Hazardous Materials Director Careers: Salary & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a hazardous materials director career? Get real job descriptions, career outlooks and salary info to see if becoming a hazardous materials director is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Being a Hazardous Materials Director

A hazardous materials director protects the environment by making sure hazardous materials are properly kept, disposed of and handled by companies and employees. Check out these pros and cons to see if becoming a hazardous materials director is a good fit for you.

Pros of Being a Hazardous Materials Director
Opportunity to protect the environment*
Ability to lead, direct and manage others*
Very well paying career (About $97,000 median salary for waste management managers as of September 2015)*
Average job growth in the hazardous materials industry (14% between 2012-2022)**

Cons of Being a Hazardous Materials Director
Need for a good amount of schooling (at least a bachelor's degree)*
Pressure to make sure no chemical spills or environmental issues occur**
Director role requires years of experience (about 5-7 years needed)*
Demand to know and follow government regulations and restrictions**

Source: *Salary.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Info

Job Description

Hazardous materials directors, which are also known as waste management managers, work in the public and private sector and handle everything related to the proper disposal of contaminated materials. As a director, you'll have a tremendous amount of responsibilities and may need to train and manage a staff on how to handle and dispose of waste materials. A company may call on you to create a waste disposal system to prevent any damage to the environment or public.

Part of your career may also involve promoting worker safety and a work environment that is healthy and free of chemical exposure. This may mean coming up with an emergency plan in case there ever is a chemical-based emergency or knowing how to test the air, soil and water to check for irregularities and chemical levels. A knowledge of government rules and regulations for hazardous materials will be key for this position, as well as an understanding of how chemicals and contaminated materials can affect the environment, humans and animals.

Career Growth and Salary Stats

While the hazardous materials industry is wide ranging, hazardous materials directors are generally niche careers. In general, career prospects for the hazardous materials industry looks good. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that the employment of hazardous materials removal workers, for instance, will grow by 14% between 2012 and 2022. Jobs of this nature will be in demand as companies feel more pressure for cleaner electric generation, the BLS reports.

Despite the rarity of the career, hazardous materials directors are able to earn a comfortable living. According to Salary.com, waste management managers earned a median annual salary of about $97,000 as of September 2015, but wages for this job can range from $59,000-$129,000.

Education Requirements

Employers will require you to hold at least a bachelor's degree that relates to the environment to be considered as a hazardous materials director. Because it is a management position, companies are likely to require you hold at least three years of professional experience in an environmental management role.

Undergraduate certificates in hazardous waste management are also available. In these programs, designed for public and private sector employees, you'll learn how to manage hazardous materials and how to prepare for possible spills or emergencies. Certificate programs also include classes that detail the storage and disposal of hazardous waste in accordance with government regulations.

There are also employers that prefer candidates to hold a master's degree. A master's degree program can involve the environment, safety or hazardous materials and is likely to teach you management skills, as well as provide you with a deeper understanding of chemicals and how they may affect people, animals and the environment.

Job Postings from Real Employers

There aren't too many openings for hazardous materials directors, but the companies that are hiring generally look for a balance of education and experience in candidates. You'll need at least a bachelor's degree, an understanding of hazardous materials regulation and work within an environmental agency to be considered for the positions. Here's a variety of job openings posted in April 2012:

  • A private company in California is looking for an occupational health manager/hazardous materials manager who has a strong understanding of local, state, U.S. Naval and federal environmental regulations. You'll play an integral role in protecting employees and preventing environmental pollution. The employer places a heavy emphasis on professional experience and the job candidate will need a combined decade of experience in safety planning, management and the environment.
  • A university in New York seeks a hazardous materials manager who can develop, manage and operate the waste disposal system, as well as train others to make sure employees are kept safe. You'll be responsible for a number of different safety plans and will oversee chemical inventory and testing. The employer is looking for candidates who hold a master's degree in a related field, along with about five years of professional experience.
  • A school district in Illinois is hiring a a coordinator of compliance and systems who can work within plant operations and monitor safety compliance and environmental health. Your duties will range from monitoring your department's budget to tracking and removing asbestos and handling accident reporting and investigations. Five years of management experience is required to be considered.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

Getting an edge in the field often means developing professional experience. In your role as a director, it'll be important for you to hold years of experience in managing and understanding waste disposal systems. In addition to experience, you can get ahead by being a part of organizations like the Alliance of Hazardous Materials Professionals, a membership-based group that promotes the advancement of the field. The association frequently holds workshops and training sessions that allow professionals to network and understand the latest trends in the hazardous materials industry.

Another option is to further your education. There are colleges and universities that offer master's degrees that focus on environmental, health and safety management. The degree program would be a way for you to learn management and leadership skills, and also study environmental issues and research trends.

Alternative Career Paths

Hazardous Materials Removal Workers

If you aren't ready to become a hazardous materials director, think about a career as a hazardous materials removal worker. In this career path, you'll be responsible for disposing contaminated materials and items that may contain lead and asbestos. The work environment can be challenging and dangerous because you may become exposed to contaminated materials. The pay is decent with hazardous materials removal workers earning an average annual salary of $42,000 in May 2011, according to the BLS.

Water and Wastewater Treatment Operators

If you don't want to work with hazardous materials, but still have an interest in the environment, another career path may be as a water and wastewater treatment operator. You're likely to work in a treatment plant and oversee machines and equipment that monitor water and wastewater. There isn't a need for a lot of schooling because you may be able to find work with a high school diploma. The job pays about $44,000 annually, according to BLS figures from May 2011. The outlook looks good for water and wastewater treatment operators with the BLS projecting an employment growth of 12% between 2010 and 2020.

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