If there’s one industry which has boomed over the last year, it’s environmental health. Businesses across the UK are trying to get to grips with what it means to be “covid secure” and are looking for ways to continue to operate within the lockdown rules in place at any given time. The experts in this field are the nation’s environmental health officers, whose job it is to advise on the rules, and crack down on law breakers. If it’s a field which you’re interested in, what are the requirements for the job?
Most environmental health officers are educated to degree standard. Some may have a degree in Environmental Health, but perhaps the more common path is for applicants to have a bachelor’s degree in a science subject, then a post-graduate qualification in Environmental Health too. Some Councils may offer funding for graduates allowing them to combine on the job training with academic study. An environmental health officer needs intangible qualities too, such as a good level of attention to detail, interpersonal skills and an ability to deal with lots of different people.
Environmental health officers also need at least a basic DBS check, also known as a disclosure certificate. This is a check into someone’s criminal record and will look at current convictions and cautions only. In some cases, a more detailed check will be required. Some environmental or public health officers have been involved in Track and Trace, and as this falls under the remit of the NHS, standard or enhanced disclosure may be more appropriate. Your employer will know which level of check is required for any particular position and will provide information and support to help you through the process.
Most people associate environmental health officers with checking out cleanliness standards in restaurants and takeaways, but there is more to the role than that. Environmental health officers might also get involved with pest control or advising companies on general health and safety legislation too. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Environmental Health officers, often working in conjunction with the police, were the people going into bars, shops, and restaurants, to both advise owners on their obligations, and enforce the rules where companies have broken them.
Salary and Progression
Starting salary for Environmental Health Officers is around £25,000 and senior officers with many years of experience can earn as much as £60,000 each year. Salaries might be higher for officers who work as consultants or in positions in private companies rather than for public sector bodies such as the Council. The downside to working in Environmental Health is perhaps the working hours; officers often have to work evenings and weekends or be up early to perform early morning visits to factories. Experienced environmental health officers can find senior roles in all manner of industries from food production to water services. Often, the final step for many is to set up their own companies offering consultancy services to share their expertise and knowledge.