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Become An Environmental Laboratory Technician

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Working As An Environmental Laboratory Technician

  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards
  • Processing Information
  • Getting Information
  • Monitor Processes, Materials, or Surroundings
  • Deal with People

  • $54,000

    Average Salary

What Does An Environmental Laboratory Technician Do

Environmental science and protection technicians monitor the environment and investigate sources of pollution and contamination, including those affecting public health. In addition, they work to ensure that environmental violations are prevented.

Duties

Environmental science and protection technicians typically do the following:

  • Inspect establishments, including public places and businesses, to ensure that there are no environmental, health, or safety hazards
  • Set up and maintain equipment used to monitor pollution levels, such as remote sensors that measure emissions from smokestacks
  • Collect samples of air, soil, water, and other materials for laboratory analysis
  • Clearly label, track, and ensure the integrity of samples being transported to the laboratory
  • Use equipment such as microscopes to evaluate and analyze samples for the presence of pollutants or other contaminants
  • Prepare charts and reports that summarize test results
  • Discuss test results and analyses with clients
  • Verify compliance with regulations to help prevent pollution

Many environmental science and protection technicians work under the supervision of environmental scientists and specialists, who direct the technicians’ work and evaluate their results. In addition, they often work on teams with scientists, engineers, and technicians in other fields to solve complex problems related to environmental degradation and public health. For example, they may work on teams with geoscientists and hydrologists to manage the cleanup of contaminated soils and ground water around an abandoned bomb manufacturing site.

Most environmental science and protection technicians work for state or local governments, testing laboratories, or consulting firms.

In state and local governments, environmental science and protection technicians spend a lot of time inspecting businesses and public places, and investigating complaints related to air quality, water quality, and food safety. Sometimes they may be involved with enforcement of environmental regulations. They may help protect the environment and people’s health by performing environmental impact studies of new construction or by evaluating the environmental health of sites that may contaminate the environment, such as abandoned industrial sites.

Environmental science and protection technicians work in testing laboratories collecting and tracking samples, and performing tests that are often similar to what is done by chemical technicians, biological technicians, or microbiologists. However, the work done by environmental science and protection technicians focuses on topics that are directly related to the environment and how it affects human health.

In consulting firms, environmental science and protection technicians help clients monitor and manage the environment and comply with regulations. For example, they help businesses develop cleanup plans for contaminated sites, and they recommend ways to reduce, control, or eliminate pollution. Also, environmental science and protection technicians conduct feasibility studies for, and monitor the environmental impact of new construction projects.

Environmental science and protection technicians typically specialize in either laboratory testing or in fieldwork and sample collection. However, it is common for laboratory technicians to occasionally collect samples from the field, and for fieldworkers to do some work in a laboratory.

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How To Become An Environmental Laboratory Technician

Environmental science and protection technicians typically need an associate’s degree or 2 years of postsecondary education, although some positions may require a bachelor’s degree.

Education

Environmental science and protection technicians typically need an associate’s degree in environmental science, environmental health, public health, or a related degree. Because of the wide range of tasks, environments, and industries in which these technicians work, there are jobs that do not require postsecondary education and others that require a bachelor’s degree.

A background in natural sciences is important for environmental science and protection technicians. Students should take courses in chemistry, biology, geology, and physics. Coursework in mathematics, statistics, and computer science also is useful because technicians routinely do data analysis and modeling.

Many schools offer internships and cooperative-education programs, which help students gain valuable experience while attending school. Internships and cooperative-education experience can enhance the students’ employment prospects.

Many technical and community colleges offer programs in environmental studies or a related technology, such as remote sensing or geographic information systems (GISs). Associate’s degree programs at community colleges traditionally are designed to easily transfer to bachelor’s degree programs at public colleges and universities.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Environmental science and protection technicians must be able to carry out a wide range of laboratory and field tests, and their results must be accurate and precise.

Communication skills. Environmental science and protection technicians must have good listening and writing skills, because they must follow precise directions for sample collection and communicate their results effectively in their written reports. They also may need to discuss their results with colleagues, clients, and sometimes public audiences.

Critical-thinking skills. Environmental science and protection technicians reach their conclusions through sound reasoning and judgment. They have to be able to determine the best way to address environmental hazards.

Interpersonal skills. Environmental science and protection technicians need to be able to work well and collaborate with others, because they often work with scientists and other technicians.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

In some states, environmental science and protection technicians need a license to do certain types of environmental and health inspections. For example, some states require licensing for technicians who test buildings for radon. Licensure requirements vary by state but typically include certain levels of education and experience and a passing score on an exam.

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Average Length of Employment
Laboratory Analyst 2.9 years
Top Careers Before Environmental Laboratory Technician
Internship 12.6%
Cashier 4.1%
Volunteer 3.2%
Manager 2.7%
Top Careers After Environmental Laboratory Technician
Chemist 5.6%
Owner 4.0%

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Top Skills for An Environmental Laboratory Technician

  1. Lab Equipment
  2. Water Samples
  3. Sample Preparation
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Worked as the primary analyst on all automated lab equipment.
  • Process soils, air filters, and water samples for analysis using EPA methods.
  • Conduct and document appropriate quality control and assurance procedures for monitoring and evaluating the quality of sample preparation procedures.
  • Designed and conducted on the job training of personnel in procedures of Standard Analytical Methods and Analysis Techniques.
  • Cross-trained in wet chemistry analysis.

Environmental Laboratory Technician Demographics

Gender

Male

55.4%

Female

37.4%

Unknown

7.1%
Ethnicity

White

62.3%

Hispanic or Latino

16.1%

Black or African American

10.9%

Asian

7.0%

Unknown

3.8%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

55.0%

German

10.0%

Indonesian

5.0%

Chinese

5.0%

Japanese

5.0%

Tagalog

5.0%

Mandarin

5.0%

Arabic

5.0%

Korean

5.0%
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Environmental Laboratory Technician Education

Schools

University of Houston

9.9%

University of South Florida

9.9%

Pennsylvania State University

5.6%

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

5.6%

Michigan State University

5.6%

University of Alabama

4.2%

Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

4.2%

Sam Houston State University

4.2%

Vermont Law School

4.2%

Texas State University

4.2%

University of New Hampshire

4.2%

Oregon State University

4.2%

Western Washington University

4.2%

University of Phoenix

4.2%

Arizona State University

4.2%

Eastern Kentucky University

4.2%

Texas A&M University

4.2%

San Jose State University

4.2%

Northeastern University

4.2%

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

4.2%
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Majors

Biology

24.3%

Environmental Science

16.2%

Chemistry

15.3%

Geology

6.6%

Business

4.8%

Clinical/Medical Laboratory Science

3.9%

Public Health

3.3%

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

3.3%

Electrical Engineering

3.0%

Ecology, Population Biology, And Epidemiology

2.4%

General Education, Specific Areas

2.1%

Geography

2.1%

Microbiology

1.8%

Chemical Engineering

1.8%

Environmental Control Technologies/Technicians

1.8%

Biotechnology

1.8%

Computer Science

1.5%

General Studies

1.5%

Law

1.5%

Electrical Engineering Technology

1.2%
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Degrees

Bachelors

52.6%

Other

14.7%

Masters

14.5%

Associate

12.4%

Certificate

2.5%

Doctorate

2.1%

Diploma

0.8%

License

0.2%
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