Environmental engineers

Like other categories of engineers, environmental engineers work to improve a system or process in their field. In this career, they use engineering skills to deal with environmental hazards. Such a hazard can be anything from working to reduce pollution or developing an improve method of waste treatment. Because environmental issues are so critical now (and expected to be so in the future), the work they accomplish can have a positive and direct impact on the environment and the people who interact with it. They work for a variety of interests, including public and private interests, but towards the same ultimate goal. Global climate change, sustainability, and recycling are all important issues-among others-that environmental engineers devote their careers to..

Responsibilities can include:

  • Designing new processes and equipment to protect the environment and minimize impact
  • Consulting with other engineers, officials, project managers, technicians, or companies and providing advice
  • Writing, reviewing, and revising reports on environmental situations and project progress
  • Inspecting structures and facilities to evaluate whether they follow all safety codes and environmental regulations
  • Collecting data on a subject, process, or project and using the information to inform designs, plans, and courses of action
  • Evaluating an environmental problem and conceiving of ways or methods to alleviate it

Environmental engineers have solid training in engineering and related sciences, and usually need to graduate from an accredited program to qualify for jobs.


As with most engineering professions, environmental engineers need a bachelor's degree in their field or a related one in order to be hired for work. Work experience while working on a degree is highly encouraged and can help boost a new engineer's resume.

Obtaining a license is not mandatory to find work as an environmental engineer, but it can be beneficial. A Professional Engineering license demonstrates skill competency and knowledge, and can assist with career advancement. The licensing process typically requires a bachelor's degree from an accredited school, work experience, and passing one or more exams. The specific regulations for earning and keeping a license may vary depending on the state. Additionally, board certification is offered for licensed environmental engineers who specialize in a particular are of their field.


  • Imagination Environmental engineers do not just look at what is, they envision what could be. Environmental issues are broad and complex, and it takes detailed knowledge and understanding of the systems and forces involved to develop ways to improve it.
  • Interpersonal skills Environmental engineers work with a variety of people, from engineers to technicians, and from governmental officials to business executives. They consult and advise with different interests and having strong social skills makes interactions easier and plans more convincing.
  • Problem-solving skills.Engineers are problem-solvers by profession. In the environmental sector, they work often centers around identifying problems having a negative impact and finding solutions or improvements.
  • Reading and writing skills. Because they communicate and work with many different professionals, engineers' reports need to be clearly explained and well-understood. They must also comprehend scientific, business, and legal reports that inform them of problems, designs, plans, and actions.

Job Outlook

Over the next several years, job growth is expected to be noticeable, and somewhat higher than the average for all careers. As environmental issues increase in importance and priority, environmental engineers are hired to work on these problems. A number of environmental engineers may retire, too, which will hopefully open up more jobs.

  Occupation Description Entry-Level Education 2012 Median Pay
Chemical engineers Chemical engineers

Aspiring chemical engineers only need a bachelor's of science degree, or B.S., with a major of chemical engineering, to get hired for entry-level positions after graduating. Master's and doctoral degrees are offered by some universities, but lab and real-world experience are also highly valued.

Bachelor's degree $94,350
Civil engineers Civil engineers

Future engineers can start preparing for their career in high school, but a bachelor's degree in civil engineering (or a subset of it, like structural engineering) is mandatory for entry-level work in this career. Classes in math, science, computer science, and mechanics are a part of the curriculum. Generally, a graduate degree is necessary for jobs with greater responsibilities.

Bachelor's degree $79,340
Environmental engineering technicians Environmental engineering technicians

Technicians should start preparing for this career in high school by taking classes in math and science. After earning a high school diploma, a student can enroll in college or technical school to receive training in their chosen field. An associate's degree is usually preferred by employers.

Associate's degree $45,350
Environmental scientists and specialists Environmental scientists and specialists Environmental scientists and specialists use their knowledge of the natural sciences to protect the environment and human health. They may clean up polluted areas, advise policy makers, or work with industry to reduce waste.' Bachelor's degree $63,570
Hydrologists Hydrologists Hydrologists study how water moves across and through the Earth’s crust. They can use their expertise to solve problems in the areas of water quality or availability.' Master's degree $75,530
Natural sciences managers Natural sciences managers

Natural sciences managers supervise the work of scientists, including chemists, physicists, and biologists. They direct activities related to research and development, and coordinate activities such as testing, quality control, and production.'

Bachelor's degree $115,730

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Ref: bls.gov
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