Skip to Main Content

What Is a Hazardous Material Specialist and How to Become One

What Does a Hazardous Materials Specialist Do?

A hazardous material specialist leads a HAZMAT team in the removal of hazardous materials after accidents, such as chemical spills or toxic fire, or as part of an environmental waste remediation project, such as asbestos removal from an old school building. As a specialist, you inspect compromised sites and sample chemicals, toxic gases, and other potentially hazardous materials present to test. Your duties also include directing the clean-up plan to dispose of hazardous waste and auditing the site to ensure the project is successful.

How to Become a Hazardous Materials Specialist

To become a hazardous materials specialist, you need to have a high school diploma and gain work experience as a hazardous materials technician or lower grade specialist. In high school, you need to concentrate on biology, chemistry, and mathematics as well as information technology. If you want more preparation, you can take a certificate program from a vocational or community college. Useful subjects include occupational health and safety, engineering, chemistry, and environmental health. In addition to these qualifications, you need to learn skills on the job before you can advance to being a specialist.

What Is the Difference Between a Hazardous Materials Specialist and a Hazardous Materials Technician?

The difference between a hazardous materials specialist and a hazardous materials technician is that a specialist has more responsibilities and training in the field. Technicians are typically the ones directly handling hazardous materials during a clean-up, while the specialist has a more managerial role, liaising between regulators, other officials, and the clean-up crew. As a specialist, you direct the crew to transport and dispose of the material, but you are not always required to perform these tasks personally.