Public Health Sanitarian Series

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.

Job Description

Sanitarians 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 Codes; preparing inspection reports that cite violations, document deficiencies, and recommend improvements; and reviewing written plans related to facility operation, construction design, and facility corrections. Sanitarians may also conduct investigations of illness outbreaks, children's camp injuries, environmental conditions conducive to childhood lead poisoning, or chemical exposures, and they respond to public health nuisances, indoor air violation complaints and public health emergencies.

Related Titles

Titles in the NYSDOH sanitarian series requiring limited or no experience include Sanitarian Trainee (exam 24-387), Public Health Sanitarian (exam 24-388), and Senior Sanitarian (exam 24-389). Higher promotional levels are available for more experienced employees (Principal and Chief Sanitarian). Some county health departments use these titles also. Other county health departments and New York City use various other Public Health Sanitarian titles, or related titles such as Environmental Health Specialist.


Candidates generally must possess a bachelor's degree that includes 30 credit hours in the natural sciences (NYS allows up to 12 credit hours of the 30 to be in the applied sciences, and may allow certain exceptions to the degree requirement). Acceptable natural sciences include biology, chemistry, geology, hydrology or physics. Acceptable applied sciences include environmental technology, sanitation technology, medical technology, public health, infection control or food science. The higher level titles also require varying amounts of relevant experience. Applicants must satisfactorily complete a written civil service exam to be placed on a list of eligible candidates.


Hundreds of sanitarians are employed across the state. Openings for these positions are regularly available at 36 county health departments, and with the NYSDOH at more than a dozen field offices and the agency's Center for Environmental Health [CEH] in Troy.


Effective April 2009 the salary for the NYSDOH (state) entry level Sanitarian Trainee (grade 13) ranged from about $37,400 to $47,500. Upon completion of a one-year traineeship, trainees advance without further examination to Public Health Sanitarian (grade 14, 2009 salary range about $39,600 to $50,300). Salary increases occur within these ranges based on progressive years of satisfactory experience, and the salary ranges increase periodically in accordance with union-negotiated contracts. Promotion to the higher level titles with greater responsibility and complexity is based on experience, additional exams, and the civil service process. Top salary for a NYSDOH Principal Sanitarian (grade 23) in 2009 was about $78,400.

Salaries for sanitarians in county health departments vary depending on location, title and grade level.

Contact & Application Information

Written exams are conducted and vacancy announcements issued periodically.

Both types of announcements for state positions can be found on the NYSDOH employment web page. Additional information on environmental health jobs and activities can be found at the Public Health Works! page. Questions about employment opportunities with the NYSDOH may be e-mailed to or your may contact the agency's Bureau of Personnel Management at 518-486-1812.

Information on employment opportunities at county health departments can be obtained by contacting the individual county civil service agency. Contact information for these can be found through the New York State Department of Civil Service web site. Some county job postings, as well as other information on county health department work, can be found on the New York State Association of County Health Officials (NYSACHO) web site.

New York City job postings and related information are found at, or information can be obtained at (212) 788-4655.