Environmental Health Safety Engineer

Finding a job that is both secure and earns well can be difficult in the current employment market.  People who have an interest in ecology and environmental sciences may feel that they are torn between following their desired path of study and landing a well paying job.  Many people neglect to consider that environmental factors play a large part in public health and safety concern, and that jobs in this area can be government based and stable.

The public health sector is seeing some of the largest expansion in job creation in all industries.  This includes monitoring environmental hazards and establishing safe living conditions for communities.  If you like to work outdoors and want a job that truly offers you room to grow, then a career as an environmental health safety engineer could meet all of your needs.

What Is An Environmental Health Safety Engineer?

This career path allows you to create a balance between communities and their natural surroundings.  Environmental health safety engineers monitor natural conditions as well as the impact that humans have on these conditions.  They also assess possible hazards that may be present, from physical dangers such as the development of flood plains and mountain faces, to contaminants that may be in the soil, air, or water.

Along with analyzing samples and assessing possible risks, environmental safety engineers will also develop solutions that serve both the eco-system and the community.  This may include water remediation projects or the design of structures such as dams and levees.  They also propose community efforts such as recycling and waste management, and educate the public about the impact that humans have on the environment.

An environmental health safety engineer will perform a number of tasks in the field and with the community:

  •   Take water, soil, and air samples, and analyze their constituents.
  •   Inspect natural formations and features to determine if these are stable and safe for the community.
  •   Develop structures to promote public safety, such as bridges, dams, or floodgates.
  •   Monitor geological activity, including seismic trends or potential sinkholes.
  •   Present pertinent information to municipal government to address these safety concerns.
  •   Implement community programs that raise environmental awareness and promote environmental and public health.
  •   Collaborate with industry professionals to develop protocols which preserve natural resources.
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As an environmental health safety engineer, much of your job will be in the field.  However, the following skills are all important in performing your duties:

  •   Analytical thinking:  You will need to be able to determine what the results of your sample testing mean and how they apply to the overall health and safety of the community.
  •   Problem solving:  You will need to come up with valid and plausible ways of overcoming natural hazards and possible environmental dangers.  This will require goal oriented plans that can be enacted quickly in order to create change. 
  •   Communication:  Although much of this job is field work, you will also need to interact with the public to educate them about environmental concerns.  You will also need to be able to present findings and solutions to governing boards in an effort to ensure public safety. 
  •   Observation: Along with taking samples from the environment, you are also observing natural trends and tendencies, to determine if they endanger the community. 
  •   Scientific process:  Your lab work and test analysis will all need to stand up to scientific scrutiny.  You must be able to replicate results and extrapolate long term predictions from this information.

Nature Of The Work

In this job, a large amount of time will be spent collecting and analyzing samples in the environment.  You will spend much of your time outdoors, in the field, collecting and recording information.  As an environmental health safety engineer, you will also need to perform the lab work to collect the necessary data from samples, and then examine trends to determine if they pose a threat to the community.  This information is then reported to the Department of Public Health, and you will also need to propose solutions for the issue.

Since some of the hazards that you will identify may be caused by actions within the community, you will also be responsible for providing information and education to the public.  This can include lectures and meetings, but may also be literature which helps to educate.  The job requires that you are also in attendance at town meetings and governmental hearings where solutions can be presented and then implemented within the community.

Education And Training

A four year Bachelor degree in environmental sciences, civil engineering, or chemical engineering is the minimum expectation for this career path.  Graduate degrees in related fields of environmental management can increase job opportunities and can also increase the pay range that you are eligible for.  Practical experience is not an expectation, but many employers will look for this in their hiring process.  Most universities offer field training and cooperative engineering programs so that these skills may be gained.

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Some positions may ask that you hold certifications form the National Environmental Health association.  This certification can include specialties such as wastewater treatment, hydrology, or chemical handling.  Although this expectation varies from position to position, acquiring certifications can always improve your chances for a public health career.

The position of environmental health safety engineer is one of that careers that has an above average growth rate.  The anticipated change over the next ten years is expected to be up by 19% as the importance of environmental health in regards to public safety is becoming more recognized.  This job is also one of the more lucrative positions for four year degrees, with a median salary of around $80,000 per year.  Entry level positions can be as much as $50,000 annually, and higher level federal jobs are over $100,000.  For people who enjoy being outdoors and like to encourage the balance between the community and the environment, a career in environmental health safety engineering could be a steady and sure outlet.

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