How to Become an Environmental Engineer

Projected Job Growth: 22%
Projected Employment Change: 51,400

Applying the principles of engineering, biology, chemistry, and soil science, environmental engineers examine environmental problems and develop solutions for them. Typically, these problems concern issues like waste disposal, recycling, public health, air pollution, sustainability, climate change, and more. Day-to-day responsibilities may include preparing environmental investigation reports, environmental protection project design, scientific data analysis, quality-control checks, and industrial facility inspection for environmental regulation compliance. In addition, they might work in research, conducting hazardous-waste management studies, or in the government developing regulations to help prevent environmental problems. According to projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), such as those above, the employment of environmental engineers is expected to increase faster than average for all occupations.

Why Environmental Engineering?

Environmental engineering is a good career for those with an interest in the preservation and protection of the natural environment and enjoy problem solving, project management, and working in a variety of settings. The faster-than-average growth for this occupation is a result of government concern about water use, the cleanup of contaminated sites, and compliance with environmental regulations, according to the BLS. In addition, wastewater treatment is a growing area of concern as new methods of shale gas drilling require large quantities of the use and disposal of water. Accordingly, utilities and water treatment plants will need environmental engineers who can help them comply with state and federal environmental regulations.

Getting Into Environmental Engineering

Those who want to pursue a career in environmental engineering can begin by looking into traditional or online bachelor’s degree programs in environmental engineering. These types of programs cover topics like water resources engineering, soil mechanics, environmental regulations, wastewater treatment, and air quality. Some schools with online degree programs may give students the option to concentrate their studies in a particular area such as air quality, groundwater quality, surface water quality, water and wastewater processing, or solid and hazardous waste management. Some on-campus or online degree programs in environmental engineering allow students to earn both their bachelor’s and master’s degree within a five-year period. A graduate education can qualify environmental engineers to also work as instructors or in research and development.