Environmental Health Careers With the State, County and City Health Departments of New York
Opportunities for rewarding careers in science and technology
Health departments across New York, including the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), county health departments, and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYCDHMH), employ hundreds of graduates from science and engineering programs in careers serving the public in the field of environmental health protection. Openings for these positions are regularly available in the NYSDOH's Center for Environmental Health (CEH) in Troy, at one of more than a dozen NYSDOH field offices located statewide, at one of 36 county health departments, and at the NYCDHMH.
Employing science and engineering graduates from a variety of disciplines, environmental health programs offer meaningful and satisfying careers helping protect people and communities from public health risks. They provide an attractive variety of work assignments and settings, and ample opportunity for professional development and advancement. State positions and most county jobs offer excellent fringe benefits including subsidized health insurance coverage, reasonable and flexible work hours, generous amounts of leave time, and unrivaled pension plans. In combination, these factors allow science and technology graduates to experience gratifying careers while enjoying an enviable quality of life.
Recent surveys indicate there will be a substantial shortfall of candidates for these jobs.
This bulletin provides brief descriptions of typical careers in environmental health. More detailed information on qualifications, typical duties, salary and the application process for NYSDOH and some counties is available at:
- NY State Civil Service
- NYSDOH:. Additional information (including a free on-line course providing an orientation to public health, an interactive game demonstrating the role of environmental health workers, and other detailed examples of career opportunities) is available on the Public Health Works! web page. Questions on employment with NYSDOH may also be directed to its Bureau of Personnel Management at (518) 473-3329, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, or (212) 788-4655.
Sanitary and Public Health Engineers work either at the NYSDOH's CEH (central office) assigned to a major segment of an environmental health program; or in a state field office, county or city health department working in multiple program areas. Programs include drinking water treatment and regulation; radiological health; toxic substances; hazardous wastesite remediation; indoor air quality; hospital, institutional, temporary residence, camp and recreational resort sanitation; food sanitation; and rural water supply and sewage disposal. These engineers review engineering plans relative to their assigned program with government representatives at all levels, citizen groups, and other professionals. They may also provide instruction to facility operators and develop systems for training plant personnel. The job titles range from junior engineer (bachelor's degree in a related engineering field such as environmental, sanitary, civil, chemical, mechanical, materials or geological) to principal engineer (engineer's license and many years of experience).
Public Health Sanitarians, Public/Environmental Health Technicians, & Public Health Inspectors
Sanitarians, together with Public/Environmental Health Technicians and Public Health Inspectors, form a group of specialists who promote public health by conducting environmental health inspections and related activities for settings such as food service establishments (restaurants), children's camps, hotels, campgrounds, swimming pools, bathing beaches, water and sewage treatment systems, hospitals, long term and adult care facilities, and diagnostic and treatment centers. Their work includes: determining compliance with the Public Health Law, the State Sanitary Code, and Medical Facilities Code; preparing inspection reports that cite violations, document deficiencies, and recommend improvements; and reviewing written plans related to facility operation, construction design, and facility corrections. They may also conduct investigations of illness outbreaks, children's camp injuries, environmental conditions conducive to childhood lead poisoning, or chemical exposures, as well as respond to public health nuisances, indoor air violation complaints and public health emergencies. NYSDOH employs these specialists primarily in the sanitarian title series, and a few Public Health Inspectors are employed during the summer at its field offices. County health departments and the NYCDHMH employ sanitarians, technicians and inspectors in a variety of titles. Minimum qualifications for the sanitarian series generally require a bachelors degree with 30 credit hours in the natural sciences (e.g. biology, chemistry, geology, hydrology, physics, environmental science) for most entry level positions (e.g. Sanitarian Trainee for the state title series). The state allows up to 12 hours of the 30 to be in the applied sciences, and may allow certain exceptions to the degree requirement. Higher levels (e.g. state titles include Public Health Sanitarian, and Senior, Principal, and Chief Sanitarian) require varying amounts of additional experience. Public health/environmental technician titles and Public Health Inspectors typically require either an associate's degree or completion of 60 college credit hours, including 12 credit hours in physical and biological sciences for either option.
Public Health Specialists
Public Health Specialists (employed by the NYSDOH) apply professional, technical and managerial expertise to evaluate the impact of environmental contamination on public health. Activities include investigating and assessing human exposure to hazardous chemicals, evaluating remedial activities, and communicating health assessments. Public Health Specialists are asked to interpret complex environmental and health data and recognize the issues and concerns of government agencies and members of the public. They often work in partnership with staff of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in programs such as Superfund, Brownfields, and Spills. At the entry level, Public Health Specialists must have a bachelor's degree in the biological, physical, or environmental sciences, engineering, or industrial hygiene; and one year of experience assessing the potential impact of toxic substances on public health or a specialized master's degree. Higher levels require additional relevant experience. A graduate degree in a relevant discipline may substitute for some of the required experience.
Radiologic Health Specialists
Radiological Health Specialists apply professional and technical expertise to protect the public health by controlling and monitoring radiological emissions. They inspect facilities that use X-ray and other radiation-producing equipment; inspect and monitor facilities using radioactive material; provide training to local health personnel and certified radiation equipment safety officers; investigate radiological accidents and emergencies; conduct studies of newly developed radiation-producing equipment; and address questions and research information on non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation. These specialists are employed by the NYSDOH's CEH and some of its field offices, and by some of the county health departments. At the entry level for state positions, a Radiological Health Specialist Trainee must possess a bachelor's degree in physical science, natural science or engineering. Upper level specialists (Senior, Associate, Principal) must have additional experience or graduate level training related to radiation protection. County job qualifications may vary but are similar.
Research Scientists employed in environmental health evaluate how potential exposure to environmental agents (chemical, biological, radiological) may affect public health, and how to mitigate potential exposures. They typically work collaboratively with other environmental health program staff and researchers both within the health department and from other government agencies, academia, and the private sector. Their work may result in publishable contributions to the field under study. Research Scientist jobs span nine Civil Service titles with qualifications ranging from a bachelor's degree with one year of experience, to a doctorate with many years of experience. Scientists from a variety of disciplines are needed, especially: biologists, chemists, epidemiologists, geologists, and engineers. NYSDOH employs Research Scientists in environmental health fields at its Center for Environmental Health in Troy.
Other Career Series
NYSDOH and county health departments also employ science and technology majors in a variety of other titles such as: engineering technician, hydrogeologist, information technician, public health educator, and water resource specialist.