Sanitarians are subject-matter experts in public health and sanitation. They are sometimes called public health inspectors. Sanitarians conduct environmental health inspections of community settings, such as water and sewage systems, restaurants, hotels, hospitals and swimming pools, inspect compliance with the Public Health Code, prepare reports and recommend improvements to promote a healthy environment. They may also investigate disease outbreaks, chemical exposures, lead poisonings, public health nuisances and emergencies.
Sanitarians prevent public health problems by enforcing public health and sanitation regulations and making community environments safer. They study and evaluate public health hazards, such as food-borne disease outbreaks, rabies exposures, infectious waste disposal and lead, radon and mold exposures. Sanitarians measure and collect data for inspection and promote environmental health programs. The work is engaging, interactive and dynamic. Sanitarians perform their duties in a variety of settings and may travel frequently.
The competencies required to carry out the responsibilities of sanitarians include a working knowledge of the principles and practices of environmental sanitation related to food protection, environmental contamination, infectious diseases and health nuisance abatement, with some knowledge of chemistry and bacteriology. Qualified individuals are able to perform and interpret both physical and chemical tests using appropriate field equipment, and use critical thinking and problem-solving skills to analyze, interpret and respond to public health situations and emergencies.
Education and Professional Experience
There are many paths to employment for environmental health occupations. Many sanitarians possess a bachelor's or associate's degree while others only have a high-school diploma. Completion of high school-level courses in English, mathematics, chemistry, biology and physics is sufficient for entry-level positions. All sanitarians must receive training on public health codes, sanitation laws and inspection procedures, per the by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook published in 2010.
Advancement to more senior environmental health positions is competitive. Progression to more senior positions depends on job performance and individual merit. Opportunities for career advancement are typically available to sanitarians with college educations, adequate job experience and business expertise. Qualified individuals possessing a bachelor's or higher degree may continue on to occupational health and safety specialist positions.
Sanitarian occupations in the United States average annual earnings of $46,914 to $80,146, as of 2010, according to national income trends from CareerBuilder. The median expected salary for a sanitarian in the United States is $58,362. Comparatively, the median salaries of more senior occupations in the same job family, such as sanitarian superintendent and environmental director are $78,794 and $145,880, respectively.
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