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Environmental Health Degree

Environmental health is a sub-field of public health. It is primarily concerned with how the environment, both natural and artificial, may affect human health.
There are a number of different degree types ranging from undergraduate to doctoral programs available in the field.


What is Environmental Health?

Environmental health is a discipline which falls under the larger umbrella of public health. The field is concerned with how all of the many aspects of natural and man-made environments may affect public health.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO):
‘Environmental health addresses all the physical, chemical, and biological factors external to a person, and all the related factors impacting behaviors. It encompasses the assessment and control of those environmental factors that can potentially affect health. It is targeted towards preventing disease and creating health-supportive environments. This definition excludes behavior not related to environment, as well as behavior related to the social and cultural environment, and genetics.’

Why is Environmental Health Important?

We interact with the environment on a daily basis. It has been shown that our interactions with the environment around us have an effect on our quality of life, wellbeing, and long term health.
Environmental health is concerned with determining how, why, and to what extent certain factors in our environment may have an effect on us. With this knowledge, steps can be taken to prevent or mitigate all diseases, injuries, and disabilities which are caused by interactions between people and their environment.

What do Environmental Health Professionals do?

Listed below are some of the many aspects of the concerns environmental health professionals deal with:

  • Determine what role(s) natural and man-made environments have on human health
  • Collect and examine data from various different environments
  • Identify the societal implications of these effects
  • Identify how people may be exposed to environmental hazards
  • Create science-based policies in order to address current and future environmental health challenges and mitigate their potential harmful effects on human health
environmental health programs

Types of Degrees in Environmental Health

The following degree types are available in the field of environmental health. Online environmental health programs are not very common due to the fact that degrees in this field involve significant hands-on work and research in the field.

Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Health

Bachelor's degree programs in environmental health introduce students to the many issues and facets of environmental issues which affect health and sustainability. Students are taught how to identify and analyze environmental problems and hazards, and then find solutions or ways to mitigate them. In order to be able to do this, students are also taught a wide range of scientific principles and the technological tools required for evaluation and research.
These programs typically take four years to complete.
Entry Requirements

  • A high school diploma or its equivalent
  • Minimum GPA requirements are determined by individual programs
  • SAT or ACT scores
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Statement of entry

The curriculum of bachelor’s degrees in environmental health begins with introducing students to the fundamentals of all of the basic sciences. This is followed by the applied environmental health science courses.
Some of the courses which may be offered in these programs include:

  • Bacteriology
  • Epidemiology
  • Exposure assessment
  • Plant biology
  • Occupational health
  • Safety and health

Master's Degree in Environmental Health

Master’s degree programs in environmental health are heavily focused on ecological research. Students will explore the many current and future challenges which affect the environment, and consequently, human health. They can expect to learn about environmental engineering and management, pollution control, water technologies and health safety.
This program typically takes two years to complete.
Entry Requirements

  • A bachelor’s degree in environmental health or a related discipline
  • GRE scores may be required
  • Most programs recommend that candidates have experience in the field
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Statement of entry

The curriculum of these programs has both theoretical and practical elements. Students will explore general environmental health subjects and may also choose certain concentration areas to study in-depth.
Some of the courses which may be offered include:

  • Environmental statistics
  • Ecological engineering
  • Research design
  • Ecotoxicology
  • Urban area ecosystems
  • Global environmental issues

Ph.D. in Environmental Health

Doctoral degrees in environmental health are intended to train individuals to be leaders in the field of environmental health research. Students will conduct research into many different environmental hazards such as pollution, toxicology, and contaminants. They will then have to write and defend a dissertation on one particular aspect of their studies. Some Ph.D. programs also offer different areas of focus such as health and climate, industrial hygiene, or occupational safety.
This program typically takes two to five years to complete.
Entry Requirements

  • A bachelors and master’s degree in environmental health (while some programs may accept candidates with a bachelor’s degree, most programs also require the latter)
  • GRE scores
  • Professional experience
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Statement of entry

The curriculum for Ph.D. degree programs in environmental health has components of both theory and practical work. While working on their dissertation, students will also be doing laboratory and field-work.
Some of the common courses which may be offered in these programs include:

  • Methods of risk assessment
  • Environmental analysis and monitoring
  • Environmental health introduction
  • Environmental development

Job Prospects and Salary 

At the present, The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not specifically keep data for environmental health professionals.
They do however keep data for health educators and community health workers. Since many environmental health professionals work to educate the public on the effects the environment has on human health, these statistics may be helpful:

  • In 2012, health educators and community health workers made an annual median salary of $41,830.
  • The top 10 percent of professionals in this field earned more than $86,810.
  • BLS expects employment growth in this field between the years 2012-22 to go up by 21%. This rate is much higher than the average rate of growth for other professions, which is 11%.

Furthermore, with a degree in environmental health, an individual may pursue any one of the following careers:

  • Environmental health advisor
  • Environmental health consultant
  • Professor of environmental health
  • Environmental health researcher
  • Environmental specialist
  • Environmental scientist
  • Environmental auditor
  • Environmental enforcement officer
  • Environmental protection specialist
  • Environmental education specialist
  • Environmental risk assessor

Environmental health is a dynamic and exceptionally important field concerned with optimizing human health. This is done by determining how the environment, both natural and manmade, which we have constant interactions with, may be affecting our health. The minimum qualification needed to practice in this field is a bachelor’s degree. Graduate and doctoral degrees are also available depending on your career aspirations.




Frequently Asked Question(s)

Q:How long do environmental health programs usually take?

A:This depends on the level of educational qualification you are going for. If you are enrolling for an associate degree in environmental health, this will typically take two years after you complete your high school. A bachelor's degree would take nearly four years of your time, whereas a masters in environmental health would take 2 years after your bachelors. If you want to go for an even higher qualification, you can always go for a doctorate program in this subject, which will take around 4 to 7 years.

Q:What are some of the environmental health courses?

A:In environmental health programs, you will be taught various types of courses relating to environmental well being. You will be exposed to subjects such as medical biometry, epidemiology, environmental and occupational toxicology, solid waste management, hazardous waste management, quantitative microbial risk assessment, community air pollution and environmental chemistry of pollution.

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