Hazardous Waste Management: Academic Requirements, Professional Outlook

Hazardous Waste Management

"Hazardous wastes" are those wastes that can pose a threat to human health and/or the environment when they are improperly handled and stored. These wastes are often produced as by-products of industrial processes. For example, industrial wastes from refining petroleum are often hazardous to human health if disposed of improperly. Hazardous wastes make up a rather small portion of the overall waste produced, but it is very important to handle them properly so as to avoid undue risk to human health and the environment.

Hazardous Waste Managers comply with Government regulations to manage and minimize the amount and toxicity of waste from industrial processes. They may suggest introducing a better waste capture system, or recovering and recycling wastes (such as solvents), or coming up with a more environmentally-friendly way of incinerating waste. Their jobs are socially important, because the proper management of hazardous waste is essential to keeping us healthy.

The Academic Requirements

Students are likely to take science classes and introductory engineering courses. Subjects may include; waste treatment and disposal; environmental health; recycling and reuse of wastes; remediation of contaminated land; and waste management, policy and law. Some study of toxicology (how toxins cycle through earth systems and the human body) is to be expected. Upon graduation, students should understand current and developing waste management technologies as well as sustainable management practices.

Students who graduate from a two-year program will be ready for an entry-level job in the field. Those with a four-year degree may enter the workforce or go on to graduate school. A graduate degree and experience in the field is generally required for management-level positions or for conducting research.

Here are some courses that we've seen:

  • Contaminated Land
  • Managing the Environmental Impact of Landfills
  • Options for Urban Waste Management in the 21st Century
  • Hydrology for Environmental Management
  • Environmental Engineering and Sustainable Development
  • Resource Economics
  • Project Management
  • Biology & Technology
  • Physical Geology
  • Principles of Toxicology
  • Environmental Ecology
  • Pollution Prevention
  • Organic Chemistry

Professional Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor, Hazardous Waste Managers (under the supervision of Environmental Engineers), "conduct hazardous-waste management studies, evaluate the significance of the hazard, offer analysis on treatment and containment, and develop regulations to prevent mishaps." The job market looks good; as the need to meet environmental standards and clean up already existing waste rises, more Managers will be needed.

Many Managers are involved in monitoring a plant's inputs and outputs to ensure they fall within environmental regulation standards. They may conduct periodic sampling and record and report the results to supervisors or government agencies. Managers usually work regular office hours in a plant; as a consultant, their hours may be more varied and may involve travel to different sites. Managers involved in contaminated land remediation may work on-site and have to take precautions not to be exposed to hazardous levels of toxins.

Here are some job titles that we've seen, including some of the organizations that offer them, all of which included a requirement for experience in Hazardous Waste Management:


Business.com, Job search for "hazardous waste"

  • CDM
  • George Washington University, Hazardous Waste Manager Job Descriptions
  • Imperial College, Centre for Environmental Control and Waste Management.
  • North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Waste Management Institute. 11/00.
  • Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, "Hazardous Waste Management." 05/06/2003.
  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2002-03 Edition, Environmental Engineers
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