Carolyn Hawkins, REHS
The interaction of people and their environment can bring many things…inspiration, enjoyment, health and renewal but it can also bring disease, as we have learned from the coronavirus.
The field of Environmental Health (EH) is a marriage of science and service. Those working in the EH field take scientific principles pertaining to injury and disease prevention and apply them in our communities through observation, evaluation, communication, education and enforcement. A continuing challenge within this professional field is the shrinking workforce. The number of people entering the field and beginning a career is much smaller than the number of those reaching retirement age and departing. There are many good jobs available!
Here in Humboldt County, the Division of Environmental Health (DEH) operates as part of the Public Health Branch of the County Department of Health & Human Services. Ever wonder who conducts restaurant, pool or summer camp inspections? We do that. Landfill, compost facility or gas station inspections? We do that. Site evaluation and permitting for water wells and septic systems? We do that, too. DEH employs ~ 30 people to carry out this work; field inspectors are supported by managers, administrative and clerical staff. We strive to create a positive environment for both employees and the public.
DEH Supervising Environmental Health Specialist Mario Kalson, who graduated from Humboldt State University in 2002, said the transition from biological field technician to EH professional has been rewarding. “It’s been gratifying to use applied sciences to help keep our rivers and beaches clean and our communities healthy.” He continues, “There is no trophy, and little fanfare, but you know you are working for the greater good.”
The majority of EH employment opportunities are with state, local, tribal or federal government but many private companies (primarily in food production or service) also employ EH staff. Not all states require registration to work as an Environmental Health Specialist (sometimes titled Sanitarian) but in California, the California Department of Public Health administers the Registered Environmental Health Specialist (REHS) program.
Other than obtaining a BS in Environmental Health (offered by only 5 universities in CA), a BS degree with a minimum of 30 semester units of basic science combined with a prescribed amount of experience (which can be obtained on the job) enables one to seek a position as an EHS Trainee. When all education and experience requirements are met and an exam is passed, Registration is granted by the state. To learn more, visit the CA REHS Program page:
For some, the current pandemic brought immediate changes to our daily jobs (some are serving in our Emergency Operations Center with Logistics, Operations, or assisting with contact tracing).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has produced a 3-minute video (“Why are Environmental Health Services Important?”) that shows how EH staff work with epidemiology and laboratory staff to protect public health.
If you are interested in a career in Environmental Health locally, contact DEH at [firstname.lastname@example.org] to connect with one of our current EH employees for details about this rewarding work. Submit a job interest card to receive recruitment notifications (https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/humboldtcountyca/jobInterestCards/categories).