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How to Become an Environmental Field Technician

If you have a love for nature and science and want to pursue a career that helps improve the environment and public safety, a career as a field technician may be a great choice.

Field technicians conduct tests on water, soil, and air to ascertain the environmental impact of potential pollution sources. Their work is crucial for preventing environmental degradation, public health threats, and violations of protective ecological laws and regulations. 

Field technicians do essential work and work in many fields, including environmental compliance, construction, and agriculture. 

Sample job description

Environmental field technicians perform lab and field tests to investigate and protect against contaminants. They track sources of pollution and monitor the health effects of people and animals in the area to keep their environment safe for future generations. These technicians will often work alongside scientists and other specialists in the field. They’ll gather samples from the field and work in labs using scientific equipment to track, catalog, and source potential environmental dangers. Do you like hands-on projects working in nature? Do you have a passion for protecting the environment? If so, please apply to our open position.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Collect water, soil, air and other samples for analysis to assess pollution and other problems
  • Maintain data on samples and other fieldwork 
  • Perform basic calculations and computer data entry
  • Prepare, maintain, and present reports and records
  • Set up and operate equipment or stations to monitor and collect pollutants from sites

Education and experience

This position requires an associate degree, preferably with courses in ecology, biology, chemistry, and global environmental issues. Employers often prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree and certification as an environmental professional.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Broad knowledge of federal, state, and local environmental regulations
  • Experience with ecological surveying and reporting
  • Knowledge of various sampling techniques and equipment
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving skills
  • Robust technical writing, analytical, and communications skills 
  • Proficient in Microsoft Office Suite and industry-related software
  • Comfortable with fieldwork

Preferred qualifications

  • OSHA certified
  • Bachelor’s degree in related field
  • Strong knowledge of environmental science
  • Excellent mathematical skills

Typical work environment

The work environment of an environmental field technician varies. You might spend significant time in the environment, at rivers, lakes, or local flora gathering samples from plants or water. Alternatively, you are more likely to spend a greater portion of your day in the office or lab, running tests, gathering data, and participating in meetings or information exchanges.

Typical hours

The typical work hours for a field technician are from 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday, in an office, laboratory setting, or in the field.  

Available certifications

As environmental field technicians work in a variety of industries, there are many institutions that offer certifications, including:

  • OSHA Safety Certification. By obtaining this federally recognized certification in safety, the holder demonstrates their ability to operate in a safe work environment. You’ll develop a recognition and identification of physical hazards and health risks and implement proactive health and safety procedures.
  • Geographic Information Systems Professional. The GISP was founded on real-world principles and combined with education and professional excellence to establish a foundation for geographic and environmental understanding. This certification provided by the GIS&T requires some experience and education to apply for.
  • Certified Environmental Professional: Environmental Operations. The Academy of Board Certified Environmental Professionals established the CEP to designate senior environmental professionals as exemplary in their position. This certification shows high standards of conduct, professional standards, and exceptional skills.
  • Certified Environment Systems Manager. The CESM is specifically designed for professionals that are looking to have a thorough understanding of environmental systems and operational facilities. By obtaining this degree, you’ll have demonstrated your ability to work within the best practices within environmental systems management and operations.

Career path

The path to becoming a field technician starts with earning an associate degree, preferably with courses in ecology, biology, chemistry, natural resource conservation, wetland management, and global environmental issues. Advancements in supervisory and managerial positions are higher for those who complete at least a bachelor’s degree program. Employers often prefer candidates with environmental professional certification.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 19-4042

2020 Employment34,200
Projected Employment in 203037,800
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 11% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift3,600 Increase

Field technicians will be expected to make valuable recommendations on how to balance growing environmental concerns with the ever-increasing demands of population growth. The need for energy, environmental protection, and responsible land and resource management should spur demand for this position.