An environmental technician, typically working under the direction of an environmental scientist, monitors the environment and investigates sources of pollution by performing laboratory and field tests. He may be a member of a team that includes scientists, engineers, and technicians from other disciplines, working together to solve complex environmental problems that affect public health. An environmental technician may also be called an environmental science and protection technician.
Most environmental technicians work for consulting firms, local and state governments, and testing laboratories. They work in offices and laboratories. They also do fieldwork which involves taking soil samples or water samples from rivers, lakes, and streams.
Most jobs in this field are full time, but those that involve doing fieldwork may include irregular hours. Some jobs, particularly ones that rely on warmer weather for collecting samples from bodies of water or soil that isn't frozen, may be seasonal in regions with colder climates.
In some states, environmental technicians who do some types of inspections need a license.
In addition to a license and formal training, an environmental technician needs certain soft skills, or personal qualities, to succeed in this occupation. He must have excellent reading comprehension skills in order to understand work-related documents. Strong critical thinking skills will allow him or her to weigh possible solutions to problems. Because she often functions as a member of a team, an environmental technician also needs excellent communication skills, including listening, speaking and writing skills, as well as strong interpersonal skills.
Beginning environmental technicians work under the direct supervision of an environmental scientist or a more senior technician. With experience, he or she will receive only general supervision and may eventually supervise those with less experience.
The job outlook for environmental technicians is excellent. Employment is projected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2022 (The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).
A Day in an Environmental Technician's Life
In general, an environmental technician's daily duties include the following tasks:
- Collect water samples from raw, semi-processed or processed water, industrial wastewater, or water from other sources to assess pollution problem
- Perform project monitoring and air sampling for asbestos, lead, and mold abatement projects
- Install and maintain data collection instrumentation.
- Conduct bacteriological or other tests related to research in environmental or pollution control activity
- Operate light and heavy equipment including, but not limited to: pumps, vacuum, equipment, oil spill boom, generators, bobcats, etc.
- Performs basic calculations and computer data entry
- Prepare and maintain necessary reports and records as required
- Set up equipment or stations to monitor and collect pollutants from sites, such as smoke stacks, manufacturing plants, or mechanical equipment