Environmental Engineering Careers
Environmental Engineers design, plan, or perform engineering duties in the prevention, control, and remediation of environmental health hazards utilizing various engineering disciplines. Work may include waste treatment, site remediation, or pollution control technology.
Common Work Tasks
- Develop solutions to environmental problems using the principles of biology and chemistry
- Involved in water and air pollution control, recycling, waste disposal, and public health issues
- Conduct hazardous-waste management studies in which they evaluate the significance of the hazard, advise on treatment and containment, and develop regulations to prevent mishaps
- Design municipal water supply and industrial wastewater treatment systems
- Conduct research on the environmental impact of proposed construction projects, analyze scientific data, and perform quality-control checks
- Study and attempt to minimize the effects of acid rain, global warming, automobile emissions, and ozone depletion
- Work as consultants, helping their clients to comply with regulations, to prevent environmental damage, and to clean up hazardous sites
- Prepare, review, and update environmental investigation and recommendation reports
- Collaborate with environmental scientists, planners, hazardous waste technicians, engineers, and other specialists, and experts in law and business to address environmental problems
- Obtain, update, and maintain plans, permits, and standard operating procedures
Other Job Titles
Environmental Engineers are also known by other titles, including:
- Mechanical Engineers
- Computer Software Engineers
- Industrial Engineers
- Electrical Engineers
Education, Training, and Experience
Education and Training
A bachelor’s degree in engineering is required for almost all entry-level engineering jobs. College graduates with a degree in a natural science or mathematics occasionally may qualify for some engineering jobs, especially in specialties in high demand.
Most engineering programs involve a concentration of study in an engineering specialty, along with courses in both mathematics and the physical and life sciences. Many programs also include courses in general engineering. A design course, sometimes accompanied by a computer or laboratory class or both, is part of the curriculum of most programs. General courses not directly related to engineering, such as those in the social sciences or humanities, are also often required.
Graduate training is essential for engineering faculty positions and many research and development programs, but is not required for the majority of entry-level engineering jobs. Many experienced engineers obtain graduate degrees in engineering or business administration to learn new technology and broaden their education. Many high-level executives in government and industry began their careers as engineers.
Certification and Licensure
All 50 States and the District of Columbia require licensure for engineers who offer their services directly to the public. Engineers who are licensed are called professional engineers (PE). This licensure generally requires a degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program, 4 years of relevant work experience, and successful completion of a State examination. Recent graduates can start the licensing process by taking the examination in two stages. The initial Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) examination can be taken upon graduation. Engineers who pass this examination commonly are called engineers in training (EIT) or engineer interns (EI). After acquiring suitable work experience, EITs can take the second examination, the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam. Several States have imposed mandatory continuing education requirements for re-licensure. Most States recognize licensure from other States, provided that the manner in which the initial license was obtained meets or exceeds their own licensure requirements. Many environmental, environmental, mechanical, and environmental engineers are licensed PEs. Independent of licensure, various certification programs are offered by professional organizations to demonstrate competency in specific fields of engineering.
Engineers should be creative, inquisitive, analytical, and detail oriented. They should be able to work as part of a team and to communicate well, both orally and in writing. Communication abilities are becoming increasingly important as engineers frequently interact with specialists in a wide range of fields outside engineering.
The median annual salary for an environmental engineer is $72,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $108,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $44,000. Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of environmental engineers are:
- Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services - $74,320
- Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services - $77,870
- State Government - $65,000
- Local Government - $65,740
- Federal Executive Branch - $87,950
- 2006-2016 Employment growth: 25%
- Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 14,000
- Employment 2006 : 54,000
- Employment 2016: 68,000