Environmental Engineer

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Related roles: Water Resources Engineer (for water-related projects)


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Water Resources Engineer (for water-related projects)

Job Description

Environmental engineers research, design, plan, or perform engineering duties in the prevention, control, and remediation of environmental hazards (water, soil and air) using various engineering disciplines. Their work may include waste treatment, site remediation, or pollution control technology.

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Job satisfaction: Making a difference in the world and in the community.
  • Pay: Making a good solid salary.
  • Intellectually challenging: You are constantly challenging your brain and thinking of ways to solve problems.
  • Job Stability: There will always be a need for environmental engineers.
The Inside Scoop
Day in the Life
  • Schedule is predictable majority of the time: Either go into an office or go off site but it is scheduled and planned.   
  • Occasional “Fire drills“ diagnostic and trouble shooting skills: There are occasional phone calls from the technician in the field who discovers that something is broken/needs to be replaced. Have to brainstorm what it could be and fix the problem over the phone.
  • Regular meetings with team: other engineers, geologists, program managers to touch base with updates on a project.
  • Regularly talking on phone with field technicians who are the hands-on people doing the work in the field.
  • Lots of report writing: getting data from technician, analyzing the data and writing several reports that communicate to the agency the status of the projects.  
  • Types of reports: Findings of a study, ongoing report of water quality, proposal to do a different type of study.  
  • Go on site for remediation every so often.
Skills Needed on the Job
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Detail-oriented
  • Team-player: Will work with different people in different disciplines.
  • Innovative:  Should be looking for the next best practice.
Expectations/Sacrifices Necessary
  • Won’t become a quick millionaire: Pay is competitive but you won’t make a huge sum of money all at once.
  • My brain hurts!: You are always using your brain for your work so you have to be ON all the time.
  • Potential physical risks: Risk to exposure of things you are trying to clean up. However, there is rigorous safety training to work safe.
Organization Types
  • PRIVATE: consulting engineering working for companies (oil, gas, energy).
  • PUBLIC: government agencies that enforce and regulate policies, compliance.
Current Industry Trends
  • Less work in oil and gas.  
  • More work in erosion, air pollution, storm water, and hazardous waste sites.
  • Wastewater treatment is becoming a larger concern in areas of the country where new methods of drilling for shale gas require the use and disposal of massive volumes of water.
What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were young...
  • Liked taking things apart and understanding it, then putting it back together.
  • Liked shows on Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, and Science Network.
  • Cared about the environment.
  • Liked being outdoors and interacting with the environment.
2016 Employment
2026 Projected Employment
Education Needed
  • BS in Civil/Environmental Engineering is recommended.
  • EIT (Engineering in Training certification) is mandatory.
  • PE – Professional Engineering license (highly recommended after a few years of working)
  • Masters is not necessary; however, it is only worthwhile if you know exactly what you want to do with it. If you eventually want to be a technical expert or a professor, a Masters is highly recommended. 
Benefits of Certain Education and Certification
  • Paid more if you get a PE license .
  • Paid more if you go to 4 year university.
  • Highly recommend a 4 year university, and then you only need to work for 2 years to be licensed (PE).
  • If you don’t go to a 4-year college, you can still get licensed but you must work as an environmental engineer for 7 years before getting your PE license.
Things to look for in an University
  • Good engineering program
  • Accredited school, ranked.
  • The school values the engineering programs: Do they do good research? Who are their alumni? Good professors?
  • What is the faculty doing? Are they involved with projects, challenging work in the field? Are you interested in their work? Are there professionals that give guest lectures?
Top Educational Institutions
Things to do in High School and College
  • High School: Take challenging classes in math and science (AP level), read about the changes and challenges going on in the environment, join 4H and/or science clubs.
  • College: Join engineering group and mentoring program.
Education Stats
  • 3.5% with HS Diploma
  • 4% with Associate’s 
  • 49.2% with Bachelor's
  • 34.4% with Master's
  • 4.7% with Doctoral
Typical Roadmap
Environmental Engineer roadmap jpg
How to land your 1st job
  • Get a college summer internship.
  • Pass the EIT (Engineering in Training) exam and get the certification.
  • Research different companies and find what interests you and know what kind of company you want to work for.
  • Staffing agencies can also help you find a job.  
  • Network!
How to stay competitive and stay in the game
  • Join associations: American Society of Civil Engineers
  • Join the local chapter:  helps you network, monthly industry talks, seminars, field trips.
  • Volunteer: Engineers without Borders allows engineers to work on projects they wouldn't necessarily work on (better portfolio of work, diverse experience).
  • Knowledge is power: Attend seminars, webinars, and workshop to make sure you are up to date with what’s going on with the latest technologies and developments in the industry.
  • Be inquisitive: Who is leading the technology currently in the industry? What emerging technologies are there in the industry?
Qualities of those who climb the ladder and enjoy it
  • Hard-working: do more than what is expected, more than 40 hours.
  • Leadership: Come with a purpose and plan.
  • People skills: Network and get to know the people in your industry, attend events.  
  • Good at working in groups with difficult and different people.
  • Cares about the environment.
  • Loves calculations.
  • Loves the intricacies and science of things.
  • Loves challenging things, and solving a problem.
Plan B

Alternate careers: environmental law, public policy, regulatory work.


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Gladeographix Environmental Engineer


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Source: Interview, Bureau of Labor Statistics

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