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ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE TECHNICIAN

Looking for a fast-growing STEM career you can start quickly? Environmental science technicians may have just what you're seeking.

Environmental Science Technician

Environmental science technicians are the men and women working behind the scenes to conduct testing and research that supports environmental initiatives while also monitoring industries for compliance with regulations. These specialized researchers collect and analyze data from air pollution, water contamination and waste management. Working under the supervision of environmental scientists, technicians use sophisticated tools to ultimately give regulators and private industry a better idea of how pollutants are managed.

On a daily basis, you may find environmental science technicians involved in any of the following tasks:

Inspecting public places and businesses to look for potential environmental or safety hazards.

Setting up and operating equipment to monitor for pollution.

Collecting samples and data to be used in testing and analyses.

Preparing charts or reports summarizing test results or field observations.

Environmental science technicians can play a crucial role in identifying sources of pollution and assisting in environmental protection projects. It's a STEM job that is expected to see above average growth in the years to come and one for which you can be ready to work with as little as two years of college education.

College iconHow Much do Environmental Science Technicians Make?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that, as of May 2014, U.S. environmental science and protection technicians, including those working in health, earned an average salary of $45,910 annually. The top 10 percent of technicians in the field earned $71,240 or more while the bottom 10 percent in the occupation had incomes of $26,660 or less.

Environmental science technicians earn the highest average annual salaries in the following industries:

  • Electric power generation, transmission and distribution: $76,310
  • Offices of physicians: $70,540
  • Management of companies and enterprises: $65,270
  • Oil and gas extraction:$64,980
  • Basic chemical manufacturing: $64,080

If you are looking for where the money and job openings are, consider that environmental science technicians who lived in these five states averaged the highest annual wages in the U.S. for this occupation, as of May 2014:

  • Nevada: $61,300
  • South Carolina: $59,510
  • Maryland: $54,390
  • Connecticut: $52,930
  • Minnesota: $51,980

Among those five, South Carolina employed the most environmental science technicians overall: 730, according to the BLS. However, the state employing the highest number of technicians in 2014 was California. There were 3,760 technicians working in the Golden State in 2014, earning average incomes of $51,120 for the year.

If you're looking for the top-paying metropolitan areas for environmental science technicians, you may want to head to one of these cities where incomes were the highest according to 2014 BLS data.

  • Las Vegas-Paradise, Nevada: $69,240
  • Augusta-Richmond County, Georgia: $64,930
  • Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, California: $63,250
  • Santa Rosa-Petaluma, California: $60,900
  • Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood, Texas: $60,740

If you are considering relocating to find work, remember to weigh the salary against the cost of living. Non-metropolitan areas such as those in Nevada, Wyoming and Kentucky with a high concentration of jobs may prove significantly less costly, even if the salaries are lower.

Checkmark iconOccupational Requirements and Job Types

An associate degree or certificate in either applied science or a science-related technology is typically required for environmental science technician jobs. Some employers, however, may expect more. O*NET's survey of technicians from entry level to the most advanced specialists found that 44 percent of respondents held a bachelor's degree; 20 percent held a master's degree and just 13 percent held only an associate degree.

Environmental science technicians may work in a number of capacities. They may be employed by local and state governments to conduct inspections and prepare compliance reports. Others may be employed by laboratories or environmental consulting firms.

Technicians who want to specialize in a particular job type may want to seek out professional certification. Several organizations offer credentialing programs for environmental science technicians and related occupations. The National Environmental Health Association is one such organization, and they offer the following designations:

  • Registered Environmental Health Specialist/Registered Sanitarian
  • Certified in Comprehensive Food Safety
  • Certified Professional - Food Safety
  • Healthy Homes Specialist
  • Certified Environmental Health Technician
Job Outlook for Environmental Science Technicians

The latest career forecast from the BLS, which covers the period 2012-22, estimates job growth for environmental science technicians will be 19 percent, considerably higher than the 11 percent average growth projected for all occupations combined. The individual states and territories projected to see the highest job growth through 2022 include:

  • Guam: 103.8%
  • Colorado: 37.7%
  • North Dakota: 35.6%
  • Wyoming: 28.9%
  • Utah: 28.7%

The BLS cites public awareness and concern over environmental hazards as factors for the employment gain. They expect the most job growth to come from consulting firms, who are taking a bigger role in monitoring businesses and government to keep them compliant with regulations.

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Sources

1. Occupational Employment and Wages for Environmental Science and Protection Technicians, including Health, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014,
http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes194091.htm
2. Environmental Science and Protection Technicians, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Jan. 8, 2014,
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/environmental-science-and-protection-technicians.htm#tab-1
3. Long Term Occupational Projections for Environmental Engineering Technicians, Projections Central,
http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
4. Summary Report for: Environmental Protection Technicians including Health, O*Net OnLine,
http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/19-4091.05. Credentials, National Environmental Health Association, http://www.neha.org/professional-development/credentials