Why Earn a Environmental Health Degree

Are you interested in working in environmental health? This is an exciting and growing public health profession that is mostly concerned with the various aspects of the environment that can affect the health of human beings. Environmental health studies how the environment can influence both human health and disease.

Environmental health is a quite diverse field where experts perform many important tasks including environmental investigations, research, education and outreach, and environmental clean up operations. Environmental health workers are largely concerned with the cleanliness and safety of the air, water and soil.

These workers often monitor air quality, water pollution, toxic pesticides in the soil, do restaurant inspections and promote good use of land and housing.

The best path to working in environmental health is to earn either a bachelor’s or master’s degree in environmental health or public health. If you earn this degree, you will likely cover most of the major aspects of public health, including environmental health, epidemiology, international health, behavioral health, and biostatistics.

Career Paths in Environmental Health

Getting your degree in environmental health can be a great choice to get you on a career path with strong demand and good pay in these areas:

Environmental Scientist

An environmental scientist uses their extensive knowledge of the natural and physical sciences to provide protection to the environment and human health. Environmental scientists often work on cleaning up highly polluted or contaminated areas. They also may provide detailed advice to policymakers, or work with industry professionals to cut down on air and water pollution.

Many environmental scientists focus their career on reclaiming lands and waters that have been damaged by industrial and consumer pollution. Others may do assessments of risks that new development poses to our environment, and make recommendations to businesses and governments on how to lessen the impact the these projects.

You can specialize in various type of environmental science in this profession, such as:

  • Climate change
  • Environmental health
  • Environmental restoration
  • Industrial ecologist
  • Environmental chemist

This field will grow at an 11% clip by 2024, which is faster than average.

Environmental Science and Protection Technician

These workers provide monitoring services of the environment and investigate sources of contamination and pollution, including ones that have a major effect on public health. They also work to make sure that there are no environmental regulations violated by businesses and other organizations.

Some of these professionals may work under the guidance of environmental scientists and specialists. In that case, they will direct your work and evaluate the quality of the results. They also will work frequently with various engineers, scientists, and technicians in related fields to solve difficult problems that are related to public health and environmental degradation.

In a state or local government position, you would spend much of your time conducting inspections of public places and businesses, as well as investigating various complaints that are related to water quality, air quality and food safety.

In a consulting firm, you would help the client to monitor and manage their environmental concerns and to comply with regulations.

This field will see 9% growth by 2024, which is faster than average.

Different Types of Environmental Health Degrees

You can typically earn the following types of degrees in environmental health:

Bachelor’s Level Degree Options

If you are interested in getting started in environmental health, you may want to consider the Bachelor of Science in Environmental Health from the University of Georgia. This is a highly rigorous environmental health program that will prepare you for many exciting careers.

Some students will also use this bachelor’s degree as a stepping stone to an advanced degree in many other fields, from toxicology to public health to environmental engineering. It also can satisfy the requirements to enter professional degree programs, such as dentistry and medicine.

The curriculum for this program involves several scientific areas. The first two years of the degree program involve courses in biology, chemistry, math, physics and microbiology. During your third and fourth years, you will take several applied environmental health courses in water, air and noise pollution, as well as solid and hazardous waste management and public health law.

More than 60 students complete this rigorous environmental health degree each year, and they work in these types of positions:

  • Environmental Health Specialist
  • Toxicologist
  • Industrial Hygiene Specialist
  • Occupational Health Specialist
  • Environmental Consultant
  • Environmental Scientist
  • Environmental Auditor
  • Hazardous Waste Manager
  • Public Health Specialist
  • Environmental Enforcement Officer
  • Environmental Protection Specialist
  • Health and Safety Officer
  • Environmental Education Specialist
  • Environmental Risk Assessor

It should be noted that permanent and adjunct faculty members teach the upper level courses in the Environmental Health department. Most of the EHS courses are in a lecture format and usually have fewer than 30 students in each class.

Major courses in the environmental health sector include:

  • EHSC 3060 Introduction to Environ. Health
  • EHSC 4910 Environ. Health Seminar
  • EHSC 3910 Internship in Environ. Health Science
  • EHSC 4080 Environmental Air Quality
  • EHSC 4150 Solid and Hazardous Waste Mgmt.
  • EHSC 4490 Environmental Toxicology
  • EPID 4070 Fundamentals of Epidemiology
  • HPAM 3600 Health Policy and Management
  • CHEM 2212 Modern Organic Chem. II
  • CHEM 2212L(Lab) Modern Organic Chem. II
  • MIBO 3500 Introductory Microbiology

Master’s Level Degree Options – MS

For those who want to earn their master’s degree in environmental health, a good option for your consideration is the Master of Health Sciences in Environmental Health at Johns Hopkins University.

This highly regarded online degree program allows students to focus their studies in many areas including the populations sciences, which provide the foundation for how the environment affects public health. Many graduates of the program eventually go on to get their doctoral degree in medicine or research. Others may move into positions in government agencies or nonprofit organizations.

One concentration that you can choose is Human Toxicology, Pathophysiology and Risk Assessment, which offers you classes in basic cellular mechanisms through various environmental agents that can have a negative effect on human health and physiology.

Another option is the focus area in Food Systems, Water, and Environmental Sustainability. This focus area addresses how the use of water, food, land and other resources have an effect on human health at the regional, global and local levels.

Master Level Degree Option – MPH

Another common master’s degree option is to earn your Master of Public Health or MPH degree. This is considered the standard graduate degree in the public health field. It is often required to have many managerial and supervisory positions in public health. Some universities are now offering 100% online programs without the stringent GRE requirement.

The University of Texas at Houston offers a high quality MPH degree that you can specialize in environmental health. This program will ready you to assume leading roles in environmental health and science in the government or private sector. Your required courses will include:

  • Foundations of Epidemiology
  • Foundations of Biostatistics
  • Ethics in Public Health
  • Introduction to Management and Policy
  • Social and Behavioral Aspects of Community Health
  • Fundamentals of Environmental Health

Accreditation

As you are weighing different environmental health degree programs, we advise that you look for accreditation from the National Environmental Health Science and Protection Accreditation Council or EHAC. This organization’s goal is to enhance the education and training of students and professionals in the environmental health sciences. When your program has this accreditation, you will know it is a high quality program.

Summary

Earning your degree in environmental health will launch you on an exciting career in public health and environmental health.

Robert Sanchez
Written by Robert Sanchez
Robert Sanchez is HealthGrad.com's Chief Editorialist. Robert Sanchez has over 10 years experience in the Healthcare field and more recently has become an avid writer advising on career and job topics in this exciting field.

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