Sanitary, Public Health, and Environmental Engineers
Environmental Health Careers with State and County Health Departments
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 is a substantial shortfall of candidates for these jobs.
The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and county health departments across the state employ many engineers in careers serving the public through environmental health programs.
Health department engineers work in a variety of environmental health program areas, including public drinking water systems, onsite wastewater treatment systems, swimming pools, hazardous waste exposure assessment, emergency response and planning, and realty subdivisions.
- Engineers employed at NYSDOH district and regional field offices, and those employed by county health departments, typically have assignments in multiple areas. The varied work includes: conducting field inspections; evaluating design plans; preparing for and responding to emergencies; managing monitoring programs and ensuring code compliance; and providing technical assistance to water system operators, design consultants, municipal boards and the public.
- Engineers in the central office of the NYSDOH focus on one or more program areas. Typical tasks include: reviewing design plans for complex water treatment systems or recreational water facilities; developing technical guidance material and regulations; evaluating emerging treatment technologies; assessing environmental health risks; conducting comprehensive performance evaluations of water treatment plants; and providing technical assistance to communities, field staff, and design consultants.
The NYSDOH hires entry-level engineers using the Junior Engineer – Sanitary Engineering title. NYSDOH also hires new employees at the Assistant Sanitary Engineer and Senior Sanitary Engineer levels. County health departments employ engineers in various Public Health Engineer and Environmental Engineer titles as well as Sanitary Engineer titles.
The minimum qualifications (for NYSDOH Junior Engineer and most county entry level positions) are a bachelor's or higher level degree in: environmental engineering, environmental engineering technology, civil engineering, civil engineering technology, chemical engineering, geo-technical engineering, geological engineering, or sanitary engineering. Students who are within six months of receiving a qualifying degree may apply.
NYSDOH Assistant Sanitary Engineers must have a Fundamentals of Engineering certificate (Part A of the PE exam) and one year of qualifying experience; Senior Sanitary Engineers must have a PE license and 2 years of qualifying experience. Graduate degrees in a relevant engineering discipline (or in environmental science, environmental studies, public health or environmental health) may substitute for some of the experience requirements for either the assistant or senior positions (master's degree – one year; doctorate – two years).
County sanitary, public health, and environmental engineer minimum qualifications vary but are similar to those of NYSDOH. Many counties also utilize a written examination, rather than just an evaluation of education and experience, to rank candidates.
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 field offices statewide, and at 36 county health departments across the state.
NYSDOH Junior Engineers start at salary grade 15, with a starting salary of about $40,500 effective April 2008. After one year of satisfactory service and obtaining a Fundamentals of Engineering certificate (i.e. passing Part A of the Professional Engineers license exam) they are promoted to the Assistant Sanitary Engineer title without further testing (grade 20, approximate salary range $53,000 to $65,500). The top salary for NYSDOH Senior Sanitary Engineers is currently about $80,000. Future salary increases for these state positions may be anticipated, based on progressive years of satisfactory performance by individuals and union-negotiated annual salary schedules.
Salaries for county engineering positions are different, and vary by county.
Application & Contact Information
All state and county positions are generally filled using lists of candidates who have filed applications and met the minimum qualifications. For NYSDOH positions ("Environmental or Sanitary Engineer Junior Engineer" exam #20-808, Assistant Sanitary Engineer exam #20-280, and Senior Sanitary Engineer exam #20-281), applications are accepted continuously. The "exam" consists of an evaluation of the education and experience you describe on the application (i.e. there is no written exam). County positions are generally advertised with exam announcements whenever positions become available.
Engineers interested in state employment with NYSDOH at any of its offices should apply as directed in the referenced "exam announcements" to get on a recruitment list. These announcements and other detailed information for NYSDOH and county health departments are available at the NY State Civil Service website (state exams>continuous recruitment>professional certifications), or the NYSDOH website (check out the Public Health Works ! link on this site for more detailed information about environmental health and public health activities).
Questions about employment with the NYSDOH may also be directed to its Bureau of Personnel Management at (518) 486-1812.
Engineers interested in county positions should contact the county health departments or county employment offices directly, in the geographical areas of interest. Contact information for county civil service agencies can be found on the state Civil Service web site listed above. Some (but not all) county positions are advertised on the New York State Association of County Health Officials website.
New York City job postings and related information are found at: http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/hr/career.shtml , or information can be obtained at (212) 788-4655.