They are responsible for investigating incidents that affect health such as pollution, accidents at work, noise control, toxic contamination, pest infestations, food poisoning and waste management. They work with government agencies, individuals, businesses and specialists. A large amount of time is spent away from the office visiting properties such as farms, shops, food outlets, private/public accommodation, commercial premises, manufacturers and industrial organisations. In addition to inspections, responsibilities include:
- compiling reports
- providing training courses
- gathering samples to be tested
- investigating complaints
- serving legal notices
- providing evidence in court
- liaising with other organisations
Promotional opportunities are reasonable, as there is a structured career path for employees with local authorities.
- Local authorities
- The Armed Forces
- Commercial organisations
- Supermarkets and large food retailers
Relevant paid or voluntary work experience, possibly gained as a technician, can be beneficial. Jobs are advertised in local, regional and national newspapers, local authority jobs lists, relevant publications and their accompanying websites including Opportunities and Environmental Health News (EHN).
There are routes into becoming an environmental health officer for both graduates and school leavers.
For graduates, qualification necessitates obtaining a Chartered Institute of Environmental Health approved degree, and completing an assessment of professional development. Graduates from other scientific degree disciplines may complete a postgraduate environmental health qualification to enter the profession. Continual professional development is an important part of the job to improve technical and legal knowledge.
School leavers can start work as an environmental health technician and work their way up; if you work with a local council for example, an employer may offer the opportunity to study for a degree whilst working.
To find out about how you can get into other public sector jobs via a school leaver route (eg an apprenticeship or school leaver training programme) see the public sector section of TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers.
Environmental health officers need excellent communication, teamworking and interpersonal skills in order to explain complex legislation and procedures to people from all backgrounds. They should also have a high level of attention to detail and to ability to analyse problems and find solutions.