Environmental Health Officers or Environmental Health Practitioners
Depending on where in the UK you work, your role will have a slightly different name. In England, Wales or Northern Ireland the title is Environmental Health Practitioner. In Scotland, the title is Environmental Health Officer. To work in environmental health, you must have at least a relevant Higher Education Diploma (see the Types of Qualification page). You could study for a recognized first degree, perhaps a postgraduate diploma, or an MSc (Environmental Health). You need evidence of practice in environmental health, to at least accredited associate status. To find out more, see the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) in England in Wales, in Northern Ireland, or, in Scotland, the Royal Environmental Institute of Scotland (REHIS).
If you choose to specialize, you need further training and experience in one or a few aspects of environmental health: Food Safety, Food Standards, Occupational Health & Safety, Public Health, Waste Management, Built Environment, Housing, or Pollution Control, including noise. See Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) in England, or in Wales, in Northern Ireland, or in Scotland, the Royal Environmental Institute of Scotland (REHIS).
In Scotland, to work as a Food Safety Officer you need to be on the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland’s (REHIS) register here. You must have an approved academic qualification, at higher national diploma (HND) or higher national certificate (HNC), Diploma, BSc, or MSc levels (see the Types of Qualification page). You undertake a minimum of 6 months’ structured training and then take the Certificate in Food Premises Inspection or a higher certificate in Food Standards Inspection in order to inspect high-risk food premises.
There are other public health roles that deal with the environment. For example, a public health engineer plans and designs systems, buildings and environments to promote and protect the public’s health. If you want this role, you gain experience in and study engineering as well as public health. You could join a professional association to develop your knowledge and skills such as the Society of Public Health Engineers. This is part of a regulator, the Chartered Institution of Building Service Engineers. To find it, click here.
After 5 years of work experience as a qualified professional, and at least 3 years of voting or graduate membership of CIEH, and evidence of meeting the standards, you can get a certificate of professional competence (or equivalent). You can then become a chartered member of CIEH or REHIS. You can get more information from CIEH or, if you are Scottish member, from REHIS. This title shows you met high standards and have ‘gone the extra mile’ to show this.
Staying on the register
You must do some CPD every year, usually 20 hours, but this varies with the stage in your career. For example an accredited associate does less - 10 hours yearly. A chartered practitioner does more - 30 hours every year. You make an annual declaration to confirm you are doing CPD. CPD can take many forms, including courses and events, where you could develop skills and knowledge such as about new laws. You keep records of your CPD to show if called upon in a sample audit. You can see detailed guidance here.
See career stories:
“I really love getting stuck into problems and resolving them collaboratively with other agencies”
Huw Brunt – Consultant in Environmental Health
“My local authority officers supported me to study for a Masters in Public Health”
Andrew Jones – Regional Director of Public Health (North Wales)
“I work on controlling public and animal health including control of the spread of infectious disease at airports”
Iain Pocknell – Senior Environmental Health Officer
“My group has the remit for dealing with antisocial behavioural noise, air quality, contaminated land, pest control”
Evonne Tennant – Principal Environmental Health Officer
“A full career path now exists from plumbing apprentice to chartered engineer”
Chris Northey – Head of Public Health Engineering
“I once worked on a long protracted noise complaint and in the end, the complainant wrote a nice letter to the local paper to say that all parties involved did a good job. It is not often people go that bit extra to say thank you. I was chuffed that we all worked together to make the complainant’s life a bit better. That sincere ‘thank you’ was one of the best rewards I have ever had”
Lynsey McNair - Senior Environmental Health Officer