Thursday, March 17, 2011

Career prospects: Environmental Health and Safety

Environment, Health and Safety.  This is a  nice area that sits next to - and sometimes on the laps of - Public Health and Occupational Health and Safety.  The respective courses seem to share some of their units with each other.

Yesterday I talked to the course coordinator for the post-grad diploma in Environmental Health and she gave me some priceless information that has inspired me.  This is the course on which I would set sail to gain a qualification in Environmental Health.  I don't really have relevant experience or background in the area or in biology, microbiology, or chemistry, so the first thing I would need to do a a bridging course.  This bridging course is not a self-contained course in itself but rather I would do three of the first-year units from the Bachelor of Science (Health Safety and Environment) undergraduate degree.  This would take one semester and when I had successfully completed these units I would drop out of the BSc and enroll in the Master of Environmental health.  I actually only want a post-graduate diploma but a comparison of course fees in the two courses leads coordinators to suggest taking the Master course and exiting when I have completed whichever intermediate award I want.  So I could do all the units that would get me a post-grad dip and then leave the masters program with that qualification.  The cost benefit would be significant: enrolling in the post-graduate diploma would mean paying $1700 per unit while enrolling in the masters program would cost me $900 per unit, for the same units!  That's almost half of the cost.

So what is environmental health and safety about?  It involves contributing to creating and maintaining environments that promote good health, and managing environmental factors that may have a negative effect on people's health.  These factors could be social, physical, chemical, biological or psychological.  It could involve working with problems involving waste-water, noise-pollution, light-pollution, food safety and hygiene (a big one), and the many problems arising from artificial environments.

The course at Curtin (in environmental health) streams students towards either being an Environmental Health Officer or into a research area.  It occurs to me now that either way I think I would be happy and that I needn't be put off by thinking that this course would mean committing to being an environmental health officer (which in itself wouldn't be a bad thing).  During my first year I would have plenty of time to make a decision about what I wanted to so with the second year and I could always study the other stream in the future.  Reading graduate's stories, I think that graduating from either EHS, OHS, or from public health with a proactive bent and positive attitude will allow me to take my career places.  I guess I just need to decide.  All of them are good.  Reading through the graduate stories, the stories that interest me the most are definitely in the field of OHS, EHS, and public health.  I also get the impression from reading these stories that once you are working in the area, you can complete additional relevant units or courses that will make you more employable and improve your job prospects (and earning potential).  That would be a career.

I think I can sum up my relationship to university education and work like this: interest in what I was learning - high; academic competence and achievement - medium; utilizing experience of study to acquire good employment - poor.  One of the things I have realized with time and experience is that you have to make your qualifications work for you and you need to get whatever experience at applying them that you can.  It is one thing to learn and another to learn how to applying that learning.

I guess I've done everything except decide on which course to pursue.  It comforts me now that I see these pathways as watery rather than as a series of straight sticks.  I mean that there is a lot of mixing and cross-over on the other side of graduation.  I need to be a fish because A fish can swim wherever it wants as long as it has a continual stream of interconnected water-bodies and that is what lies on the other side of graduation from any of the courses I am interested in.  I think I will choose environmental health and safety.

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Lekses Songz said...

Thanks for the insight. It has been very helpful. Thanks to you I have now made up my mind to take the course EHS

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