Final Notes on the Credential Mapping Project
Through the research conducted on the REHS/RS credential recognition and requirement across the United States, our Government Affairs Director, Doug Farquhar and intern, Georgia Lo have assembled a methodical and important approach to mapping out the data. By identifying states and jurisdictions that require or use the REHS/RS, we will be able to gauge the popularity of the credential, where the credential is valued as well as where it is no longer used.
As with other health professions, the environmental health credential is adopted and administered by individual states, often mandated by state rule or statute. There is no national credential mandated by the federal government. State credentialing has established (written) procedures for achieving the credential and has minimum attributes (standards) persons must meet to apply for and maintain the credential or licensing, once received. These attributes include:
- Formal educational levels attained
- Work experience in the profession
- Evaluation of competency
- Demonstrated continuing education in the profession
The NEHA REHS/RS is not a required standard unless adopted by a state or organization.
The REHS/RS Credential Recognition
An environmental health credential is recognized in 31 states. The NEHA REHS/RS credential remains the foremost certification for environmental health professionals and the environmental health workforce. An environmental health credential is required at some level in 28 states and the District of Columbia; 23 states require it by statute; another 8 recognize the REHS/RS, but the credential remains voluntary (4 states), or the state has a state-mandated credential (4 states).
Data on the states that require an environmental health credential:
- 18 require some level of continuing education to maintain registration renewal
- 13 have some type of formal or informal ‘in-training’ or ‘intern’ process specified by rule and all but one require interns to be licensed/registered
- 17 have a minimum work experience of 1 year in field of environmental health with a non-EH bachelor’s degree
- 15 utilize the NEHA exam for all or part of their proficiency testing (two also have additional state exams), 5 use a State one, and one gives the option of either State or NEHA
- 20 have their Boards under a State government department. Only one (NC) has an independent licensing Board.
- 6 are regulated under a State’s Occupational Licensing Department and 14 are under a State Health Department
- For non-EH degrees, there is a great variability in the type (e.g. science) of semester hours accepted under the education requirement. Only 2 do not specify a minimum (e.g. 30) number of semester accepted hours in science, other disciplines.
- 2 of the 23 states statutorily accept applicants for registration with an Associate degree with a certain number of years’ experience in environmental health
- The other 19 states have no training or certification requirements for the environmental health profession.
At one point, 38 states required the REHS/RS credential or its equivalent. The reasons behind why states decided to weaken their environmental health credential requirement varies, but mainly policy makers determined that the credential was an unnecessary regulatory burden. The resources necessary by both the state and individuals to comply with the environmental health credential did not lead to an associated public health benefit. The public health benefit did not warrant the regulatory costs.
Below is a color-coded map depicting which states have a credential requirement for environmental health professionals:
The REHS/RS Credential Exam
An environmental health credential is required by statute in 23 states, and 17 of those require passing the REHS/RS exam to enter the profession. An additional 6 states (Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Washington) require the REHS/RS exam but do not list the REHS/RS credential by statute. Montana requires the REHS/RS without the exam, as does the District of Columbia. Seven states offer a state-sponsored exam, some states both the exams (states and REHS/RS).
Below is a color-coded map depicting which states require exams for environmental health professionals:
Certain known concerns include that the BS/BA requirement keeps many from applying for the REHS/RS credential. This requirement is prohibiting many (including many people of color) from sitting for the REHS/RS exam.
Nevertheless, the REHS/RS remains the premier credential for the environmental health workforce. Efforts are being made and must continue to be made to advocate for this credential. NEHA has a goal to make the REHS/RS the required credential for the environmental health profession in every state. To achieve this goal will require a committed effort by NEHA, the NEHA affiliates, and the environmental health profession.
For more information contact Doug Farquhar, NEHA Director of Government Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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