Environmental specialist, environmental technician, environmental field technician, environmental engineering technologist, environmental engineering assistant
Environmental engineering technicians work in the field and in the lab to collect and analyze data, like water and air samples, in an effort to decrease pollution. They carry out the plans that environmental engineers develop. Environmental engineering technicians may also inspect various facilities to ensure that they are in compliance with environmental regulations.
At times, environmental engineering technicians may have to work with hazardous materials which requires them to wear proper attire like hazmat suits and respirators. Those in this line of work are trained in the proper procedures and techniques to keep them safe.
Complying with environmental regulations is required in many types of industries, providing environmental engineering technicians with a variety of potential employers. Some of these include architectural and engineering firms, energy and utility companies, conservation and environmental groups, mining and lumber companies, and public and private research firms.
- Playing a role in the protection and preservation of our natural world
- Having the opportunity to be outside
- Being able to work in many types of capacities for different organizations
- Working with a team of like-minded professionals interested in making the world a safer place
- Educating others about the importance of caring for our environment
- Perform environmental quality work by conducting pollution surveys
- Use equipment to prevent or clean up environmental pollution
- Collect and analyze air and water samples
- Dispose of hazardous materials like lead and asbestos
- Participate in hazardous environmental clean up projects
- Record lab and field data and write assessment reports
- Maintain computer program files and project records
- Review technical documents to make sure they are complete and conform to requirements
- Go over work plans and schedule various activities
- Mitigate the causes of environmental pollution
- Work as a team member with engineers and other technicians
A day in the life of an environmental engineering technician would involve being in the laboratory to test results, record observations, and document photographs. He or she may also go into the field to collect samples for testing. They may enter facilities to inspect that they are in compliance with environmental regulations. Many environmental engineering technicians are also responsible for keeping the lab supplied by ordering materials and equipment and talking to vendors and suppliers.
During the course of a typical day, an environmental engineering technician may be expected to communicate with a variety of different people about a project, including engineers, other technicians, clients, or people in the community. They may inspect equipment, structures, or material to ensure they are safe and without defect. Much of their job involves gathering, recording, and analyzing data.
- Communication skills
- Critical thinking skills
- Observational skills
- Problem-solving skills
- Reading and written comprehension skills
- Active listening and learning
- Monitoring skills
- Judgement and decision making
- Deductive and inductive reasoning
- Quality control analysis
- Analytical or scientific software
- Compliance software
- Computer aided design (CAD) software
- Data base user interface and query software
- Development environment software
- Graphics or photo imaging software
- Map creation software
- Object or component oriented development software
- Spreadsheet software
- Word processing software
- Agri-food producers and distributors
- Engineering consulting firms
- Federal government departments
- Provincial/state government departments
- Municipal government departments
- Utility companies
- Energy companies
- Mining and lumber companies
- Colleges and universities
- Public and private research firms
- Special interest groups
- Non-profit organizations
- Conservation and environmental groups
- Chemical development and processing companies
A willingness to take on new challenges in both laboratory and outdoor settings will help environmental engineering technicians move ahead. Sometimes longer hours are required if a major environmental issue or project is underway. Being flexible with your schedule will be an asset to your employer. As a side note, working with hazardous chemicals or in hazardous conditions can be stressful, so those in this profession will want to make sure that they are receiving proper training and equipment for the jobs they are assigned to.
In terms of skill building, because environmental issues can be controversial, learning how to talk about them diplomatically with the various people involved (community leaders, clients, residents) can be advantageous in this profession.
Our environment is constantly changing, and so are the ideas and technology about how to best handle these changes. Here are some of the trends that professionals in this field are currently tackling:
- High altitude wind energy from kites
- Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation
- Ecosan systems
- LEED, BREEAM, Green Star and other certification programs
- Hybrid vehicles
- Biofiltration systems
As children, people in this profession were probably described as investigative and inquisitive. They would have had a methodical approach to solving problems. “Logical” and “analytical” are two words that would have been used to describe them.
In school, they had a natural inclination toward science or math classes and enjoyed the process of collecting data or information and being able to solve problems.
People who choose this field also enjoyed being outside as children and may have gotten absorbed in discovering the plants and animals that lived around them. These are the kids who liked to “get their hands dirty.” Many may have felt the importance of protecting the environment that these living things need to survive.
