Environmental health is the study of how all aspects of the environment interact with human health. Practitioners of environmental health are in charge of monitoring the conditions in all settings—ranging from residential to commercial and industrial, to even recreation areas—in an effort ensure that nothing harmful occurs. They assess detrimental factors and then seek to prevent and control them. Jobs in environmental health can be found in local, regional, and national agencies, as well as non for profit and private corporations. Some examples of jobs in environmental health include county public health inspector, health policy analyst, water quality scientist, and consumer safety officer.
Health inspectors are a good example of an important job in environmental health at a local level. They monitor certain businesses in an effort to prevent public health issues, like a food borne disease outbreak, from occurring. They ensure that plants and factories comply with national and regional regulations. Public health inspectors also check to make sure restaurants are clean, pest free, and follow the proper food safety procedures.
Government agencies offer many career opportunities for those looking for jobs in environmental health. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in the US, employs over 17,000 people, more than half of whom are environmental policy analysts, scientists, and engineers. The EPA is responsible for assessing the country’s environment and educating future generations. The US Public Health Service hires science and medical practitioners from 11 different disciplines.
Environmental health officials and professionals are often among the first responders who react to various environmental, biological, and disaster emergencies. They evaluate the threat, and then seek to prevent further problems from occurring. During a flood, for example, they would help with the survivors, monitor the flood waters for biological threats, and watch the water supply for contaminants.
Non-profit organizations that address environmental health are another good place to look for jobs in environmental health. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) advocates for clean air and water for everyone. They support this with scientific evidence, and hire professionals to maintain their organization and to do research.
Applicants for most jobs in environmental health usually need to have at least a bachelor's degree in science. The degree should focus on the specific branch of public health the student plans to pursue. For example, an applicant who wishes to apply for a job at the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) studying emerging infections needs to have a microbiology or epidemiological focus to his or her degree.
Certain jobs in environmental health require that an applicant have specialist credentials. In the United States, specialist credentials can be obtained through the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA). An applicant can submit an application and take a test through the NEHA for their Registered Hazardous Substance Specialist (RHSS) credential, so that he or she can handle certain types of hazardous waste.