What You'll Do
By Sarah Stevenson
Employment growth continues to ramp up in the green jobs sector, and environmental engineering is one field in which the opportunities for a rewarding career just keep multiplying. Environmental engineers use scientific and technological principles to prevent or repair harm to the environment, complying with federal and local regulations in the process. They address a range of environmental problems from the broad to the highly specialized, including waste management and disposal, recycling, pollution control, public health and land management.
The American Academy of Environmental Engineers reports that training in environmental engineering opens up job opportunities in any area of environmental protection, but the specific opportunities available may change depending on the priorities of governmental policy and public interest. The industries that most frequently employ environmental engineers include the following:
- Architectural and engineering services
- Scientific and technical consulting services
- Federal, state and local government
- Universities and testing laboratories
The type of work available in environmental engineering is just as diverse, with common job tasks encompassing research and data analysis, regulatory compliance, equipment or systems design, and management. Some environmental engineers determine the effects of construction projects on air, water and wildlife, while others help clean up hazardous waste. Still others work to ensure a clean public water supply and adequate wastewater treatment. Essentially, environmental engineers help to improve the quality of life on both a local and global scale.
Degrees & Schools
- Associate's Degree in Environmental Engineering: While a bachelor's degree is the minimum education required to start work as an engineer, 2-year associate's degree programs are available in environmental engineering technology and related fields. An Associate of Science (AS) or Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree prepares you to work in support of licensed environmental engineers.
- Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Engineering: The majority of environmental engineering jobs require a 4-year degree in the field, or in a related field such as civil, chemical, or mechanical engineering. These may be Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelor of Engineering (BEng) degrees, depending on the program.
- Master's and Doctoral Degrees in Environmental Engineering: An increasing number of employers prefer master's degree holders for jobs as environmental engineers. Master of Science (MS) degrees are usually in environmental engineering or environmental science, and may include concentrations in specialty areas such as hazardous waste management. A doctoral degree provides even more specialized and in-depth knowledge, making you competitive for a wider range of job opportunities.
- Online Environmental Engineering Degrees: Currently, the most frequently-offered option for online degree programs in environmental engineering is a Master of Science. Some online bachelor's and associate's degrees are available in related fields such as civil engineering, environmental science or environmental engineering technology.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2018-19 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for environmental engineers is $84,890. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.