Becoming an Environmental Technician: Salary & Job Description

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An environmental technician's median annual salary is about $46,160. Is it worth the training requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to see if becoming an environmental technician is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Being an Environmental Technician

Environmental technicians collect samples from the air, ground or water under the supervision of an environmental engineer or scientist for testing to show the health of the environment. Below is a list of pros and cons to help you decide if you want to become an environmental technician.

Pros of Being an Environmental Technician
Favorable job growth (18% growth expected between 2012 and 2022)*
Can enter most jobs with only an associate's degree*
Opportunities to help clean up the environment and determine health risks to both humans and animal life**
Can work in a variety of fields (agriculture, engineering, government, etc.)**

Cons of Being an Environmental Technician
Might encounter hazardous materials***
Some technicians may work irregular hours*
Requires work outdoors, sometimes in extreme weather conditions*
Field experience is often required prior to employment***

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Pathways to Technology, ***O*NET OnLine.

Career Information

Job Duties and Description

Environmental technicians monitor work sites for environmental hazards or pollution. Some tasks include testing ground water, collecting air samples and analyzing soil for pollutants or biological hazards. Other duties include calibrating equipment, maintaining waste disposal records and adhering to environmental regulations.

Salary Information and Career Outlook

The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that demand for environmental technicians are expected to grow 18% from 2012-2022. You might find good career opportunities with companies that help other firms monitor and examine their sites.

The BLS reported that the median annual wage for environmental technicians was about $48,170 in May 2014. During that same time, the highest-paid environmental technicians made a median wage of $77,030 annually.

What Are the Requirements?

The BLS states that educational requirements can vary, but most environmental technicians need

an associate's degree, usually in environmental technology or a similar field. However, other technicians can have a high school diploma and still qualify for work. These technicians usually receive extensive on-the-job training. You can benefit by taking high school courses in math and science.

Useful Skills

If you're planning to become an environmental technician, you should have these following qualities:

  • Good communication skills
  • Work well with a team
  • Familiarity with computer programs
  • Attention to detail
  • Analytical skills

Job Postings from Real Employers

While responsibilities and requirements varied, most jobs had the minimum requirements of a high school diploma and good communication skills. Some employers also asked for applicants who were able to lift several pounds of equipment. Employers posted these following jobs for March 2012 on and

  • A testing firm in Pennsylvania asks for an environmental field analytical technician. Applicants will monitor the environment and collect material samples. While high school education was acceptable for applicants, the employer preferred those with an associate's degree in the sciences.
  • An environmental services company in Arizona needs an environmental technician who can help with decontamination and various construction activities. They need applicants with knowledge of hazardous waste/material management and completed Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) training.
  • An aquifer company in Texas requests an environmental science technician that can collect water samples, gauge wells and measure water levels. Applicants must have an associate's degree or undergrad coursework in chemistry, geology, engineering and hydrology.
  • An environmental services group in Washington seeks an environmental technician that has a bachelor's degree in engineering or a science-related field. The applicant would work in a managerial role, create reports and supervise field investigations.
  • A multi-disciplinary firm located in Texas needs an environmental technician who could work as a project manager, perform soil/water sampling and monitor groundwater. Applicants need to have an associate's degree in environmental studies or a related science field. HAZWOPER training was considered a plus.

How Can I Stand Out?

According to O*Net Online, you can stand out in this field by becoming proficient in software used in the industry. Some examples may include Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, AutoCAD, flood modeling software, map creation software and FishXing, which is software that helps monitor the fish populations in culverts.

You can also benefit by expanding your knowledge of environmental regulations like HAZWOPER, which regulates the cleanup, storage and disposal of hazardous environmental waste. Not all environmental technicians work with hazardous material cleanup, but if you want to make yourself eligible for a wider variety of positions, you can take HAZWOPER training courses that include 24-40 hours of instruction.

Alternative Careers

Environmental Engineering Technician

If you want to help design tools that monitor the health of the environment, you might be more interested in a career as an environmental engineering technician. These specialized technicians have many of the same duties as environmental technicians, though they also might develop devices that get rid of hazardous materials, perform quality control or collect data on the environment.

The BLS expected environmental engineering technicians to see an increase of 24% in employment opportunities between 2010 and 2020. In May 2011, the BLS stated that a median annual salary of these workers was about $45,000.

Clinical Laboratory Technician

If you are more interested in the medical field, then you can become a clinical lab technician. These workers help detect diseases by analyzing cells and body fluids. They work with clinical/medical technologists and lab managers and make sure specimens are ready for analysis. Like environmental technicians, these workers usually need a certificate or an associate's degree.

The BLS predicted the employment opportunities for clinical laboratory workers (which includes lab technicians) would grow 13% for the 2010-2020 decade. The BLS also reported that these technicians made a median annual salary of about $37,000 in May 2011.

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