If you're currently employed as a sanitation worker or otherwise work in the waste management field, you may be investigating ways to increase your salary. While this field often pays well, physically demanding jobs like this can often take a toll on your body, routing you toward an early retirement if you're not able to transition to a more sedentary role -- and with bills to pay and other financial obligations, saving for an early retirement on your current salary may seem like an impossible task. Read on to learn more about the various hazardous waste certifications available and how obtaining one of these may be able to help improve your earning potential and career trajectory.
How can a HAZWOPER certification increase your salary?
HAZWOPER (also known as the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response guidelines produced by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)) governs five diverse areas of hazardous waste operation.
HAZWOPER guidelines cover everything from government-sanctioned (or government-required) cleanup of public safety hazards like oil or chemical spills to those who work at hazardous waste treatment facilities (like sewage plants) or who collect biohazardous waste from hospitals or other medical facilities. Because improperly-handled hazardous waste can potentially endanger public health (not to mention the health of the employees handling this waste), employees who deal with waste covered by the HAZWOPER categories must receive training (and sometimes take a certification exam) in order to avoid the levy of hefty fines and penalties on their employers.
In many fields, obtaining additional education or training is necessary to help you quickly move up the ranks and obtain desired promotions and raises. Because the number of individuals who both want to and are qualified to work with hazardous waste is fairly low, obtaining HAZWOPER certifications can often help you land a new job dealing exclusively with hazardous waste. If your employer already manages hazardous waste or performs site cleanups, you may even be able to receive reimbursement for costs incurred in taking a HAZWOPER certification exam or qualify for additional paid time off to prepare for and take the exam.
What HAZWOPER certifications should you seek?
If you're considering testing for one or more HAZWOPER certifications, you may first want to spend some time in self-reflection on where you'd like to spend your career. Because some of these certifications require you to learn a variety of specialized hazardous waste cleanup and containment skills, selecting an area of interest and concentrating on certification tests that will help advance this interest will prevent you from spinning your wheels or falling into the "jack of all trades, master of none" trap. You'll also want to ensure that the field in which you specialize does have some demand in your local market -- for example, taking certification courses on oil remediation or protecting sea wildlife from oil spills may not translate into higher earnings if you live thousands of miles from the nearest ocean.
On the other hand, choosing a specialty that is in high demand in your area or especially holds your interest can be a great way to quickly boost your expertise and make yourself invaluable to your current employer (or a potential employer). If your region boasts a higher-than-average number of hospitals, taking certification courses in biohazardous waste removal or recycling techniques can significantly expand your pool of potential jobs, whereas those living in low-lying or flood-prone areas can focus on certifications that address the public health and sanitation issues that often follow massive floods. Whether you're at the beginning of your career or have spent decades in the field, it's likely you can benefit from becoming certified.
For more information, contact an organization like National Environmental Trainers.