An environmental technician, typically working under the direction of an environmental scientist, monitors the environment and investigates sources of pollution by performing laboratory and field tests. He or she may be a member of a team that includes scientists, engineers and technicians from other disciplines. They work together to solve complex environmental problems that affect public health. An environmental technician may also be called an environmental science and protection technician.
There were almost 33,000 environmental technicians employed in 2012. Most work for consulting firms, local and state governments, and testing laboratories. They work in offices and laboratories. They also do fieldwork which involves taking soil samples or water samples from rivers, lakes and streams.
Most jobs in this field are full time, but those that involve doing fieldwork may include irregular hours. Some jobs, particular ones that rely on warmer weather for collecting samples from bodies of water or soil that isn't frozen, may be seasonal in regions with colder climates.
In some states environmental technicians who do some types of inspections need a license. See the Licensed Occupations Tool from CareerOneStop to find out what the requirements are in the state in which you plan to work.
In addition to a license and formal training, an environmental technician needs certain soft skills, or personal qualities, to succeed in this occupation. He or she must have excellent reading comprehension skills in order to understand work-related documents. Strong critical thinking skills will allow him or her to weigh possible solutions to problems. Because he or she often functions as a member of a team, an environmental technician also needs excellent communication skills, including listening, speaking and writing skills, as well as strong interpersonal skills.
Beginning environmental technicians work under the direct supervision of an environmental scientist or a more senior technician. With experience, he or she will receive only general supervision and may eventually supervise those with less experience.
The job outlook for environmental technicians is excellent. Employment is projected to grown faster than the average for all occupations through 2022 (The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).
Environmental technicians earned a median annual salary of $41,240 and median hourly wages of $19.83 in 2012.
Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much an environmental technician currently earns in your city.
A Day in an Environmental Technician's Life:
These are some typical job duties taken from online ads for environmental technicians positions found on Indeed.com:
- Collect water samples from raw, semiprocessed or processed water, industrial waste water, or water from other sources to assess pollution problem.
- Perform project monitoring and air sampling for asbestos, lead, and mold abatement projects.
- Install and maintain data collection instrumentation.
- Conduct bacteriological or other tests related to research in environmental or pollution control activity.
- Operate light and heavy equipment including, but not limited to: pumps, vacuum, equipment, oil spill boom, generators, bobcats, etc.
- Performs basic calculations and computer data entry.
- Prepare and maintain necessary reports and records as required.
- Set up equipment or stations to monitor and collect pollutants from sites, such as smoke stacks, manufacturing plants, or mechanical equipment.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Science Technicians, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/environmental-science-and-protection-technicians.htm (visited April 9, 2014).
Employment and Training Administration, US Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Environmental Science and Protection Technicians, on the Internet at http://online.onetcenter.org/link/details/19-4091.00 (visited April 9, 2014).