How do I Become an Environmental Health Officer?

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  • Written By: Sheryl Butterfield
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 August 2019
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To become an environmental health officer is to work toward positive impacts on a country's public health. They serve a population under a government entity or from a private company. Environmental health officers enforce public health policies and standards. The job often entails advising citizens on the latest public health issues.

To become an environmental health officer, a degree and experience are the first steps. Many countries require environmental health officers to complete graduate studies. Typical areas of study include the sciences, public or environmental health, health protection or public health inspection. An environmental health officer must understand microbiology, food science and technology, and risks associated with current health issues.

Skills such as risk assessment and enforcing standards are important to become an environmental health officer. Knowledge about communicable diseases is invaluable when investigations and disease control become necessary to protect public health. These skills are often gained on a job with a state or country health services organization.

Becoming an environmental health officer also requires cooperating with individuals. Duties reach across many public health areas, and diplomacy is necessary. Some public health issues trigger community sensitivities. Environmental health officers were requested when workers in the microwave popcorn industry experienced occupational lung disease in the U.S. Also, officers may have to protect the health of a minority population.


Worldwide, some officers specialize while others stick with general aspects of public health. Most environmental health officers, however, deal with food and water safety, inspections, disease control and promoting health advances. This profession can champion mental health services and patient facilities. They may work on substance abuse information campaigns.

Training skills are helpful on the path to becoming an environmental health officer. Officers may be called on to train responders for a disaster. Environmental health officers are sometimes deployed to Third World countries, and may provide safety to military troops.

In the U.S., many environmental health officers work within the Commissioned Corps of the United States Public Health Service (PHS). These environmental health officers in the field are supported by the Chief Environmental Health Officer and the Office of the Surgeon General (OSG). The link serves as communication about roles, policies and procedures.

Mostly, to become an environmental health officer requires an attitude of service. A desire to make a difference in the health of a nation is often the driving force behind pursuing this career path. A willingness to serve a country's populace can determine success in this field.


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Discuss this Article

Post 2

@Azuza - It does sound like it takes a lot of finesse to be an environmental health officer.

I think it must be especially difficult to deal with communicable disease. You want to educate the public and spread information as quickly as possible. However, the last thing anyone wants to do is cause a panic. I think it definitely takes a special skill to disseminate this information in a clear and calm manner.

Post 1

A few schools near me offer masters degrees in public health. I always wondered what kind of job you could get with that degree. Sounds like it would prepare a person to be an environmental health officer!

I think this must be kind of a tough job. For example, in the microwave popcorn industry example. What if their finding necessitated expensive changes to factories? I doubt the industry higher ups would have likes that. As the article said, I bet this job takes a ton of diplomacy.

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