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 an Environmental Engineer

If you're considering a career that combines engineering with environmental science to solve some of the world's most pressing issues, becoming an environmental engineer might be the perfect path for you. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the process of becoming an environmental engineer.

Understand the Role of an Environmental Engineer

Before diving into the education and skills required, it's essential to understand what environmental engineers do:

  • They design, plan, and implement measures to prevent, control, or remediate environmental hazards.
  • They work on projects such as water treatment facilities, air pollution control systems, and waste disposal systems.
  • Their job often involves compliance with environmental regulations and researching the environmental impact of proposed construction projects.

Obtain the Necessary Education

A solid educational foundation is crucial for a career in environmental engineering. Here's what you need to focus on:

  • Earn a Bachelor's Degree: You should obtain a bachelor's degree in environmental engineering or a related field such as civil, chemical, or mechanical engineering. Make sure the program is accredited by the ABET.
  • Consider Advanced Degrees: Although not always required, a master's degree can enhance your knowledge and may be necessary for higher-level positions.

Gain Relevant Experience

Hands-on experience is invaluable in the field of environmental engineering:

  • Internships: Look for internship opportunities while you're still in school. This can provide practical experience and networking opportunities.
  • Entry-Level Jobs: After graduation, seek entry-level positions that will offer you real-world experience in environmental projects.

Acquire Licensure and Certifications

In many cases, becoming a licensed Professional Engineer (PE) is essential:

  • FE Exam: Start by taking the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, typically during your final year of college.
  • Work Experience: After passing the FE exam, you'll need to gain work experience, usually four years under a PE.
  • PE Exam: Once you have the requisite experience, you can sit for the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam in environmental engineering.

Additional certifications can also bolster your credentials:

Develop Essential Skills

To succeed as an environmental engineer, you'll need a mix of technical and soft skills:

  • Technical Proficiency: Strong skills in mathematics and science are fundamental.
  • Problem-Solving Abilities: The ability to develop innovative solutions to complex environmental problems is key.
  • Communication Skills: You must be able to communicate technical information effectively to non-engineers.
  • Project Management: Many roles require overseeing projects and coordinating with various stakeholders.

Stay Informed and Continue Learning

Environmental engineering is a dynamic field that continues to evolve:

  • Professional Development: Engage in continuous learning through workshops, seminars, and conferences.
  • Networking: Join professional organizations like the American Academy of Environmental Engineers & Scientists to connect with peers and stay current on industry trends.
  • Read Industry Literature: Stay informed about new technologies and regulatory changes by reading industry publications.

By following these steps and committing to lifelong learning, you can build a rewarding career that makes a positive impact on the environment. Remember that each step along this path is an opportunity to grow your expertise and advance your career as an environmental engineer.

Environmental Engineer Career Path FAQ's

What educational background is required to become an Environmental Engineer?

Becoming an environmental engineer typically requires at least a bachelor's degree in environmental engineering or a related field such as civil, chemical, or mechanical engineering. Educational programs should be accredited by the ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology). Advanced positions may require a master's degree.

Are there any certifications or licenses needed for Environmental Engineers?

Yes, while entry-level roles may not require professional licensure, advancing in the field often does. Here are some key certifications and licenses:

  • Fundamentals of Engineering (FE): This is the first step toward becoming a licensed Professional Engineer (PE).
  • Professional Engineer (PE) License: After gaining sufficient experience and passing the PE exam, environmental engineers can earn their PE license.
  • Board Certified Environmental Engineer (BCEE): Offered by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists, this certification is for experienced professionals with a PE license.

    What skills are important for an Environmental Engineer?

Environmental engineers should have a mix of technical, analytical, and soft skills:

  • Proficiency in mathematics and science
  • Strong analytical and problem-solving abilities
  • Familiarity with design software and other industry-related IT tools
  • Effective communication skills
  • Project management and leadership abilities

What industries employ Environmental Engineers?

Environmental engineers find opportunities across various sectors:

  • Government agencies (local, state, or federal)
  • Engineering firms
  • Consulting services
  • Manufacturing and industrial companies
  • Waste management companies

Can Environmental Engineers advance in their careers?

Absolutely, there are several advancement opportunities such as:

  • Moving into project management or senior technical roles
  • Specializing in a sub-discipline (e.g., water resources, air quality control)
  • Transitioning into research, teaching, or consulting
  • Obtaining higher-level positions like chief engineer or sustainability director

What is the job outlook for Environmental Engineers?

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. An increased focus on environmental regulations and sustainable practices is expected to drive demand.

Is continuing education important for an Environmental Engineer?

Yes, it's crucial for staying current with technological advancements, regulations, and best practices. Continuing education can take many forms:

  • Workshops and seminars
  • Graduate studies
  • Professional development courses
  • Attending conferences and networking events

What type of work environment do Environmental Engineers have?

Environmental engineers typically work in a variety of settings:

  • Office environments for planning and design work
  • Fieldwork for data collection and project oversight
  • Laboratories for research and testing

Work schedules can vary depending on the specific role and project demands. Some might require travel or outdoor work in different weather conditions.

Are there any professional organizations for Environmental Engineers?

Joining professional organizations can be beneficial:

These organizations offer resources like networking opportunities, industry news, career development tools, and more.

Staying informed involves:

  • Subscribing to industry publications
  • Following relevant blogs and news websites
  • Participating in webinars and online forums
  • Engaging with professional communities on social media

Regularly engaging with these resources helps professionals anticipate shifts in the industry and adapt accordingly.

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