Become an Environmental Engineer


What do environmental engineers do? Many different things depending on the specialty. In general they do designing and planning and other engineering duties meant to prevent, control, and remediate environmental health hazards. Since that still may not explain much, let's look at some specifics.

Civil engineers design water supply and sewage systems, as well as roads tunnels and much more. An environmental engineer working in these areas would help create systems that are easier on the environment. She might also conduct studies to see what the impact would be of new parking pots on the surrounding environment.

If working for a mining company an environmental engineer would be responsible for designing systems that keep the company in compliance with laws and regulations regarding toxic chemicals, or contamination of water supplies from runoff. This could mean planning new holding ponds or establishing decontamination procedures.

In all the specialties you'll use the principles of biology and/or chemistry to develop solutions to environmental problems. Water and air pollution control are common areas you'll work in, as well as recycling, waste disposal, and public health. issues. In the private sector many environmental engineers work as consultants. They help clients comply with regulations, prevent environmental damage, and create plans for cleaning up hazardous wastes.

How Much Can You Make?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the average wage of environmental engineers as $77,040 annually. About 10% make over $115,000 per year. Wages vary by specific position, and by region as well. As I write this wages are highest (on average and according to the BLS) in New Mexico.

The BLS says of these jobs, "Starting salaries are among the highest of all college graduates."

Ways to Make More | Related Opportunities | Tips

Certainly you can look for areas where the pay is higher, but the biggest step you can take to make more money is to start your own environmental engineering firm in one of the more lucrative niches.

This is a good industry to get into at the moment. The BLS projects job growth to be at least as fast as all occupations for engineers in general, with faster growth for those in environmental engineering professions.

Qualifications / Requirements

Normally the least you'll need to get into this field is a bachelor's degree in engineering. Licensing of engineers who offer their services directly to the public is required in all states now as well. That typically requires a degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program, 4 years of relevant work experience, and completion of a State examination of some sort. Obviously then, you have to work as an employee for a while before you can do this as a self-employed operator.

There are also professional certifications you can get from professional societies. These can help if you are hoping for promotion to managerial positions or looking to get hired on by a firm that pays more.

General qualifications include an analytical mind, as well as decent math skills and communication abilities.

First Steps

This is a good job, but requires a lot of education, so talk to some people in the field to see if it is definitely something you are interested in doing. At that point you can start looking for environmental engineering graduate programs (see the resources below). When inquiring about these ask about job-placement help.

Resources - Lists environmental engineering graduate programs that are available all over the country. - Postings of all types of green jobs, including positions as an environmental engineer.

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