You might think environmental health practitioners are the guys who break up loud parties and inspect bits of food, but really they have a very important role to play in society.
They are there to make sure we live, work, play and generally gad about in safe and healthy environments. In short, environmental health practitioners are all about public and environmental health and the minimisation of health and safety hazards.
There are many different types of environmental health practitioners; they might be a jack of all trades, or specialise in a particular area, like food safety, noise control, water testing, housing or public health.
All environmental health practitioners, regardless of the area that they work in, will develop specialist technical skills and knowledge that they will then use to create and implement health policies and ensure that certain environments are safe.
The day to day life of an environmental health practitioner might involve carrying out inspections and investigations, including collecting evidence, providing advice on various issues, initiating legal proceedings, issuing licences, monitoring levels of noise, air and water pollution and various other tasks specific to their area of expertise.
Environmental health practitioners don’t just investigate complaints, but also provide education, prevention and consultation services to the local community.
Salary & benefits
If you want to cut your teeth as an environmental health practitioner, you should know that starting salaries tend to average between £20,000 and £30,000.
The good news is that after a decade or so in the role you could be earning between £30,000 and £60,000 a year. But don’t shout it from the rooftops; you might contribute to noise pollution.
So how many hours does an environmental health practitioner toil away for? Well they’ll usually work traditional hours, but they might have to work evenings or in the weekend too.
Keen to become an environmental health practitioner? Well in order to save the public from unhygienic conditions you’ll need an undergraduate or postgraduate degree in environmental health that has been approved by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH).
If you haven’t been to university, you can work your way up from an environmental health technician, although you’ll still need to get a degree in environmental health by studying for it part-time whilst working.
So, aside from qualifications, what else does a wannabe environmental health practitioner need? You’ll need to be confident, possess top communication skills (written and oral), and have a scientific mind and technical understanding. You’ll need to be diplomatic and persuasive, be able to work well under pressure and have top time management and organisational skills.
Training & progression
After completing an accredited course, wannabe environmental health practitioners must prove that they’ve had a sufficient amount of practical training (either as part of a sandwich course or as an end-on practical training after graduating).
They must also pass a two-part examination in order to be given a Certificate of Registration by the Environmental Health Registration Board (EHRB). In Scotland, applicants will register with the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland (REHIS) and follow a slightly different qualifying process.
After training as a generalist, environmental health practitioners might choose to specialise in a particular area.
With experience, they might progress to team leader or managerial roles. Usually part of this will entail gaining chartered status with the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health.
With plenty of experience, environmental health practitioners might move into consulting work or lecturing.