Waste Management: Academic Requirements, Professional Outlook

Waste Management

Waste Management deals with all aspects of the collection, storage, disposal, and reduction of waste. Waste is a necessary product of growth, but it has now become apparent that waste cannot be allowed to grow indefinitely. The accumulation of waste has environmental, human health, political, and economic impacts. Americans alone generate about 3.5 pounds of solid municipal waste per person, per day. Around the world, this adds up to a lot of waste! However, waste can be managed - through recycling, re-use and overall reduction.

One function of the Waste Manager is to reduce waste, and another function is to ensure that it is handled safely and efficiently, from source to destination. Waste Management workers are always looking for new and better ways to deal with waste. For example, today we are able to burn a portion of non-recyclable refuse to create electricity. Managers fulfill an important function in our society, by controlling waste to keep us healthy and safe.

The Academic Requirements

The major is interdisciplinary and aims to teach students about managing waste in today's changing world. Students learn about the generation, transportation and disposal of waste, as well as ways to minimize environmental and health impacts along the way. Courses will include environmental problems caused by waste and remediation techniques in use today and those planned for the future.

The major is technology-based, and is often found within the civil and environmental engineering department of a university. There are also some associate's degree programs available.

Here are some courses that we've seen:

  • Landfill Engineering
  • Solid Waste Management
  • Contaminated Land
  • Managing the Environmental Impact of Landfills
  • Options for Urban Waste Management in the 21st Century
  • The Role of Ozone in Wastewater Treatment
  • Landfill Tomorrow - Bioreactor or Storage
  • HVAC Principles
  • Biology
  • Management Concepts
  • Water & Wastewater Analysis
  • Intro to Manufacturing Processes
  • Production Control
  • Principles of Toxicology
  • Materials Science

Professional Outlook

Waste Management industries are considered public utilities, since their function is vital to the community. Some companies are private, while others (especially in smaller communities and rural areas) are owned and operated by State or local government. According to the Bureau of Labor, "Managers and administrators in the utilities plan, organize, direct, and coordinate management activities. They often are responsible for maintaining an adequate supply of electricity, gas, water, steam, or sanitation service."

Since handling and disposing of waste is a constant process, Waste Managers may have to work at odd times, such as night shifts and weekends. There are inherent risks in working with waste, but plants have rigorous safety standards that workers must follow, and these standards help to minimize accidents and injuries.

Advancement within a company usually requires a mastery of skills on the job and some formal training through a job program or 2-year technical college. Technicians and engineers who already have college degrees can advance more quickly to management positions. Managerial jobs require a 4-year degre. Further advancement is possible without a master's or Ph.D.

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 Waste Management:

Resources

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