Hazardous Waste Management Specialists


Education and Training Requirements

High School

High school students interested in preparing for careers as hazardous waste management specialists need to be strong in chemistry and other sciences such as biology and geology, as well as in mathematics. English and other communications classes will help aspiring specialists in college and beyond.

Postsecondary Training

Educational requirements vary by employer, but in general, most organizations prefer to hire hazardous waste management specialists who have, at minimum, an undergraduate degree in environmental resource management, chemistry, geology, ecology, or engineering. Some hazardous waste management engineer positions may require bachelor's or master's degrees in nuclear engineering. Areas of expertise such as hydrology or subsurface hydrology may require a master's or doctoral degree. Course work in business management and administration is also helpful.

Other Education or Training

Continuing education is provided by employers and through local, state, and national waste management associations. Some employers pay for workshops run in-house by the National Environmental Health Association and government agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. These workshops educate employees about such topics as emergency response, Superfund regulations, and emerging technologies.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Certification available to specialists is not universally recognized, and requirements for certification vary not only from state to state, but region to region, and year to year. Hazardous waste management professionals can earn the registered environmental health specialist/registered sanitarian certification from the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA). Additionally, some employers pay for workshops run in-house by the NEHA, other associations, or government agencies (such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration), to update their employees on such topics as emergency response, Superfund regulations, and emerging technologies.

The certified hazardous materials manager designation is also available from the Institute of Hazardous Materials Management (IHMM). Applicants must satisfy educational requirements and pass a multiple choice examination. Certification must be renewed every five years. The IHMM also offers the certified hazardous materials practitioner, certified dangerous goods professional, and the student certified hazardous materials manager credentials. The American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists provides several certification credentials that focus on the measurement and mitigation of radon. Although certification is not required, it lends weight to recommendations made by government-employed specialists and generally enhances a specialist's credibility.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Internships, volunteering, and part-time jobs in the hazardous waste management (HWM) industry will provide useful experience for aspiring HWM specialists.

The relative newness of this field, its dependence on political support, the varied nature of its duties, and its changing regulations and technologies all require a large degree of flexibility. The ability to take into consideration the many economic, environmental, legal, and social aspects of each project is key, as are thoroughness and patience in completing the necessary work. Prospective employers look for job candidates with excellent communications skills, no matter what their specialty, because this position is so reliant on the shared information of numerous professionals.