- Environmental engineering technicians generally need an associate’s degree in environmental engineering technology or related field to enter the field. Classes include math, chemistry, environmental assessment, hazardous waste management, and others.
- Entry level technicians work under the direction of an environmental engineer or more experienced technician. As they gain more experience they may be elevated to the position of senior environmental technician or lead environmental technician and act as supervisors on a site.
- To work in some areas and with certain materials, additional certification and training may be required from OSHA.
- Environmental engineering technicians use a variety of different tools depending on the type of position they have. Some of these include air and water samplers or collectors, soil testing kits, electrophoresis system accessories, laboratory balances and mechanical convection ovens, liquid scintillation counters and others. The more tools you can learn, the more marketable you are to potential employers.
- To advance to the position of Environmental Engineer, a bachelor’s degree is required.
Classes to take:
- Environmental Science (if offered)
Activities to look into:
- Join science or math clubs that encourage you to work through problems.
- Enroll in engineering summer camps to help you explore your interests.
- Participate in activities that help you learn to work with others effectively in a group and share ideas and solutions.
- Become involved in environmental causes or local initiatives in your community to understand the kinds of issues you may encounter as an environmental engineering technician.
- Keep up to date on the latest issues affecting the environment and how different organizations are addressing these problems.
- Start or join an environmental awareness club at your high school or college to connect with others interested in the environmental field.
- Search online for volunteer opportunities with environmental causes and organizations. These types of activities demonstrate your passion for environmental issues to potential employers and may lead you to connections in the field.
- Join a professional organization to keep abreast of current issues and understand who the “movers and shakers” are.
- Include these volunteer activities and professional organizations on your resume. Take advantage of the career development office at your school to get help writing a professional, polished resume. Have several people look at it for their impression and suggestions.
- Have a general resume written, but tailor it for each job that you apply to. Read the job description carefully looking for the key words and phrases that are included. Tweak your resume to include these same key words and phrases so that your resume is selected.
- Research job opportunities using a variety of keywords that can describe the type of job you’re looking for. For example, use the terms environmental specialist, environmental technician, environmental engineering assistant, etc. Using different searches will yield more results.
- Set up search agents on job boards that look for new jobs that match your criteria so you can get notified of the latest positions as they become available.
- Contact organizations you would like to work for to see if scheduling an informational interview with someone there is possible. Even if no job is currently available, you have made a professional connection for the future.
- Spend some time thinking about what areas of environmental engineering technology interest you most and pursue opportunities and certifications in those areas.
- Ask your supervisor if you can be trained in any additional areas that may be helpful to him or her; thereby alleviating some of their workload.
- Develop good relationships with the environmental engineers and other technicians you work with. Be a good listener and be open to their feedback.
- Your reputation speaks volumes about you. Always make sure you are putting forth your best effort. Make it easy for anyone who works with you to have a positive remark about you.
- Always have an up-to-date resume on hand. As you are learning new skills and increasing your knowledge in specific areas, add this information to your resume. It is much easier to do in the moment, rather than trying to remember things you want to include later.
- Talk with people in similar lines of work to see what their jobs entail and what kinds of openings they know of that you would be qualified for.
- Consider continuing your education. With a bachelor’s degree, you could advance to the position of environmental engineer – increasing your salary and career opportunities.
- Technology Student Association
- National Association of Environmental Professionals
- National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies
- National Registry of Environmental Professionals
- U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety & Health Administration
Books and videos on environmental topics:
- Video: Living the Change: Inspiring Stories for a Sustainable Future by Jordan Osmond and Antionette Wilson
- Video: Inside the Garbage of the World: The Ugly Truth About Plastic Pollution by Philippe Carillo
- Book: The Global Casino: An Introduction to Environmental Issues by Nick Middleton
- Book: The Poisoned City: Flint’s Water and the American Urban Tragedy by Anna Clark
- Book: Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water by Marc Reisner
The skills you develop as an environmental engineering technician can transfer to many other types of careers that are both science and engineering related. Here are a few according the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- Environmental science and protection technician
- Geological sample technician
- Precision agriculture technician
- Robotics technician
- Mechanical engineering technician
- Electronics engineering technologist
- Surveying technician
- Forest and conservation technician
- Occupational health and safety technician
- Construction building inspector