There are approximately 46,200 hazardous materials removal workers in the United States. About 64 percent of hazardous materials workers are employed in the waste management and remediation services industry, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Asbestos abatement contractors are located in most major cities in the country and frequently need technicians.
Unionized asbestos abatement technicians start as apprentices. Apprentices work under the guidance of journeymen—skilled asbestos technicians—for a specific number of hours. Training is a combination of on-the-job work and classroom instruction. Once you fulfill the required training and certification, you are given journeyman status and benefits.
Nonunion workers must complete a 32- to 40-hour training program before receiving a license. The employer provides additional technical training, most often on the job.
To find area contractors, search the Internet and the classified sections of newspapers for "Asbestos abatement and removal service," "Asbestos consulting and testing," and "Hazardous material control and removal." You can also find job listings at employment Web sites and apply directly to asbestos abatement companies.
Because of the health risks involved with asbestos removal, technicians often move into related careers, such as construction. Some advancement opportunities exist, however, within the field. After a few years, experienced workers can move into supervisory positions in which they oversee day-to-day operations. With about four years of experience, technicians can become asbestos abatement contractors who oversee projects from beginning to end. Contractors are usually required to have detailed understanding of EPA regulations. They submit bids for projects, prepare reports, and speak to many different people, from workers to public authorities. Depending on the state's regulations, contractors may need a special license. With a contractor's license, you can also work as a project designer, which involves creating detailed plans for an asbestos removal project.
Experience as an asbestos abatement technician is necessary to move into a position as an asbestos building inspector. Inspectors inspect buildings to ensure that they meet federal and state regulations, and they usually need additional training.
Visit the following Web sites for job listings:
Conduct information interviews with asbestos abatement technicians and ask them for advice on preparing for and entering the field.
Join the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers to increase your chances of landing a job and receiving fair pay for your work.