What to Know About Being an Environmental Field Technician
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- Jobs for environmental technicians are projected to increase over the next 10 years.
- Environmental field technician job duties and outlook vary by industry and employer.
- Most technicians protect public health by testing environmental conditions.
Rapid environmental degradation has opened up many career opportunities in environmental remediation and restoration. Environmental field technicians do the practical legwork of monitoring pollution's impact on public health and the environment. These professionals may spend considerable time conducting field surveys and tests that monitor habitats and species.
Environmental technicians usually need at least an associate degree in a field related to environmental science or two years of on-the-job training by experienced technicians or scientists. Professionals in this field may possess degrees in environmental studies, ecology, or natural resources and conservation. Some aspiring environmental technicians earn degrees that focus on specific areas, such as sustainable agriculture.
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The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects faster-than-average growth for environmental science and protection technicians. Pursuing more advanced degrees can help technicians qualify for promotion and salary advancement. Read further to learn more about this growing field, job outlook, and salaries.
What Does an Environmental Field Technician Do?
Environmental field technician duties vary widely by employer and project. Many environmental technicians work for governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations, or private consulting firms. This career may involve investigating environmental complaints, cleaning up fossil fuel pollution, or monitoring environmental changes. Some professionals specialize in soil, air, or water evaluation and protection.
Government-employed technicians protect public health and the environment by enforcing laws and regulations. These professionals may issue fines or shut down operations that violate standards. Technicians who work for private consulting firms or industry employers often help companies comply with state and federal environmental policies.
Environmental field technician careers often involve team-based work supervised by scientists and engineers. Most environmental field technician positions include some of the following job responsibilities:
- Collecting samples of water, soil, and air from specific locations and areas
- Conducting tests on samples to determine pollution levels
- Utilizing certain equipment, such as pumps and vacuums
- Tracing pollution or contamination back to its source
- Collaborating with engineers, scientists, or other field technicians to decide on the best courses of action
- Understanding environment and safety regulations
Continue reading for more information on environmental field technician career outlooks and salaries, which vary by industry.
What Is an Environmental Field Technician's Career Outlook?
Environmental field technicians enjoy a positive job outlook due to heightened interest in environmental issues and the growing numbers of retirees.
The BLS projects positions for environmental science and protection technicians will grow 11% between 2020 and 2030. This is a much higher rate of growth than the average 8% across all occupations and amounts to 4,700 new jobs each year. The BLS projects a total increase of 3,600 positions for these technicians over the next ten years.
Job growth projections vary considerably by industry. The BLS projects nearly 40% growth for environmental field technician jobs in the mining, agriculture, and forestry industries between 2020 and 2030. The BLS also projects 27% growth for technicians in grantmaking and social advocacy organizations over the same period. On the other hand, nuclear and electric power generation field technician jobs are projected to decline by 32% and 28%, respectively.
What Is an Environmental Field Technician's Salary Potential?
According to the BLS, environmental science and protection technicians earned a median annual salary of $46,850 in May 2020. However, salaries can vary widely based on an individual's credentials and industry. Technicians with master's degrees may qualify for jobs that offer higher compensation. The top 10% of environmental science and protection technicians earned over $80,530 in May 2020.
Technicians working in local government earned an annual median salary of $51,510 in May 2020. Technicians who worked in engineering services made around $49,360 per year. Testing laboratories paid technicians the lowest median annual wage of $40,560. According to PayScale, entry-level technician jobs paid around $43,400 annually as of October 2021. The lowest-paid 10% of technicians made less than $29,280 in May 2020, according to the BLS.
Frequently Asked Questions About an Environmental Field Technician's Career
How long does it take to become an environmental field technician?
Aspiring environmental field technicians often spend at least two years preparing for this career path. Many technicians earn two-year degrees in areas such as public health or environmental science. Some jobs require bachelor's degrees in related fields.
These technical, skills-based jobs usually require applicants to have completed supervised field and laboratory training. Many environmental science-related programs include fieldwork components. Professionals without college degrees may qualify for some positions through on-the-job training. Hazardous waste handlers may need professional certifications from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
What are the requirements to become an environmental technician?
Not all technician jobs require college degrees. However, backgrounds in sciences, mathematics, and computer science may benefit environmental field technicians. These professionals cultivate key skills through hands-on experience. Skills vary by project and field but may include data analysis or the use of geographical information systems. Some jobs require laboratory experience.
Many environmental field technicians qualify for this career by earning an associate or bachelor's degree in environmental science or related fields. Some jobs require professional certifications.
Are environmental field technicians in high demand?
Demand for these technicians varies considerably by industry. The BLS projects technician jobs in the mining, forestry, and agricultural industries to increase almost 40% between 2020 and 2030.
The BLS also projects technician positions at social advocacy organizations and consulting organizations will grow at faster rates than the average across industries over the next ten years.
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