Environmental engineers apply the principles of engineering and the earth and life sciences, such as soil science, chemistry, and biology, to solve environmental problems. They develop ways to control pollution, dispose waste, improve recycling and better the public's health. Duties of an environmental engineer typically include:
Authoring environmental reports
Leading environmental protection projects, such as air pollution control systems and waste-to-energy conversion programs
Overseeing environmental improvement plans
Inspecting facilities for compliance with environmental standards and regulations
Advising businesses and agencies on contamination clean up
Secure and maintain environmental permits
Environmental engineers usually work in offices but also spend time on site when they are overseeing active construction projects. Similar occupations include civil engineer jobs, hydrologist jobs, and chemical engineer jobs.
Like other engineering jobs, environmental engineering requires a bachelor's degree in the discipline or a related field, such as civil, general, or chemical engineering. Practical experience is invaluable in this field, which is why many programs offer cooperative engineering programs in which students earn college credit for structured work experience. Certain schools allow students to complete five-year programs which award a bachelor's and master's degree in environmental engineering upon completion. Engineers who graduate from programs accredited by ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) can also obtain a license, which significantly enhances employability.
Environmental Engineering Job Market
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the United States had 53,200 environmental engineering jobs in 2012, and that number will increase by 8,100 in the next ten years. That represents a 15 percent expected growth rate, which is faster than the national occupational average. Heightened concern among local and state governments about water usage will drive growth in the sector, as governments increasingly turn to environmental engineers for water usage efficiency solutions. Stricter regulation will also drive demand for the profession, as environmental engineers help utilities and water treatment facilities comply with new laws.
Environmental Engineering Job Salary Information
In 2013, the BLS reported a median salary of $85,520 for environmental engineers. Those in the highest earning 10 percent of the profession made $122,690, while those in the lowest earning 10 percent made $49,730. Environmental engineers working in the oil and gas extraction industry made the most, earning $132,970, and those working in wholesale electronic markets had the second highest median salary, earning $110,900. Those working for state governments made the least, earning $73,340. The top paying states for this occupation in descending order are New Mexico, Texas, Alaska and Washington, D.C.