Becoming an environmental health specialist is a great way to protect public health and the environment. If you’re interested in a career in environmental health, read on to learn how to become a registered environmental health specialist.
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Becoming an environmental health specialist requires a combination of formal education and on-the-job training. Many specialists have a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, but some positions may require a master’s degree. In addition to academic coursework, environmental health specialists must complete a yearlong internship during which they learn to apply their knowledge to real-world situations. After completing their education and training, environmental health specialists must pass a state certification exam before they can begin working.
What is an Environmental Health Specialist?
An Environmental Health Specialist is a professional who has been certified by the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) as having met the education and experience requirements necessary to perform the duties of an Environmental Health Specialist.
Registration as an Environmental Health Specialist demonstrates to employers, clients, and the public that the professional has met NEHA’s standards for training and experience.
The Duties of an Environmental Health Specialist
An environmental health specialist is a professional who inspects and monitors environmental conditions to ensure that they are safe for people. They may work in a variety of settings, such as restaurants, schools, factories, or office buildings. Environmental health specialists typically have a bachelor’s degree in environmental health or a related field. Some states require environmental health specialists to be licensed or certified.
Environmental health specialists inspect and test for environmental hazards, such as lead in paint or asbestos in insulation. They also develop and implement programs to control or eliminate these hazards. In addition, environmental health specialists may collect samples of food, water, air, and soil to test for contaminants. They may also investigate complaints of hazardous conditions.
The Educational Requirements of an Environmental Health Specialist
To become an environmental health specialist, you must first complete a bachelor’s degree in environmental health, public health, or a related field. In some cases, you may be able to complete a certificate program or associate’s degree in environmental health before completing a bachelor’s degree.
Once you have completed your undergraduate education, you will need to obtain certification from the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) as a Registered Environmental Health Specialist (REHS). To do this, you will need to pass an exam administered by the NEHA.
Once you have passed the REHS exam, you will need to maintain your certification by completing continuing education credits every three years. You can do this by taking courses, attending conferences, or participating in other approved activities.
The Certification Process of an Environmental Health Specialist
The Certified Environmental Health Specialist/Registered Environmental Health Specialist (REHS) credential demonstrates a broad range of knowledge and skills in the environmental health field. Use the steps below to guide you through the process of becoming credentialed as an REHS.
The first step is to contact your state, tribe, or locality to inquire about their requirements for certification or registration. Once you have met the requirements set forth by your state, tribe, or locality, you will be able to take the national examination.
If you are already working in the field of environmental health and do not have a bachelor’s degree in environmental health, you may be able to challenge the national examination. To do so, you must submit documentation of at least four years of full-time environmental health work experience, as well as transcripts from any college-level coursework related to environmental health.
Once you have passed the national examination, you will need to submit an application for certification or registration to your state, tribe, or locality. This application will need to include documentation of your education and work experience, as well as a copy of your score report from the national examination.
Once your application has been approved, you will be credentialed as a Certified Environmental Health Specialist/Registered Environmental Health Specialist (REHS). You will need to renew your credential every three years by completing continuing education credits and paying a renewal fee.
The Job Outlook for an Environmental Health Specialist
Mostentry-level positions in environmental health require a bachelor’s degree in environmental health, public health, science, or a related field. However, some entry-level jobs may be available for those with an associate’s degree or certificate in environmental health. Although not required, certification may give job seekers a competitive edge.
The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) offers the REHS/RS credential. To earn the credential, candidates must have at least a bachelor’s degree in environmental health or a related field and must pass an exam.
Employment of environmental health and safety specialists is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Job prospects should be best for those who have completed formal education programs in occupational safety and health, hold certification from OSHA, and have experience with computer applications
There are many ways to become a registered environmental health specialist. The most common way is to complete a four-year degree in environmental health from an accredited college or university and pass the national environmental health specialist examination administered by the National Environmental Health Association.
Some states have state-specific requirements for certification or licensure. In these cases, individuals must first complete an accredited education program and then pass a state-specific examination. Individuals who have previous experience working in the field of environmental health may be eligible for certification through a portfolio review process.