How to Become an Environmental Science and Protection Technician
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, although some positions require a bachelor’s degree.
Environmental science and protection technicians typically need an associate’s degree in environmental science, environmental health, or 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 math, statistics, and computer science also is useful, because technicians routinely do data analysis and modeling.
Many technical and community colleges offer programs in environmental studies or a related technology, such as remote sensing or geographic information systems (GISs). While in college, students should include coursework that provides laboratory experience.
Associate’s degree programs at community colleges often are designed to allow students to easily transfer to bachelor’s degree programs at public colleges and universities.
Technicians whose jobs involve handling hazardous waste typically need to complete training in accordance with Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) standards. The length of training depends on the type of hazardous material that workers handle. The training covers health hazards, personal protective equipment and clothing, site safety, recognizing and identifying hazards, and decontamination.
Analytical skills. Environmental science and protection technicians must 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 written reports. They also need to discuss their results with colleagues, clients, and, sometimes, public audiences.
Critical-thinking skills. Environmental science and protection technicians reach their conclusions through sound reasoning and judgment. They have to determine the best way to address environmental hazards.
Interpersonal skills. Environmental science and protection technicians need 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 can benefit from obtaining certification to conduct certain types of environmental and health inspections. For example, certification for technicians who test buildings for radon is offered through the National Radon Safety Board (NRSB).
The Registered Environmental Health Specialist/Registered Sanitarian (REHS/RS) credential is offered through the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA).