Environmental Technology: Job and Career Suggestions

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Your mailbox is packed with a few advertisements, a friendly reminder from the Department of Campus Safety to pay a parking ticket, a note from Mom accompanied by a check, and something you’ve really been waiting for, a reply from a potential employer in response to myriad letters of interest and résumés that you’ve sent out over the past few months. This one is different, though.

An environmental consulting firm wants you to inter view at their facility. Your hands are shaking as you peruse the page and realize that they will fly you to their office in St. Louis, show you their facilities, let you observe the lab routine, and have you accompany a team to a local site to observe field procedures.

This is the payoff after four years of tough chemistry, math, geology, and biology classes; tons of homework; countless hours in labs; uncountable lab and field reports; and weekends spent off cam pus on field trips. You have every right to be excited because this is your first step toward beginning an exciting and useful career!

The environmental technology career path describes jobs that are more technical in nature than the environmental education or environmental poi icy, planning, and management, and even the environmental science career paths. An individual pursuing a career in environmental technology can pre sent any one of a number of relevant degrees as an educational credential, but a certain core of knowledge will be required.

Environmental Technology: Definition of the Career Path

Environmental technologists support the work of environmental engineers, environmental biologists, and environmental planners in a variety of settings. They often begin their careers performing routine laboratory and field data- gathering tasks. Later, with experience, they move up the ladder into more demanding positions, which have broader responsibilities and more diverse assignments.

Job settings in this category range widely, from those where most work is done in the laboratory to those where most of the work is performed out side. Some jobs would entail both gathering and processing samples. Tasks might range from soil and water field sampling to lab testing of various types of materials. Some jobs would involve the collection of hazardous materials and their testing for concentrations of toxic substances. Others involve sampling and testing of materials at construction sites to ensure that soil and bedrock can support loads. Another example might be that of collecting air samples at a site where a building is being remodeled. Tests could reveal the presence of lead or asbestos, both very undesirable materials. Others are focused in the biologic arena, where field identification, recording, and testing of organisms is the most important task. Other environmental technologists sample emissions from industrial stacks in the field and determine in the lab the air quality of such emissions.

Many government agencies, notably the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), employ large numbers of these field and lab technicians. Addition ally, many environmental technologists are employed at the state level. and government entities as small as municipalities also have a need for these workers at water or waste disposal treatment plants. Environmental consulting firms both small and large employ people with environmental technology skills. These consulting firms sometimes rely on outside, independent labs to test their samples instead of performing analyses in-house. Therefore, independent testing labs too are a source of jobs. Some larger nonprofit organizations hire environmental technicians for their staffs. Finally, chemical and other manufacturers also hire environmental technicians.

Skills Essential for Environmental Technologists

This career path covers a broad range of jobs, so the skill set that employers might require is equally diverse. There is, however, a core set of skills and experience that is needed. Before we go into detail, let’s look at several recent job listings.

Environmental Lab Technician. Entry-level position: interface with clients and collect chemicals from their biotech/pharmaceutical labs for storage and transport. Excellent entry opportunity for career in environmental management, health and safety, or environmental consulting. Must have good understanding of chemical and lab safety and good communication skills. Send cover letter and résumé to:

Environmental Technician. Environmental firm hiring field technicians, 40-hour OSHA-certification preferred. Duties (with certification): clean and abate sites contaminated with chemicals including lead, mercury, oil, and anthrax. Noncertified technicians collect water or well samples, inspect sewers, maintain and calibrate field instruments, and other nonhazardous duties. Apply online at:

Aquatic Technician. Control aquatic vegetation and algae in southeastern U.S. area. Work outdoors with boats, four-wheel drive trucks, and other equipment. Must be able to communicate well with customers and governmental contacts. Four-year B.S. degree in science preferred, with good science and math skills. Mail application material to:

Air-Monitoring Field Technician. Seeking field technician skilled in field and lab sampling and analysis to conduct tests for air quality in asbestos abatement projects, and sample for hazardous materials, including lead. Successful candidate must be knowledgeable about safety and aware of environmental policy and procedures.

What do all of these jobs have in common? Each advertisement emphasizes field data gathering, laboratory testing, and the processing of the results. Employers may sponsor your completion of courses such as the OSHA certification course in order to complete certain tasks.

There is some reference to presentation of these data in written form and the ability to communicate with teammates and clients. These sorts of jobs emphasize the technical aspects of the environmental sciences and place much less emphasis on those communication skills than we have encountered in each of the other environmental studies career paths. There is less expectation for report writing and presentations to various sorts of groups. But, writing and communication skills are required to a degree and enhancing your communications experience might assist you in advancement to more highly paid positions.

But not all job descriptions in this category involve merely gathering, processing, and analyzing samples. Additional skills are sometimes required. Let’s examine two job listings that call for additional capabilities.

Environmental Scientist. Successful candidate must have excellent written and verbal communication skills, desire to work in the field, ability to work effectively without direct supervision, and have background in environmental science, earth science, or geology. Primary responsibilities include working in the field with environmental scientists and engineers collecting soil and groundwater samples, compiling data, completing reports, and collaborating with field crews. Send cover letter, résumé, and references to:

Environmental Technician. Canadian environmental consulting firm seeking Environmental Technologist with field experience (sampling, drilling, contractor oversight, construction) and writing skills. Successful candidate will prepare and implement landfill monitoring programs, draft work plans, reports, and correspondence, participate in environmental investigation programs, compile and interpret data, evaluate environmental regulations, and prepare environmental reports. Complete online application at:

In both jobs, a broad range of skills and expectations are emphasized.

Obviously, the person who lands this type of job is going to be outdoors and doing hands-on work, but she or he will also be assembling reports, analyzing data, and working with clients, too.

GIS, Cartography, GPS, and Remote Sensing Technicians

We also place those trained in geographic information systems (GIS), cartography, global positioning systems (GPS), and remote sensing in the environmental technology career path. The following are typical ads for graduates who have training in these areas.

Cartographer. Assist with Homeland Security project. Background in urban geography helpful. Successful candidate will review, identify, and map areas at risk for terrorist attack. Apply in person at:

GIS Analyst. Must be skilled in production, distribution, training, data formats, and application support of academic department’s geographic information system (GIS) database; developing GIS applications; and converting geographic information to digital data. Minimum qualifications include any combination of education and experience equivalent to graduation from an accredited college or university with major course work in geography, geographic information systems, planning, or related field and some computer assisted design experience. Thorough knowledge and skill in maintaining multilayered GIS databases, in utilizing ESRI GIS software and programming languages, with remote sensing, photogrammetry, and digital image processing, and of manual and digital cartographic techniques and standards. Excellent skills in mathematics, problem solving, writing, and documentation. Ability to comprehend and develop technical specifications for manual and GIS related analyses. To apply visit our website at:

GIS Specialist. Applicants must have considerable knowledge of and experience using ESRI’s ArcGIS Desktop software, effective verbal and written communications skills, ability to solve difficult problems, ability to accomplish work assignments, and function effectively individually and in team environment. Sent résumé and cover letter to:

Remote Sensing Technician. Canadian organization seeking Remote Sensing Technician in support of Airborne Wildfire intelligence System (AWIS). AWIS is an award-winning, unique, state-of-the-art remote sensing technology that delivers GIS integrated wildfire intelligence in near real-time. Must have ability to operate under demanding emergency response conditions. Duties: operate mission-critical data collection equipment onboard a small twin-engine aircraft. Strong computing background and problem solving skills needed. Requires exceptional written and verbal communication skills, experience in one or more of: remote sensing, geography, GIS, environmental earth sciences, forestry, information technologies, or related discipline. Serious applicants only reply to:

Working Conditions

Environmental technicians perform a vital role in the organization with which they are affiliated. Without their contribution, there would be no hard data upon which administrative decisions could be made. However, many of these positions are challenging jobs, and challenging in a number of different ways. Let’s examine some of these challenges.


Travel is required of many environmental technicians. Field sampling requires site visits, for example, visits to locations in need of remediation. Data must be collected for testing at construction sites, and projects involving water quality require on-site collection of water samples. Consulting firms often are called on to install monitoring wells at compromised sites. Water and gas samples must be continually collected, requiring visits and revisits. Guess who will perform most of the data gathering. Will it be the supervisor with four teen years of experience? Will it be the owner of the firm? Not likely. The environmental technician, you, will be doing a lot of field travel. Sometimes these sites are within a short drive, while other jobs require air travel to distant destinations and involve overnight stays away from home. This is the reality of entry-level positions. You will have to decide if extensive travel fits into your lifestyle. Some people welcome the opportunity to travel extensively, while others have no interest at all. Keep this in mind as you review job listings.

Routines and Repetition

Some people love knowing exactly how their day will play out, while others look forward to facing the unknown each day. A number of laboratory personnel perform repetitive analytical tasks. Sometimes, especially since much of this analysis is automated today, these tasks are mechanical and redundant. GIS can also be tedious. Make a conscious decision about whether you are the right kind of person to undertake lab work. Keep in mind, though, that lab training can be an important stepping-stone. As a trained environ mental scientist, you will have opportunities to move up and out of the lab and into other kinds of work if you want to. This lab work can be viewed as a period in which you gather experience and learn the ins and outs of the institution where you work.

Hazardous Materials

For some people, an especially challenging aspect of this profession is reconciling working with hazardous materials. Some positions require that the worker come into contact with all sorts of “nasty” substances, such as synthetic organic chemicals, hydrocarbons, inorganic chemicals, pathogens, and radio-nuclides. This is just a sampling of the environmental “beasts” residing in surface water, groundwater, and soils. Many advertisements for job openings that we encountered refer to removal of petroleum wastes and asbestos, for example. But many other toxins are out there. In a textbook that focuses on contaminant hydrogeology, for instance, a table in section 1 that lists possible toxic substances in groundwater continues for eight full pages! Of course, if you are expected to deal with these materials, you will be given training in proper handling, be provided with appropriate equipment to ensure that you avoid direct contact, and be closely supervised, at least initially.

Each environmental technology position requires you to complete challenging tasks and provide real solutions to important environmental problems. In some of these jobs, you will be making a significant contribution to environmental cleanup, safety, and awareness. Society in the twenty-first century depends on people like you to work in this arena!

Training and Qualifications

Because the types of jobs that fall into the environmental technician career path are so varied, training and qualifications vary correspondingly. The basic educational requirement is a Bachelor of Science degree. If you have a degree in chemistry, microbiology, vertebrate or invertebrate biology, botany, hydrology, soil science, earth science, ecology, geology, geography, forestry, or fisheries and wildlife, just to name a few, you can consider a career in environmental technology. For those who didn’t major in chemistry, chemistry course work is a must for some of these positions. Additionally, a solid core of physics and math courses will be required for many of these positions. For those interested in GIS careers or remote sensing, course work in these areas is essential.

What common demands are made of students who graduate in these majors? They have to identify and classify; understand laboratory procedures and instruments; be knowledgeable about field techniques; be conversant in research design, sampling, and statistics; understand data-processing techniques; be familiar with a range of computer hardware and software; and possibly possess a working knowledge of other instrumentation.

Field and Lab Procedures and Equipment

Some lab and field technicians identify and classify organisms down to the species level. Others, such as soil scientists, learn to identify soil textures in the field and determine bulk density of soils, moisture content, and fertility in the lab. Both of these jobs require that the worker be comfortable and familiar with quite a number of laboratory procedures and instruments. Geologists have very similar demands made of them. They take a number of chemistry classes, learn laboratory and field sampling and data-processing techniques, and become familiar with the operation of a variety of instruments. Fisheries and wildlife majors develop strong laboratory and field data collection skills. They are also prepared to operate a plethora of instruments and computer software packages. The point is that students in many of these environmental disciplines receive training and gain experience in a variety of skill areas.

You may not have become comfortable with each and every lab technique and instrument and every field procedure, but you were introduced to the basic concepts and you were taught how to learn. Many skills that you picked up are transferable; you can take a technique that you learned in one area and slightly modify it to be appropriate for another instrument or procedure. You can apply this ability to learn to any situation!

Math, Chemistry, and Computer Software and Hardware

Quite a few opportunities require that candidates have strong backgrounds in math and chemistry and some experience in computer science. Soil scientists, geologists, geo-morphologists, fisheries and wildlife majors, and for esters all have taken a number of courses in chemistry, math, and computer science and have the basic preparation for many of these environmental technician job opportunities.

Research Design, Sampling, and Statistics

You might be asked to assist in research design, including determining sampling methodologies and statistical treatments of the data that were gathered for a project. For example, you could participate in a project that focuses on biodiversity in the watershed of a small glacial lake in northern Wisconsin. A solid background in statistics would be a very valuable asset to an employer that undertakes work like this. Not only will you be prepared to choose the statistical treatment for this project’s data, but also you will know how to interpret the data and draw conclusions from your interpretation.

Computer Hardware and Software

The need for computer skills in the area of environmental studies almost goes without saying. At a very basic level, you must be comfortable with a significant number of software programs including word processing, spread sheets, and databases. Some jobs will require additional software knowledge, including GIS software. The candidates with strong skills in these areas will have a greater variety of jobs to choose from.

Field Techniques

Many environmental technician jobs require fieldwork. Completion of field work requires you to be physically able to complete the task. Some jobs may involve hiking long distances over rough terrain. Others involve fieldwork in exposed settings such as in the hot sun or the bitter cold. You must be pre pared to undertake field visits during adverse weather, and you might be required to spend long days in the field.

Jobs involving fieldwork may begin at any time of year and have dead lines that require site visits under less than ideal conditions. Fieldwork is expensive for the employer. Therefore, it must be completed efficiently and quickly. Travel to and from remediation sites or data-gathering locales requires lots of commuting time, overnight stays, and meals away from home. If you love being outdoors, then assignments such as these will not be a problem for you. Just be sure that you have a clear understanding of the demands of the job.

Some Jobs Are Not for the Faint of Heart

Aside from a B.S. degree that includes chemistry course work and training in lab and field data gathering, sampling techniques, statistical analysis, GIS, and remote sensing, quite a number of the job opportunities in this career path require training in the handling of hazardous materials. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires a forty-hour training class that prepares graduates for treatment, disposal, storage, and emergency responses involving hazardous materials. This course is called Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response, also known as the forty-hour HAZWOPER. Students learn the proper selection and use of protective gear, hazard assessment techniques, principles of air monitoring, steps for site decontamination, properties of hazardous materials, planning for response, regulations, and permitting.

This course is available at a number of locations; several universities offer this training, as do private companies that specialize in similar training pro grams. Some employers expect that you’ve already received this instruction, but others will enroll you as part of the on-the-job training process. The point of this discussion is twofold: first, that you might be expected to have or develop these skills, and second, that you might be in a situation to need them. Some jobs have an expectation that you will be exposed to or will be handling various sorts of hazardous materials, including nuclear materials. Completion of HAZWOPER training and eight-hour updates over time is a valuable addition to your skills package. You will be worth more to your employer and future employers if you have a solid understanding of how toxic substances behave in the environment and the proper means of their handling and disposal. This training is a significant asset to many people working in the environmental studies fields. It is also valuable on a personal level because you will be able to work on environmental problems with the confidence that you know the proper procedures and behaviors around such materials.

The following two job advertisements require HAZWOPER and similar training.

Environmental Field Technician. Seeking Environmental Field Technician responsible for traveling to various natural gas sites/refineries throughout state to test groundwater and soil. Knowledge of GPS and completion of HAZWOPER certification especially valuable. Send letter and résumé

Entry-Level Geologist with HAZWOPER Certification. Environmental consulting firm seeking entry-level geologist. Ideal candidates will have B.S. in geology (or related field), be OSHA 40-hour HAZWOPER certified, and looking for career geared heavily toward the environment. Position will consist of array of duties including asbestos inspection, groundwater and soil sampling, surveying, and GIS. Apply via our website at:


Environmental technicians work for government agencies at the federal, state, and local levels; environmental consulting firms; independent testing laboratories; nonprofit organizations; and manufacturers.

Salary information for federal and state government positions is usually posted in the job advertisement. Federal workers employed at the General Schedule (GS) 5-7 level can expect a starting salary in the range of $25,623 to $31,740, although GS pay is adjusted geographically and the majority of jobs pay a higher salary. State job salaries for similar job titles will vary by region. A recently advertised environmental specialist I job in Colorado had a starting salary of $34,285 to $38,080, while a similar environmental scientist I position in Alabama would pay $31,646 to $35,725 to start. Local government starting salaries will vary by the size of the governmental unit. For example, the City of Miami, Florida, would offer a starting salary very similar to a state government position, while a much smaller local government would start you at a salary as low as $25,500.

Independent testing labs tend to offer modest salaries starting at $25,000. The reason: some environmental lab technician jobs are advertised as requiring only an associate of science degree. This degree, though exceedingly useful, is vocational. As a result of enhanced technology, some of the thought process involved in testing is now automated. Some testing systems require minimal sample preparation, and a printout showing the results is given to an environmental scientist for interpretation. Don’t overlook these tech jobs. They can be a great way to begin a career. Once you’ve gotten into the lab, you will show employers that you offer a wider range of skills than those individuals who possess an associate’s degree. Rather quickly you will be called on to undertake more challenging work that has a higher level of pay associated with it.

Environmental consulting firms offer starting salaries ranging from about $25,000 to $40,000. For example, a firm in Southern California advertised a position for a wetland biologist at $39,900.

Nonprofit organizations are most likely to provide the lowest salaries. The larger the nonprofit, though, the better your chances are for a higher salary in this sector. If you are interested in working for a smaller nonprofit, you can expect to start in the low to mid $20,000s. These organizations count on their low salaries being offset by providing workers the opportunity to make a difference in the earth’s environment.

Manufacturers that hire environmental technicians who hold a bachelor’s degree in chemistry start these workers at approximately $34,500.

One of the many useful salary websites is http://cbsalary.com. The site allows you to select a position title and geographic region, and an average salary figure will be calculated. Remember, though, these are average salaries for all workers with the given job title, not starting salaries. You can expect to earn something less than the low-end salary figure shown. You can also link to related salary surveys, but often these are one to three years old. At the time of publication a soil conservation technician in the Columbus, Ohio, region, for example, would expect to earn something less than $32,250, whereas in San Francisco that position would pay about $35,000.

Career Outlook

The U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, reports that employment of science technicians, including environmental technicians, is expected to grow more rapidly than average through the year 2014. More attention is being given to the environment by the public, and this trend is expected to continue. Large private firms hire approximately 20 percent of environmental technicians, and the level of business for these firms is based on federal and state regulations as well as industry efforts for gains in efficiency. The following section highlights some actions you can take that will ensure you’ll be in the running for environmental technology jobs.

Strategy for Finding the Job

You can undertake six key tactics to be successful in your job search. They include knowing the laws and regulations that will guide your work, getting job-related experience, achieving HAZWOPER certification, generalizing your lab training, developing software proficiencies, and enhancing your communication skills.

Be Knowledgeable About Environmental Laws and Regulations

Although the activities of this sector of the economy are transitioning from reacting to laws and regulations that force cleanup, remediation, and prevention to proactively increasing operational efficiency, you’ll need to know about the laws currently in place that affect the kind of work you want to do. Your course work provided an introduction to this subject, but you’ll want to be well versed in it.

Knowledge of various regulations was specifically mentioned in some job advertisements. Some of these regulations, such as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the Clean Air Act, the Worker’s Right to Know Law, and the Toxic Substances Control Act, may have been covered in courses you completed. But there are many, many more regs to know about. A good place to start learning is the Environmental Protection Agency’s website (epa.gov). and be sure to read professional journals related to the specific area you’re interested in (air, water, hazardous materials, and so forth) so that your knowledge is current and you’re ready to speak knowledgeably during the interview process. The Professional Associations section of this section highlights many relevant journals.

Gain Environmental Technician Job Experience

While writing this guide we found many, many summer job listings that were perfect résumé builders. One job was advertised by a consulting firm that was conducting wetland delineations and botanic and exotic species surveys. They were looking for someone to work in Florida. Another position involved collecting point data in a national forest in Idaho. Technicians who hiked trails and bushwhacked through the woods located stock watering troughs in remote areas. The exact location of the hydrologic point was determined with GPS and recorded. Back at the lab, these data were downloaded into a large database.

If you want to be competitive in the marketplace when you graduate, you should plan to spend at least one summer in a “résumé-building” job. Utilize the resources listed throughout this section to find the kind of summer job that will help you gain the experience you need to get the job you want.

HAZWOPER Certification: A Bonus for You and Employers

HAZWOPER stands for Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires a forty-hour training session for anyone working at treatment, storage, and disposal facilities and at hazardous waste cleanup sites. The training is also required for those persons responding to emergencies involving hazardous materials. Course content includes an overview of federal regulations, toxicology, hazard communication, site management, air monitoring, site characterization, operating procedures, safety, spill cleanup, and more. Many position listings require this training. The course is offered at colleges and universities across the country and through private companies whose mission is to deliver health and safety training programs. You can access dates and locations of these offerings on the Internet by searching for HAZ WOPER training courses.

Emphasize Your Lab Capabilities

In your lab courses you learned how to use various instruments and equipment to process and complete certain tests. Employers are likely to have more up-to-date labs than those you learned in. They will also require the use of equipment you’ve never seen before. So be sure to highlight your ability to adapt to new situations and quickly master the use of equipment. You can communicate this in your cover letter and résumé and also during interviews.

Increase Your Experience with Software

Employers expect their workers, irrespective of job title or position within the organization, to know how to use e-mail, word-processing, spreadsheet, database, and Internet navigation software. If you did not learn to use all these types of software while obtaining your degree, be sure to take a short course and learn how to use them now.

Improve Written and Verbal Communication Skills

Whenever you have an opportunity to enhance your communication skills, either in your course work or on the job, take advantage of it. These skills are important as you embark on the job search and again as you begin your career in environmental technology. As has been mentioned, you will face competition for these types of jobs. Candidates who are most effective at communicating their knowledge, abilities, and skills will be given more serious consideration than those who are not as practiced. Many of the job listings we reviewed specifically mentioned the need for communication skills. Just a sampling includes interacting with coworkers, clients, or customers; working in a team environment; writing reports based on findings; or training applications users. Even environmental technicians need to have skills in these areas, especially if advancement is important to you!

Possible Employers

Governments (federal, state, and local), consulting firms, independent testing labs, nonprofit organizations, and manufacturers are the primary employers of environmental technicians. A profile and tips for finding job listings are shown for each category of employer.

Federal Government

Quite a few federal agencies hire environmental technicians, but look through all the various federal job titles even if the words environmental technician are not given. Related job titles include biological sciences environmental manager, environmental scientist, environmental protection specialist, environmental resource specialist, and physical science technician. Agencies to investigate include Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Department of Energy, Department of the Interior, Department of Defense, Environmental Protection Agency, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, Geological Survey, Minerals Management Service, National Park Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, NOAA/National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation, and Enforcement.

How to Locate These Employers. The best way to find out about openings with the federal government is to go online and look at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s current job openings site (usajobs.opm.gov). You can review job listings by state or by category. When you examine the categories, think broadly because you may be qualified for a number of jobs in several categories. For example, positions such as park rangers and recreation leaders, for which graduates in environmental studies would qualify, were listed under the “Safety, Health, and Resource Protection” group. Addition ally, hydrologic technician jobs were listed under “Physical Sciences,” and soil technician and soil conservationist posts were listed under “Biological Sciences.”

State Government

Select state government agencies hire environmental technicians. Among the agencies that had posted job openings at the time this guide was written were the Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, the Oregon Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, the Connecticut Department of Environ mental Protection, and many others.

How to Locate These Employers. State government job listings can be found on official state websites and in larger newspapers published in a given state, such as the Denver Post (denverpost.com), the Boston Globe (boston.com), or the Chicago Tribune (chicagotribune.com). State employment offices will also have job listings posted on-site. State governments may also advertise jobs with select professional associations, so reviewing their websites and professional journals will reveal additional jobs. The American Institute of Professional Geologists (aipg.org) and the American Water Resources Association (awra.org) may post state government jobs.

Local Government

Local governments operate water treatment plants, solid and liquid waste disposal facilities, and recycling centers. As a result, facilities such as these require employees with a comprehensive understanding of the water treatment and wastewater disposal process as well as techniques involved in recycling of all sorts of materials discarded by society. Additionally, municipalities require people trained in health and safety and air and water sampling.

How to Locate These Employers. Some local governments are very large while many are fairly small. The City of Detroit, Michigan, would advertise much differently than Plymouth, New Hampshire. Detroit maintains a web site and lists jobs there, in addition to advertising in the area’s large metropolitan newspapers. On the other hand, Plymouth might advertise in a regional paper that is published once a week. Start your search by getting on the Internet and looking for websites for the local governments for whom you’d like to work. If you don’t find job listings there, contact the local governmental unit directly to find out how and where it advertises open positions. The American Water Works Association (awwa.org) as well as other professional associations post links to hundreds of jobs, including local government jobs, along with career advice.

Consulting Firms

Environmental technicians work for environmental services firms, hazardous materials consulting firms, environmental consulting firms, and special disposal consulting firms, just to name a few. These consulting firms work with clients doing business in various sectors of the economy, including waste management, information technology, soil and groundwater, and health and safety. Some of the job titles you’ll see advertised include environmental field technician, OS HA technician, engineering technician, environmental technician, air-monitoring field technician, aquatic technician, entry-level geologist, geotechnician, air- and ground-sampling technician, soils technician, hydrologic technician, and environmental scientist. Be sure to review the complete list of job titles shown later in this section. If this sector of the economy or this type of job interests you, keep reading!

How to Locate These Employers. Careerbuilder.com is a good place to start. Search under entry level. We found in excess of one thousand jobs posted there. Even a general search on a popular search engine using the keywords environmental technician identified consulting firm jobs in Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, and Pennsylvania, just to name a few. Be sure to look at the list of professional associations at the end of the section for other sites that include job postings.

Independent Testing Laboratories

If you are interested in working indoors in a laboratory, this is the type of employer you will want to investigate. If you’re interested in wet chemistry procedures, x-ray diffraction systems, fiber microscopy, organics prep, semi volatiles analyses, GC/MS (gas chromatography/mass selective) instrumentation, ICP (inductively coupled plasma) spectrometry, GFAA (graphite furnace atomic absorption) spectrometry, FLAA (flame atomic absorption) spectrometry, CV (cold vapor) technologies, or analysis of organic compounds, these are just a few of the many activities undertaken by testing labs.

How to Locate These Employers. The American Society for Testing and Materials (astm.org) has an online listing of testing labs organized by geo graphic region and subject area. Some subject areas that may be of interest are biological, chemical, and geotechnical; nondestructive evaluation; and surface analysis testing. More than 250 labs were found for the keyword environment. You can link to these companies’ websites, and many of them list job openings and internship opportunities. A general Internet search using the keywords environmental testing laboratories resulted in more than a mil lion hits. After reviewing the first one hundred entries, this search was considered a successful effort in identifying potential employer websites.

Nonprofit Organizations

Imagine working as an ecosystem metabolism research technician collecting algae samples for a water research center. Or being employed by a national nonprofit organization as an environmental database developer. Or finding a job as a research assistant for a natural history area. These are just some of the many jobs available in the nonprofit sector.

