Environmental Engineer Career Guide

Job Description:
  • Research, design, plan, or perform engineering duties in the prevention, control, and remediation of environmental hazards using various engineering disciplines.
  • Work may include waste treatment, site remediation, or pollution control technology.

Environmental Engineer Salary 2024

National Salary Data for Environmental Engineers

This bar graph shows the annual salary for Environmental Engineers.

U.S. Salary in 2024

Annual Median Salary: $96,530
Hourly Median Wage: $46.41

Data sourced from O*NET Online, provided by the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics wage estimates.

Projected Employment for Environmental Engineers

Job Growth Projections

This line chart shows the projected job growth over 10 years for Environmental Engineers.

Projected Job Openings for s by 2031

Projected Growth Rate in Job Openings by 2031: 4%

Data sourced from CareerOneStop, provided by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Typical Tasks for Environmental Engineers

  • Assess the existing or potential environmental impact of land use projects on air, water, or land.

  • Collaborate with environmental scientists, planners, hazardous waste technicians, engineers, experts in law or business, or other specialists to address environmental problems.

  • Provide technical support for environmental remediation or litigation projects, including remediation system design or determination of regulatory applicability.

Technologies and Skills Used by Environmental Engineers

Analytical or scientific software

  • Insightful S-PLUS
  • The MathWorks MATLAB

Compliance software

  • Material safety data sheet MSDS software
  • Regulatory compliance management software

Desktop communications software

  • Eko

Basic Skills

  • Listening to others, not interrupting, and asking good questions
  • Reading work related information

People and Technology Systems

  • Figuring out how a system should work and how changes in the future will affect it
  • Thinking about the pros and cons of different options and picking the best one

Problem Solving

  • Noticing a problem and figuring out the best way to solve it

How To Become a Environmental Engineer

Interested in solving environmental challenges and contributing to a sustainable future? Pursuing a career as an environmental engineer might be the perfect fit for you. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to become an environmental engineer, outlining the education, skills, and experience you'll need to enter this rewarding field.

Education Requirements

To kickstart your career in environmental engineering, a strong foundation in education is essential.

  • Earn a Bachelor's Degree: A bachelor's degree in environmental engineering or a related field such as civil, chemical, or mechanical engineering is typically required. Look for programs that are ABET-accredited to ensure the quality of the engineering education you receive.

    • Key courses to focus on include:
      • Mathematics (calculus, statistics)
      • Biology and chemistry
      • Physics
      • Environmental science
      • Engineering fundamentals
  • Consider Advanced Degrees: While not always necessary, a master's degree can enhance your knowledge and may be required for higher-level positions. A Master of Science in Environmental Engineering delves deeper into topics such as water quality, waste management, and pollution control.

Licensing and Certifications

Licensing and certifications can significantly boost your career prospects in environmental engineering.

  • Become a Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Examinee: After earning your degree, take the FE exam, administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). Passing this exam allows you to be recognized as an Engineer in Training (EIT) or Engineering Intern (EI).

  • Gain Professional Engineer (PE) License: With several years of work experience under your belt, typically four years for most states, you can sit for the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam in environmental engineering. Obtaining a PE license is crucial for those who wish to have higher responsibilities, such as signing off on projects and leading a team.

  • Pursue Specialized Certifications: Certifications like the Board Certified Environmental Engineer (BCEE) offered by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers & Scientists can distinguish you as an expert in your field.

Gain Relevant Experience

Hands-on experience is invaluable in the environmental engineering sector.

  • Internships and Co-ops: Participate in internships or cooperative education programs during your undergraduate studies. This gives you practical experience and networking opportunities.

  • Entry-Level Positions: Upon graduation, look for entry-level positions in environmental engineering to build your professional experience.

  • Continued Learning: Stay updated with the latest environmental regulations, technologies, and practices through workshops, seminars, and continuing education courses.

Develop Essential Skills

In addition to technical knowledge, certain soft skills are crucial for success in the environmental engineering field:

  • Problem-Solving Skills: Ability to develop innovative solutions to complex environmental issues.
  • Communication Skills: Clear communication with various stakeholders including clients, policymakers, and the public.
  • Teamwork: Collaborating effectively with other professionals such as scientists, urban planners, and construction workers.
  • Project Management: Overseeing projects from conception through completion, managing budgets and timelines.

Networking and Professional Organizations

Joining professional organizations can provide networking opportunities, access to resources, and industry insights.

By following these steps and committing yourself to continuous learning and professional development, you can establish a successful career as an environmental engineer. Whether working on water treatment systems, air pollution control, or sustainable design practices, your work will contribute significantly to preserving our natural environment for future generations.

Environmental Engineer Career Path FAQ's

What education is required to become an Environmental Engineer?

To become an environmental engineer, you typically need:

  • A bachelor's degree in environmental engineering or a related field such as civil, chemical, or mechanical engineering.
  • Coursework that covers subjects like biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics.
  • Some positions may require a master's degree or higher, especially for advancement into research or university teaching roles.

What kind of certifications or licenses do Environmental Engineers need?

Most practicing environmental engineers will need:

  • A Professional Engineer (PE) license for career advancement, which requires:

    • A degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program
    • A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
    • Relevant work experience, typically at least four years
    • A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam
  • Additional certifications that can be beneficial include:

    • Board Certified Environmental Engineer (BCEE)
    • Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified professional

What are common entry-level jobs for Environmental Engineers?

Entry-level jobs for environmental engineers often include roles such as:

  • Environmental consultant
  • Project engineer
  • Sustainability coordinator
  • Water project manager
  • Air quality engineer

How can an Environmental Engineer advance in their career?

Environmental Engineers can advance their careers by:

  • Gaining experience through work on various projects and increasing responsibility.
  • Continuing education and obtaining advanced degrees.
  • Achieving certifications and licenses relevant to their specialization.
  • Developing soft skills like project management, communication, and leadership.
  • Networking with professionals in the field and joining professional organizations like the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists (AAEES).

What industries employ Environmental Engineers?

Environmental Engineers find employment in various industries, such as:

  • Government agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Engineering consulting firms
  • Waste management companies
  • Construction firms
  • Manufacturing industries
  • Non-profit organizations focused on environmental issues

What skills are important for an Environmental Engineer?

Key skills for an Environmental Engineer include:

  • Proficiency in data analysis and interpretation of environmental data.
  • Strong understanding of environmental laws and regulations.
  • Ability to design and implement systems for waste disposal, water treatment, or pollution control.
  • Proficiency with industry-standard software for modeling and simulation.
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Is the demand for Environmental Engineers expected to grow?

Yes, the demand for Environmental Engineers is expected to grow due to:

  • Increasing public health concerns related to water and air pollution.
  • The need for sustainable practices in construction, manufacturing, and other industries.
  • Governmental regulations driving companies to comply with environmental laws and standards.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of environmental engineers is projected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Can Environmental Engineers work internationally?

Yes, Environmental Engineers have opportunities to work internationally through:

  • Multinational companies with global environmental initiatives.
  • International consulting firms.
  • Organizations like the United Nations or the World Bank on international development projects.
  • Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) focused on global environmental issues.

Keep in mind that working internationally may require additional language skills and understanding of different environmental regulations and cultural practices.

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