6 Steps To Becoming an Environmental Technician

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 5, 2021

Many people recognize the effects of pollution on the environment and want to prevent or reduce it. By choosing an environmental career, you can professionally help make these changes. Understanding more about the job of an environment technician can help you decide if this could be a career for you. In this article, we discuss what an environmental technician is, what they do, how to become one and salary and job outlook for environmental technicians.

What is an environmental technician?

An environmental technician is someone who works with scientists and other researchers to study and attempt to prevent or reduce pollution. They typically work for consulting firms, local or state government agencies and testing laboratories. Environmental technicians often work in an office or laboratory and spend at least some of their time doing fieldwork. They may collect samples or maintain pieces of technology that measure pollutants in businesses or public areas, such as parks.

Typically, environmental technicians care about the environment and work to reduce pollution and other factors that can affect the environment. In order to do this, they work alongside researchers and activists who try to change legislature or business practices to minimize behaviors that can produce or increase pollution.

Related: 20 Green Careers for the Environmentally Conscious

What does an environmental technician do?

Environmental technicians gather samples, perform tests, analyze data and share the results with environmental scientists and others on their team. They may specialize in a certain area of pollution, such as air, soil or water pollution. After gathering samples, environmental technicians perform tests in a laboratory to check for contaminants and other signs of potential pollution, to determine the source of pollutants and to assess the condition of the environment. They create reports based on those tests and then summarize and discuss the results with a supervisor, often a senior environmental technician or an environmental scientist.

Additional duties of an environmental technician include:

  • Install and service instruments for field data collection

  • Maintain lab equipment

  • Manage the disposal of hazardous materials

  • Assist other team members with research

  • Operate light and heavy equipment, including pumps, generator, bobcat and vacuum

  • Perform calculations and data entry

Environmental technicians who want more responsibility can advance into a supervisory or management position, such as a senior environmental technician. Additional duties of a senior environmental technician can include:

  • Train, mentor and supervise other environmental technicians

  • Perform scheduling and budgeting for the team

  • Update lab policies

  • Ensure that the lab complies with federal regulations

  • Advocate for policy changes that reduces pollution or improve the environment.

Related: 27 Environmental Jobs (With Salaries and Descriptions)

How to become an environmental technician

An environmental technician receives most of their training on the job, so they don't require as much education as other positions. Here are the steps you can take to become an environmental technician:

1. Get a degree

Minimally, environmental technicians have an associate degree in a field related to science. Some positions require a bachelor's degree, typically in chemistry or biology, but most do not. For either degree, take courses in organic chemistry, biochemistry or biology to prepare for your career as an environmental technician. Consider researching positions in your area to see how much education employers expect from candidates. You can use this information to determine what level of education is best for you.

2. Take advantage of class labs

Environmental technicians spend a lot of time in the lab, as many of their responsibilities revolve around lab work. While working on your degree, take advantage of classes that require a lab, because the more you practice, the more comfortable you'll become in the lab. Maximize your lab time to understand all available lab equipment and find extensions of your assignments. Ask questions to ensure you are learning proper scientific technique.

3. Look for an internship

Usually planned in the last semester of your schooling, an internship can be an excellent beginning to your environmental technician career. Your internship can provide professional experience for your resume along with a chance to learn new practical skills. It is also a chance to increase your industry connections and possibly create job opportunities.

Read more: How To Get an Internship

4. Pursue licensure

Depending on the state where you plan to work, you may need certain licenses. Check your local laws to determine what licensure you might need. Some employers expect certain licenses or training, especially if mandated to perform types of inspections. For example, some positions require Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) training. Check job listings in your area to see if a license or specialized course is common for positions near you.

5. Find a position

Once you have a degree, look for an environmental technician position or a similar job that allows you to work in a lab. By gaining hands-on experience in a lab, you build the skills you need as an environmental technician. Consider another internship if a relevant position is not immediately available, because this can expand your network in the environmental science field.

6. Continue your education

If you want to become a senior environmental technician, consider returning to school for a bachelor's degree if you don't already have one. To specialize in a particular area of environmental science, you can pursue specialized training or courses in that area. It is also beneficial to take continuing education courses or workshops about current technology and changes in environmental science.

What skills does an environmental technician need?

An environmental technician requires a variety of hard and soft skills, including:

  • Critical thinking and analytical skills: While working with samples and in laboratories, technicians need analytical abilities to understand the process and results.

  • Math and science skills: Technicians need a strong understanding of math and science to perform tests, understand their responsibilities, read and assist with research and create reports.

  • Observation skills: Environmental technicians use observation to note whether equipment is operating and to find the proper area to take samples for testing.

  • Communication skills: Because technicians work in teams, they need strong communication skills that allow them to present data and understand requests from supervisors.

  • Teamwork and interpersonal skills: Because many environmental technicians work in teams, they need skills for making group work more productive.

Related: Lab Skills: Definition and Examples

What is the average salary for an environmental technician?

An environmental technician makes an average of $39,678 per year. This potential salary can depend on location, training, licenses and specializations.

What is the job outlook for an environmental technician?

The job outlook for environmental technicians is good compared to other positions. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects demand for environmental technicians to rise seven percent from 2109 to 2029 compared to an average growth rate of three percent.

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