What Does an Environmental Field Technician Do?
Few jobs provide a combination of time spent in the field with time spent in the laboratory, but this one does. For the person who enjoys science and working outside (sometimes), this job could be a great fit.
Environmental field technicians monitor the environment for pollution. They are also known as environmental services technicians, environmental science and protection technicians or environmental technicians.
They take samples of air, soil and water and conduct tests on the samples in the field and in the lab. If those samples include contaminants, they help determine and monitor the source of contamination.
These technicians often work alongside scientists and engineers to investigate environmental problems or to ensure a company complies with environmental regulations.
Teamwork is a key element of this role. The environmental team works together to solve complex problems that affect public health. Sometimes, these threats are emergency situations, such as an oil spill or another sudden contamination event.
If you have an interest in science and this career sounds like a good fit, keep reading to learn more.
- Collect samples to assess pollution of air, water and soil
- Set up instruments for data collection
- Monitor pollutants from specific sites, such as a smoke stack or runoff from a stream
- Follow safety regulations
- Operate equipment such as pumps, vacuums, booms and generators
- Prepare reports and keep records
- Discuss and analyze test results
How To Become An Environmental Technician: FAQs
What are the steps to becoming an environmental field technician?
Education requirements vary, but typically, you’ll need to earn an associate degree or complete at least two years of education and training after high school.
However, there are employers who offer on-the-job training. (In fact, that was the experience of environmental field tech Julio Dejesus, above.) Some positions require a bachelor’s degree.
You can dive into programs offered at technical schools and community colleges in environmental health, public health or related topics. Courses will focus on environmental science and related technologies, such as geographic information systems (GIS). All programs should include lab experience and supervised field training.
If you work with hazardous waste, you’ll need to get Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) training.
Depending on what state you work in, you may need a license or certification. For example, to test buildings for radon, you’ll need to earn certification from the National Radon Safety Board. The National Registry of Environmental Professionals offers other common certifications.
Are there any other qualifications to consider?
You’ll need a driver’s license to meet with clients and go to sites for testing.
Where do environmental field technicians work?
They primarily work for government agencies, consulting firms, laboratories or engineering services. A wide variety of industries need their skills. For example, the need for environmental services technicians in agriculture and mining is greater than it is in other industries.
The role of an environmental tech may change depending on the employer. For example, techs who work in testing laboratories spend almost all their time in the lab while techs for consulting firms or government agencies spend more time in the field.
Most environmental field technician jobs are full-time.
Is there a demand for environmental field technicians?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts about 4,000 openings a year for this role from 2021 to 2031. That 6% growth rate reflects a growing interest in the environment and the need to better monitor human impacts.
What skills and qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?
Successful environmental field technicians tend to share several traits, including:
- Work well in a team
- Excellent observation skills
- Able to quickly size up problems and produce solutions
- Able to think critically and logically
- Strong interest in the natural sciences such as biology and chemistry