As we become ever more aware of the impact surroundings play in personal health, there is a growing need for Environmental Health specialists prepared to prevent and respond to public health threats as they arise. Risks range from isolated contaminated food outbreaks to widespread insect-borne disease, to the environmental health challenges born out of devastating events such as a building collapse or chemical spill. Western Carolina University offers one of only 31 Environmental Health degree programs accredited by the Association of Environmental Health and recognized by employers as a top program in the U.S.
The WCU Environmental Health program prepares students as scientists in the field and includes foundational math and science courses such as physics, organic and aquatic chemistry, infectious disease and microbiology. The core curriculum is largely lab based and includes courses such as Water Quality Control, Environmental Toxicology, Quantitative Air Analysis and Environmental Regulation and Law. All students complete a required internship, and thanks to this field experience, graduates are credited with one full year of service toward North Carolina state and local health department employment.
The public sector has long been a large employer for Environmental Health specialists, but the most rapid growth is now happening in the private sector. Because of growth in the field, more than 90 percent of our graduates have jobs upon graduation. Jobs can be focused on field study and research, preparedness, building environment management, emergency response and more. WCU students take part in a broad range of training and can therefore pursue a wide variety of career specialties in fields such as air pollution, surface water contamination, emergency management and response, epidemiology, and food safety, among others.