©2002 Environmental Education Outreach Program & Northern Arizona University
Chapter 2, Section 6:
When human health is endangered by pollutants or hazardous substances, environmental health and safety professionals are called in to determine the nature of the threat, to contain or control the cause of the danger and to assist the people who are at risk. Environmental health workers manage those factors and substances in the indoors and outdoors that can affect workers’ health or safety. There are several categories of professions within the environmental health and safety field. Public health nurses and physicians, like those with the Indian Health Service provide medical care when environmentally caused illness or disease appears. Doctors must earn a highly specialized medical degree that may take more than 10 years of schooling after high school. Nurses require at least a four-year degree.
Most other categories of environmental health and safety workers are not medical professionals. Private companies, mines, and factories hire on-the-job safety experts who make the workplace safer for all employees. Two-year Associate’s Degrees can provide certification for many of these jobs, but most of these opportunities require at least a Bachelor’s degree.
Other non-medical environmental health professionals include those who respond to accidental releases of toxic substances to make an area safe. Toxicologists are educated to know how foreign substances can injure human tissues. Epidemiologists study patterns of a spreading illness within a community to investigate its cause and potential remedies. Explaining the Hantavirus outbreak in Arizona and New Mexico in the mid-1990s is a good example of successful investigative fieldwork by trained epidemiologists. Their education places a strong emphasis on human anatomy and physiology and the ways foreign substances can cause illness or injure human tissues.
Other non-medical public health and environmental safety careers include professionals who protect community health by monitoring, managing and improving public water systems, sewage systems, local air quality, pest control and chemical and hazardous substance safety. This is a very broad area that includes many professions. Use the links below to examine the areas that interest you.
Key Job Titles:
Last updated: May 27, 2005