Environmental and Chemical Analysis Technician (ECAT)
Environmental and chemical analysis technicians perform laboratory and field tests to monitor environmental resources and determine possible contamination and sources of pollution in the environment. They may collect soil and water samples for testing or be involved in abating and controlling sources of environmental pollution. Some are responsible for waste management operations, control and management of hazardous materials inventory, or general activities involving regulatory compliance.
Environmental and chemical analysis technicians use the principles and theories of science and mathematics to solve problems in research and development and to help invent and improve products and processes. In addition to sampling, environmental and chemical analysis technicians set up, operate, and maintain laboratory instruments, monitor experiments, make observations, calculate and record results, and often develop conclusions. They must develop expert knowledge of laboratory equipment so that they can adjust settings when necessary and recognize when equipment is malfunctioning. Environmental and chemical analysis technicians make extensive use of computers, electronic measuring equipment, and traditional experimental apparatus. They must keep detailed logs of all of their work and are sometimes required to report their findings both orally and in writing.
Environmental and chemical analysis technicians perform much of their work outdoors, sometimes in remote locations. They may be exposed to hazards from equipment, chemicals, toxic materials, disease-causing organisms, or radioactive agents. These working conditions pose little risk if proper safety procedures are followed. Environmental and chemical analysis technicians should be able to work well with others as part of a team of researchers. Organizational ability, an eye for detail, and skill in interpreting scientific results are important as well, as are attention to detail, and analytical thinking.
Environmental and chemical analysis technicians often begin work as trainees in routine positions under the direct supervision of an environmental scientist or more experienced technicians. As they gain experience they take on more responsibility and carry out assignments under only general supervision, and some eventually become supervisors.
Environmental and Chemical Analysis Technicians work for federal, state and local government agencies, utility companies, power generating plants, and professional, scientific, and technical services firms.
Most environmental and chemical analysis technicians need an associate degree or a certificate in applied science or science-related technology. Because employers’ preferences vary, however, some environmental and chemical analysis technicians have a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, biology, or forensic science, along with at least seven years of experience. Some states even require a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering or a related field.