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Presenting Our Programs:  Environmental Health Sciences

Posted Aug. 1, 2013
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Looking for a science-based career in which you aren’t working all day in a lab or at a desk?  Where you get out of the office and have flexibility and a degree of personal freedom?  In which you’re helping people and solving problems every day, with no two days alike?
 
Kent State’s bachelor of science degree in Environmental Health Sciences is the ticket, and there’s still time to enroll for Fall Semester.  The degree will prepare you for a great job with terrific advancement opportunities.
 
“Environmental health is a marriage between the natural sciences and public health,” says Charles Hart, Ph.D., associate professor, Environmental Health Sciences.  “You put your base of scientific knowledge into practice in the real world, out in the community helping people,” he says. “You never know from one day to the next how you’ll be using your knowledge, because environmental health is a challenging career of problem solving.  And you’re constantly learning, because new problems come along, and that forces you to learn something new to tackle them and find solutions,” he says.
 
Hart describes a typical day at some agencies as going to the office for an hour or two to address paperwork and permits, then spending the rest of the day in the field or community performing inspections, taking samples or working with people to solve problems.
 
The environmental health undergraduate program features a variety of courses designed to prepare students to understand the public health risks associated with natural and man-made environmental exposures.  As prerequisites, students complete a series of courses in the natural sciences – biology, chemistry, geology and physics.  Classes in the major concentrate upon risk assessments that affect policy change; administration and enforcement of environmental and public health laws; strategies for disease prevention and health promotion; and prevention of harm to workers, property, the environment and the general public.  The curriculum is rigorous, designed to meet accreditation standards of the National Environmental Health Science & Protection Accreditation Council (EHAC), a distinction which the college will be pursuing.
 
“The program incorporates a large field component,” says Hart.  “Most of the courses meet two days a week for lecture.  Then we set aside four four-hour blocks of time each semester for field or lab work.  Students get out of the classroom, onto a bus and go out to industry, a water treatment plant, a landfill or recycling facility, for instance.  Or we get into the lab and learn how to use instruments.  Students are very attracted to this field experience, and they also get a chance to do an internship as part of the program,” he says.
 
“The job market is very good with just an undergraduate degree,” says Hart, explaining that there are lots of potential employers.  “Not only are there positions with regulatory bodies in every county, municipal, state and federal government, graduates can find employment in almost any kind of industry,” Hart says.  “This is because companies all have Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety & Health Administration requirements.  In addition, some states have up to 300 health departments.  There’s a really huge matrix of potential jobs out there, and employers are always looking for good, well-trained people,” he observes.
 
In addition to excellent entry-level employment prospects, Hart says that upward mobility potential is strong, with supervisor and director opportunities.  Some of these require a graduate degree after work experience, but a number of employers assist with education.  “For someone motivated, the potential is limitless,” he says.