How to Locate These Employers. The Water Environment Federation (wef.org) website links to dozens of job listings. You may also review The ECO Guide to Careers that Make a Difference: Environmental Work for a Sustainable World, published by Environmental Careers Organization. It describes careers in fishery and wildlife management; parks and outdoor recreation; air- and water-quality management; education and communications; hazardous waste management; land and water conservation; solid waste management; and forestry, planning, and energy.


Most environmental technicians working in manufacturing are employed in the chemical industry. Their work can involve testing packaging to ensure safe transport to market. They can also ensure the integrity of the chemicals that are manufactured and help determine the environmental accept ability of chemical products.

How to Locate These Employers. Several resources that you will find in your college or local library include Standard and Poor Industry Surveys, Moody Industrial Manual, and Ward Business Directory. Use these references to identify companies that manufacture chemicals, and then review those companies’ websites. If you don’t find job vacancies listed online, contact the companies using the information provided in the printed references or online.

Two other websites will be useful as you look for environmental technician positions with chemical manufacturers. The American Chemistry Council (americanchemistrycouncil.com) site has information about employment in their industry, as does the American Chemical Society (acs.org). Both the

Air and Waste Management Association (awma.org) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (cdc.gov/niosh) have career centers. These are but a handful of the organizations that can help steer you toward your first career position.

Possible Job Titles

Usually you will find the word technician in the position title for jobs associated with this career path. Don’t let that be your sole guide, though. Read through the job duties and you’ll see that environmental technicians are also called scientists, researchers, officers, analysts, and more. The list shown below is a good guide as you begin your search.

  • Air-monitoring field technician
  • Aquatic technician
  • Compliance officer
  • Conservation technician
  • Environmental cleanup technician
  • Environmental field scientist
  • Environmental geologist
  • Environmental safety professional
  • Environmental specialist
  • Environmental technician
  • Environmental technologist
  • Field technician
  • GIS analyst
  • GIS specialist
  • Hazardous materials/waste specialist
  • Inspector
  • Laboratory scientist
  • Laboratory technician
  • OSHA technician
  • Research assistant
  • Research technician
  • Researcher
  • Sampling technician
  • Sanitarian

Related Occupations

Other positions that are practically oriented and that use scientific theories and principles as well as mathematics to solve problems are shown below. Add to the list as you work through your job search.

  • Agricultural technician
  • Aviation safety inspector
  • Bank examiner
  • Biological technician
  • Chemical technician
  • Consumer safety inspector
  • Engineering technician
  • Equal opportunity specialist
  • Food inspector
  • Forestry technician
  • Health inspector
  • Mine safety inspector
  • Nuclear technician
  • Park ranger
  • Petroleum technician
  • Public health officer
  • Science technician

Professional Associations

Several associations are described here, and each has something to offer those seeking work in environmental technology. Read on to find out where you can get more information for the type of work you would like to do.

Air and Waste Management Association

One Gateway Center, Third Floor

Pittsburgh, PA 15222

awma.org; info@awma.org

Members/Purpose: A nonprofit, nonpartisan professional organization that provides training, information, and networking opportunities to twelve thousand environmental professionals in sixty-five countries. The association’s goals are to strengthen the environmental profession, expand scientific and technological responses to environmental concerns, and assist professionals in critical environmental decision making to benefit society

Training: Offers conferences, workshops, and continuing education courses

Journals/Publications: The Journal of the Air and W’ Management Association; EM, a Magazine for Environmental Managers; A&WMA News

Job Listings: Jobs are posted online, but only association members can access them

American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA)

5301 Buckeystown Pike, Suite 350

Frederick, MD 21704

Members/Purpose: Individuals, institutions, and corporations interested in achieving customer satisfaction through meeting the needs of both laboratories and their users for competent testing; improving the quality of laboratories and the test data they produce; and increasing acceptance of accredited laboratory test data to facilitate trade

Training: Offers periodic public training courses

Journals/Publications: A2LA News periodic newsletter; annual report; membership directory

Job Listings: Links to accredited labs’ websites, including environmental labs; some websites list job openings.

American Chemical Society

1155 Sixteenth St. NW

Washington, DC 20036

Members/Purpose: Individual membership organization; provides a broad range of opportunities for peer interaction and career development

Training: Hosts meetings and advertises training opportunities; website offers comprehensive career information

Journals/Publications: Publishes a large number of journals and magazines

Job Listings: Available on their website to members.

American Indoor Air Quality Council

P.O. Box 11599

Glendale, AZ 853 18-1599

http://iaqcouncil.org; info@iaqcouncil.org

Members/Purpose: A nonprofit association for indoor air quality professionals and technicians. The council promotes awareness, education, and certification in the field of indoor air quality through sharing, learning, and networking

Training: None

Journals/Publications: None

Job Listings: Lists job openings on their website.

