Working as an environmental officer
Tina Anderson is an environmental officer for the Environment Agency. She is based in Bedford and works within the Environment Management section of the Agency, which involves making sure that organisations comply with environmental legislation.
How would you outline your role as an environmental officer?
I work closely with the waste and water industries, the farming community and businesses, making sure that environmental regulations are followed. I education people within organisations, as well as carry out tests and checks on site.
What is a typical day?
A typical day might include a visit to a large landfill or other waste disposal site to check that the organisation is complying with regulations; visiting a company to provide information on pollution prevention and waste minimisation; attending, investigating and dealing with a pollution incident such as an oil spillage; reviewing reports, writing letters and preparing case files for an enforcement action against an organisation not obeying regulations; and communicating with the public.
Do you use any special equipment?
I wear personal protective equipment including a hard hart and high-visibility jacket. For investigating pollution incidents, I carry manhole keys and crowbars, ammonia test kits, dissolved oxygen meters, and buckets and bottles for taking water samples.
What are your working hours?
I work 37 hours a week from Monday to Friday. I work flexitime so I have to be in between 10am and 12pm and between 2pm and 3pm. Outside of these hours, I can start and finish when I want, subject to workload and my line manager's agreement. If I work more than my contracted hours, I can build up the time and use it to take a day off.
What is your working environment like?
Most of the work of the Environment Agency is carried out in the field and brings us face to face with a variety of people. My work is split fairly evenly between the office and outdoors. When I'm outside, my environment ranges from riversides to landfill sites.
What qualities and skills do you need to be an environmental officer?
Good people skills, confidence and determination are essential, as much of my work involves influencing other people to make changes that will protect or improve the environment. Adaptability and flexibility are required, as no two days are the same and I'm often required to re-prioritise my workload.
What are the main challenges?
Environmental legislation is always changing. It can be hard to keep up with all the changes, but I have to do this to ensure that I give the correct advice.
What training have you had?
I've been trained in all the various aspects of my job. This has included attending courses on the basics of landfilling and water quality, and undergoing training on how to carry out pollution prevention visits, provide waste minimisation advice and conduct investigations. I have also been on courses in water safety and driving four-wheel-drive vehicles.
What do you enjoy most?
I've always had an interest in the environment and like to be outdoors. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when I've encouraged a company to take steps that will prevent pollution or when the waste management sites I regulate show improvements in their working practices.
I like to know that with each little thing I do I'm making a difference and helping to protect the environment for current and future generations.
What do you dislike about your work?
I don't like seeing what people are doing to the environment. I find it difficult to understand the mindset of individuals who flytip their waste or allow chemicals to enter our rivers.
What are your ambitions for the future?
I hope to stay with the Environment Agency long term, as there are good opportunities for progression. My current ambition is to move either into a technical specialist role or into a team leader role.
Tina's route to becoming an environmental officer
- A levels.
- Degree in Water, Waste and Environmental Management while working for the Environment Agency.
- Select relevant courses and gain as much practical experience as you can.
- Get a driving licence, as the work requires travel.
- Do as much background reading as possible, for example relevant scientific journals.
Environmental officer related jobs
- Countryside ranger/Warden
- Countryside/conservation officer
- Environmental scientist
- Waste management officer
Salary working as an environmental officer
- Starting salaries are around £25,000 a year.
- Experienced environmental health practitioners can earn about £40,000.
- A senior manager can earn up to £70,000.
Qualifications and training
- To become an environment health practitioner with the Environment Agency, you ideally need 12 months' customer-related work experience and an HND or degree in a broad-based science subject, or two years' work experience and A levels/H grades including a science subject, or relevant work experience.
- Additional experience in an environmental or relevant industrial organisation is desirable. A full driving licence is essential.
- Training includes a 12-week programme covering the core skills required to carry out the job. Training is a combination of residential, distance and field-based learning.
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