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How do I Become a Sanitarian?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Feb 21, 2024
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Sanitarians are experts in the field of environmental health and engineering who inspect environmental conditions near factories, wastewater treatment plants, and other industrial facilities. They analyze soil, water, and air samples to make sure contamination is kept to a minimum and that companies are doing everything they can to protect natural resources. A person who wants to become a sanitarian can develop the knowledge and skills needed for the job in an environmental health-related bachelor's degree program. Many regions require new workers to gain several years of experience and pass licensing exams before they can begin working unsupervised in the field. In addition, taking a national certification exam can improve a person's chances of landing a job in a major government agency or a large private operation.

A high school graduate who wants to become a sanitarian can look into environmental health programs at accredited universities. Most bachelor degree programs take about four years of full-time studies to complete. A student can expect to take several advanced classes in biology, chemistry, math, environmental science, industrial hygiene, and business. Lab courses in environmental science allow a person to become familiar with common sample testing techniques and report-writing skills.

Some undergraduate students decide to pursue entry-level positions at local water treatment plants, nuclear facilities, and government regulatory offices while attending school. Practical experience in the field can be very helpful once a person earns his or her degree and begins applying for sanitarian jobs. On-site, an individual has the chance to work firsthand with the equipment and techniques he or she is currently studying in school. In addition, a student who creates strong working relationships at a facility may be offered a full-time sanitarian position upon graduation.

After earning a degree, a person who wants to become a sanitarian can apply to a wide range of industries, private companies, and government offices. Most new sanitarians begin their careers as junior-level workers or assistants. They work under supervision for several weeks or months to learn about specific procedures and policies. With time and success, an individual can earn the right to take a licensing exam and officially become a sanitarian. Since most licenses are only valid within particular regions, a sanitarian who would like to move to another region or country can choose to obtain additional certification from a national board to boost his or her credentials.

Continuing education and training are important throughout a sanitarian's career so he or she can stay up-to-date on regulations changes and new scientific discoveries. Successful sanitarians may be able to advance to head supervisor jobs or executive positions within their companies. Some workers decide to become independent consultants or establish non-profit organizations to further pursue their objectives of improving the environment.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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