Environmental Health Officer

The Job and What's Involved

As an environmental health officer or practitioner (EHO or EHP for short), you could work in either the public or private sector carrying out advisory or enforcement work and aiming to make sure that people's environmental quality and their living and working surroundings were safe and hygienic.

You could deal with a wide range of issues related to public health, including:

- Food Safety
- Environmental Protection
- Pollution Control
- Noise Control
- Health and Safety at Work
- Waste Management
- Housing Standards

You might specialise in one of these areas, or you might deal with all environmental health issues in your local area or company.

Your work could typically involve:

  • Inspecting businesses for health and safety, food hygiene and food standards.
  • Following up complaints and investigating outbreaks of food poisoning, infectious disease or pests.
  • Collecting samples for laboratory testing.
  • Enforcing environmental health laws.
  • Investigating accidents at work.
  • Advising community groups and giving educational talks.
  • Giving evidence in cases that come to court.
  • Keeping records and writing reports.
  • Advising employers on all environmental health matters.

You would work closely with EHO(P)s from other areas, Government Agencies, specialists in a variety of fields of activity, the public and a wide range of businesses.

You would work between 35 and 39 hours per week, Monday to Friday, which may occasionally include evening or weekend work. Part-time work and job sharing may be available.

You would have an office base, but spend much of your time out in the workplace or visiting businesses and homes. Sites may be dirty, unpleasant or potentially dangerous, although you would wear protective clothing such as safety masks and overalls when necessary.

Salaries in local government are normally between £25,000 and £30,000 a year. Senior and management salaries can reach £60,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are opportunities with local councils and also in the private sector, for example checking on food standards and health and safety for companies like food suppliers and hotels.

Jobs and training placements may be advertised in the local and national press, by local councils and the CIEH in its members' magazine EHN.

Education and Training

To become an environmental health officer/practitioner you must:

  • Get an environmental health degree (BSc) or postgraduate degree (MSc) that is approved by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH).
  • Undertake work-based learning.
  • Pass a series of professional exams.

To get onto an environmental health degree you will usually need five GCSE's (A-C) and 200 points at A level (or 160 points including a science subject) or an alternative to A levels such as an Access to Higher Education course or a BTEC National Diploma. You should check with universities about their exact entry requirements.

For an MSc in environmental health, you will need a first degree in a related field or a scientific subject.

See the CIEH website www.ehcareers.org to find out where you can study for approved degree and postgraduate courses.

Alternatively, you could start as an environmental health technician with a local council if you have A levels, a BTEC National Diploma or HND in a scientific subject, or previous experience in related work.

To work in a food hygiene or health and safety you will need an accredited course accepted by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

Your employer may then offer you the chance to progress to fully-qualified EHO by sponsoring you to do the degree part-time whilst you are working as an environmental health technician.

You are likely to need a full driving licence for this job.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

To fully qualify as an environmental health officer, you must:

  • Complete a period of work-based learning (either as a placement or in a job as a trainee EHO)
  • Keep a training logbook, known as an Experiential Learning Portfolio (ELP), during your work-based learning.
  • Have your ELP assessed as competent.
  • Pass the CIEH Professional Examination.

When you have successfully completed all these stages, you will be fully qualified and receive the Certificate of Registration from Environmental Health Registration Board. This gives you voting membership of CIEH.

As a qualified environmental health officer, you should keep up to date with new developments throughout your career. CIEH offers a range of short courses and seminars to help your professional development.

After around five years of professional practice, you can apply to CIEH for Chartered Environmental Health Practitioner status. See the CIEH website www.cieh.org for details.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An environmental health officer needs:

  • Good spoken and written communication skills.
  • Negotiation skills.
  • Care and attention to detail.
  • The ability to understand and explain legislation, procedures and requirements.
  • Good 'people skills', for dealing with people from all backgrounds.
  • A good level of scientific and technical understanding.
  • The ability to investigate, analyse and provide solutions to problems.
  • Assertiveness and tact.
  • The ability to work alone and as part of a team.

Your Long Term Prospects

In local government there is a clearly defined promotion structure to senior, principal and chief environmental health officer.

With experience, you could also choose become an environmental health consultant in the private sector, advising businesses on environmental health law.

Get Further Information

Chartered Institute of EnvironmentalHealth (CIEH),
Chadwick Court, 15 Hatfields, London SE1 8DJ
Tel: 020 7928 6006
Websites: www.ehcareers.org and
www.cieh.org

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