What does an environmental health specialist do?

Environmental health specialists educate and consult clients and enforce regulations governing the sanitation of food, milk, and water; hazardous and Infectious waste; sewage; institutional environments; and health hazards. They help improve water and sanitation facilities at recreational areas, nursing homes, schools, restaurants, and other locations, and are actively involved in the overall environmental quality of a community.

What might an environmental health specialist do in a workday?

Environmental health specialists:

  • collect and analyze environmental samples to screen for possible public health hazards.
  • prepare and calibrate equipment used to collect and analyze samples.
  • oversee the treatment and disposal of sewage and hazardous or infectious waste.
  • design and monitor construction of wastewater disposal systems and well installations.
  • determine pollution problems and initiate stop-action orders.
  • develop and manage programs to prevent toxic waste contamination, control insects and rodents, dispose of waste, and ensure clean water supplies.
  • consult and advise physicians and other medical personnel about community health hazards.
  • help draft laws and regulations and testify in court.
  • evaluate the handling, processing, and serving of food and milk to identify hazards and ensure compliance.
  • educate communities on environmental health issues.
  • conduct and analyze epidemiological data regarding disease outbreaks.
  • utilize computers to effectively manage data.
  • communicate well with the public.

Specialties include milk and dairy production, food protection, sewage disposal, pesticide management, air pollution, institutional sanitation, environmental and occupational health, as well as health safety and sanitation in pools, lodging establishments, and migrant labor camps.

How much does an environmental health specialist earn?

  • $30,000 - $61,000

How do I become an environmental health specialist?

Students interested in becoming environmental health specialists should prepare by taking the most challenging high school courses available in science, math and English, including advanced placement courses.

Most environmental health specialists earn bachelor’s degrees in environmental health. In some instances, related education such as biology, geology or environmental engineering is acceptable. Master’s and doctoral degrees can be earned and certification is available.

Where else can I learn about becoming an environmental health specialist?

American Public Health Association
800 I Street N.W. / Washington, D.C. 20001
tel:  (202) 777-2742 (APHA) / web:  www.apha.org

Virginia Public Health Association
2415 Westwood Avenue / Richmond, VA 23230
tel:  (804) 367-4860 / web:  www.vapha.org

National Environmental Health Association
720 S. Colorado Boulevard, Suite 1000-N / Denver, CO 80246
tel:  (303) 756-9090 / web:  www.neha.org

Educational Institutions in Virginia for Environmental Health Specialists: