This career is expected to grow 24 percent—faster than average—through 2020. These workers will be needed to help regulate waste products; to collect air, water and soil samples for measuring levels of pollutants; to monitor compliance with environmental regulations; and to clean up contaminated sites.
Over 80 percent of this growth is expected to be in professional, scientific and technical services as environmental monitoring, management and regulatory compliance increase.
Salary & Wages
In 2010, environmental science technicians earned an average hourly wage of $19.90.
Industries offering high salaries to environmental science techs include electric power generation, transmission and distribution; petroleum and coal products manufacturing; oil and gas extraction; and waste treatment and disposal.
What is an Environmental Science Technician?
Environmental science and protection technicians monitor the environment to make sure it’s pure. They test water, soil, air and other environmental resources in the field and in laboratories. If they find contaminants, they figure out what they are and where they’re coming from.
As laboratory instrumentation and procedures have become more complex, the role of science technicians in research and development has expanded.
Environmental science techs may collect samples for testing or be involved in abating and controlling sources of environmental pollution. Some are responsible for waste management operations, control and management of hazardous materials inventory, or general activities involving regulatory compliance. Many environmental science technicians employed at private consulting firms work directly under the supervision of an environmental scientist.
Education & Degree PathMost science technicians need an associate degree or a certificate in applied science or science-related technology. Some science technicians have a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, biology or forensic science or have completed several science and math courses at a four-year college. Bachelor’s degrees in environmental science are becoming popular, especially for those who want to move into management.
It is possible to work as a science technician with only a high school diploma. Techs with no college degree typically begin work as trainees under the direct supervision of a more experienced technician, and eventually earn an associate degree in science technology. Those with bachelor's degrees will qualify for management positions most readily.
Entering the Field:You can get the education you need through an associate degree program or through a one- to two-year certificate program in environmental science. Specialty certificates and training are available in hydrology (water testing) or waste-water treatment as well as related testing areas.
Career Changers:There is room in this field for career changers with science backgrounds and extensive experience with laboratory equipment, including computers and testing procedures. If you already work in a science or technical field consider earning a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or graduate certificate in technology management or environmental science to qualify for higher pay as the leader of an environmental science team.