicians

Agricultural and food science technicians assist agricultural and food scientists by performing duties such as measuring and analyzing the quality of food and agricultural products.

Associate’s degree $34,070
Biological technicians

Biological Technicians

Biological technicians help biological and medical scientists conduct laboratory tests and experiments.

Bachelor’s degree $39,750
Chemical technicians

Chemical Technicians

Chemical technicians use special instruments and techniques to help chemists and chemical engineers research, develop, and produce chemical products and processes.

Associate’s degree $42,920
Environmental engineering technicians

Environmental Engineering Technicians

Environmental engineering technicians carry out the plans that environmental engineers develop. They test, operate, and, if necessary, modify equipment used to prevent or clean up environmental pollution. They may collect samples for testing, or they may work to mitigate sources of environmental pollution.

Associate’s degree $45,350
Environmental engineers

Environmental Engineers

Environmental engineers use the principles of engineering, soil science, biology, and chemistry to develop solutions to environmental problems. They are involved in efforts to improve recycling, waste disposal, public health, and water and air pollution control.

Bachelor’s degree $80,890
Environmental scientists and specialists

Environmental Scientists and Specialists

Environmental scientists and specialists use their knowledge of the natural sciences to protect the environment and human health. They may clean up polluted areas, advise policy makers, or work with industry to reduce waste.

Bachelor’s degree $63,570
Forensic science technicians

Forensic Science Technicians

Forensic science technicians help investigate crimes by collecting and analyzing physical evidence. Many technicians specialize in either crime scene investigation or laboratory analysis. Most forensic science technicians spend some time writing reports.

Bachelor’s degree $52,840
Forest and conservation technicians

Forest and Conservation Technicians

Forest and conservation technicians measure and improve the quality of forests, rangeland, and other natural areas.

Associate’s degree $33,920
Geoscientists

Geoscientists

Geoscientists study the physical aspects of the Earth, such as its composition, structure, and processes, to learn about its past, present, and future.

Bachelor’s degree $90,890
Hydrologists

Hydrologists

Hydrologists study how water moves across and through the Earth’s crust. They can use their expertise to solve problems in the areas of water quality or availability.

Master’s degree $75,530
Medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

Medical laboratory technologists (commonly known as medical laboratory scientists) and medical laboratory technicians collect samples and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissue, and other substances.

See How to Become One $47,820
Occupational health and safety technicians

Occupational Health and Safety Technicians

Occupational health and safety technicians collect data on the safety and health conditions of the workplace. Technicians work with occupational health and safety specialists in conducting tests and measuring hazards to help prevent harm to workers, property, the environment, and the general public.

High school diploma or equivalent $47,440
Occupational health and safety specialists

Occupational Health and Safety Specialists

Occupational health and safety specialists analyze many types of work environments and work procedures. Specialists inspect workplaces for adherence to regulations on safety, health, and the environment. They also design programs to prevent disease or injury to workers and damage to the environment.

Bachelor’s degree $66,790
Veterinary technologists and technicians

Veterinary Technologists and Technicians

Veterinary technologists and technicians perform medical tests under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian to help diagnose the illnesses and injuries of animals.

Associate’s degree $30,290
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Environmental Science and Protection Technicians,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/environmental-science-and-protection-technicians.htm (visited July 22, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014