American Institute of Professional Geologists

8703 Yates Dr., Suite 200

Westminster, CO 80031


Members/Purpose: Professional geologists and academics. Purpose is to support working geologists, be an advocate, and provide professional certification

Training: Annual meeting, workshops

Journals/Publications: The Professional Geologist; various handbooks and brochures

Job Listings: Listings available online for members.

American Society for Testing and Materials

100 Barr Harbor Dr.

West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2959

Members/Purpose: Develops and provides voluntary consensus standards, related technical information, and services having internationally recognized quality and applicability that (1) promote public health and safety, and the overall quality of life; (2) contribute to the reliability of materials, products, systems, and services; and (3) facilitate national, regional, and international commerce

Training: Offers continuing environmental technical education programs for industry and government

Journals/Publications: Cement, Concrete &Aggregates; Geotechnical Testing

Journal; Journal of Composites Technology and Research; Journal of Forensic

Sciences; Journal of Testing and Evaluation; Standardization News (monthly); Annual Book of ASTM Standards

Job Listings: Links to hundreds of labs and consulting firms that list jobs and internships online.

American Water Resources Association

4 W. Federal St.

P0. Box 1626

Middleburg, VA 20118-1626


Members/Purpose: Individuals, corporations, universities, government agencies, and nonprofit institutions interested in any aspect of water resources

Training: Offers conferences, symposia, and short courses

Journals/Publications: Journal of the American W Resources Association; Impact magazine

Job Listings: Links to almost one hundred job listings

American Water Works Association

6666 W. Quincy Ave.

Denver, CO 80235

e-mail for various individuals available at website

Members/Purpose: Individuals, environmentalists, plant operators, manufacturers, academics interested in the improvement of water supply quality and quantity

Training: Offers publications, online resources, and symposia

Journals/Publications: Journal of the American Water Works Association; MainStream; Opflow; Waterweek

Job Listings: Links to hundreds of jobs online.

Association for Environmental Health and Sciences

150 Fearing St.

Amherst, MA 01002

aehs.com; info@aehs.com

Members/Purpose: Professionals concerned with the challenge of soil protection and cleanup; facilitates communication and fosters cooperation

Training: None

Journals/Publications: Soil and Sediment Contamination: An International Journal; International Journal of Phyto-remediation; Human and Ecological Risk Assessment; Environmental Forensics; The Iv Newsletter

Job Listings: None

Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists

P.O. Box 460518

Denver, CO 80246


Members/Purpose: Academics, students, engineering professionals; provides leadership in the development and application of geologic principles to problems of remediation, city planning, and natural hazard risk reduction

Training: Annual meetings, symposia

Journals/Publications: Environmental and Engineering Geosciences; AEG News; symposia proceedings; books; online publications

Job Listings: Listings available online for members

Institute of Hazardous Materials Management

11900 Parklawn Dr., Suite 450

Rockville, MD 20852

ihmm.org; ihminfo@ihmm.org

Members/Purpose: Professional hazardous waste handling firms; purpose is to certify hazardous waste managers

Training: Offers accredited training for certified hazardous materials manager

Journals/Publications: Handbook on Hazardous Materials Management Job Listings: None.

National Ground Water Association

601 Dempsey Rd.

Westerville, OH 43081

ngwa.org; ngwa@ngwa.org

Members/Purpose: To provide and protect our groundwater resource

Training: Numerous conferences, many custom training opportunities, safety courses, lecture series

Journals/Publications: Ground Water; Ground Water Monitoring and Remediation; Water Well Journal; numerous handbooks

Job Listings: Online links.

Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC)

1010 N. Twelfth Ave.

Pensacola, FL 32501-3307

setac.org; setac@setac.org

Members/Purpose: Academics, professionals in business and government; purpose is to provide a forum for discussion of environmental issues

Training: Annual meeting

Journals/Publications: Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry; SE TAG Globe Newsletter; many books and technical papers

Job Listings: Online links.

Water Environment Federation

601 Wythe St.

Alexandria, VA 223 14-1994

wef.org; e-mail for various branches and individuals available online

Members/Purpose: Various water professionals. Purpose is to preserve and enhance the global water environment.

Training: Numerous conferences and workshops.

Journals/Publications: Water Environment and Technology; Water Environment Federation Industrial Wastewater; Water Environment Federation Research; Water Environment Federation Reporter; Utility

Executive; Water Environment Regulations Watch; Watershed and Wet Weather; Water Environment Federation Highlights; technical bulletins and books.

Job Listings: Online links to dozens of job listings.

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