Environmental Engineering Careers








$80.890 /yr

$38.89 /hr

All Stats from BLS.gov

An environmental scientist needs to have a solid grounding in topics such as soil science, chemistry, biology, and engineering to develop solutions to often-profound environmental issues. As an environmental engineer, you might be involved in improving a recycling system, developing an environmentally friendly waste disposal system, controlling air and water pollution, or developing solutions to improve public health.

Environmental Engineer Job Description

Environmental engineers often perform environmental investigations, frequently on-site, taking samples and analyzing them in the field or in a lab. They also may design major reclamation projects or work for a construction company in securing and maintaining permits and assuring compliance with local and national environmental laws. They may also perform quality control assessments and oversee the progress of various programs.

Some environmental engineers work in the manufacturing industries, ensuring environmental compliance and designing systems to make compliance easier and more cost-effective. Others may serve an advisory role for either companies or government agencies in reclaiming contaminated sites and designing solutions to various environmental problems.

These days, most environmental engineers work in some level of government.

How to Become an Environmental Engineer

Entry-level environmental engineering jobs require at least a Bachelor’s degree. While a specific focus on environmental engineering is not required, it can be helpful; other useful degree subjects include chemical, mechanical, and civil engineering.

Employers in this field are particularly likely to value hands-on experience as well as education. As a result, aspiring environmental engineers are best served by finding a college that provides hands-on job experience, such as an internship or structured employment component, as part of their program.

Master’s level degrees are also useful, mainly if you want to teach at the academic level or become involved in research and development. There are some five-year programs available in which you can earn both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in environmental engineering or a related field.

When choosing an environmental engineering program, it’s best to look for one accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
This accreditation is sometimes required in order to earn your license.

Generally, you are not required to be licensed; however, it is strongly encouraged. A professional engineering (PE) license is preferred by most employers. To earn a license, you will need to graduate from an ABET-accredited program, pass the required exams, and have undergone a certain number of hours of professional experience.

Generally, you can take the first part of the licensing exam after graduation. Once you pass the first licensing exam, you will have earned an Engineer-in-Training (EIT) or Engineer Intern (EI) designation. After you have had a chance to earn the required number of work hours, you can take the second exam to earn your full professional license.

In most states, you will need to earn a certain number of continuing education hours per year in order to maintain your license. The number of hours required varies on a state-by-state basis.

After you earn your license, you are eligible to earn a Board certification from the American Academy of Environmental Engineers. This is not required, but it is a very highly regarded qualification. To qualify to test for certification, you must be a fully licensed environmental engineer with a full-time job in the field, as well as at least eight years of hands-on experience.

For more information, see: Board Certified Environmental Engineer (BCEE) qualification

Online Education and Environmental Engineering

To get licensed and certified, you will usually need to graduate from a program that is ABET-accredited—whether it is a traditional or accredited online degree]. You can search for specific programs in the ABET database.

Environmental Engineer Salary

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, environmental engineers averaged about $78,740 in take-home pay as of 2010. Those in the lowest tenth percentile earned under $48,980, while those in the highest income brackets earned about $119,060.

Environmental Engineering Job Outlook

Environmental engineering jobs are predicted to grow 22% in the next ten years, according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook. A large amount of that growth is expected to be in the government sector, particularly in areas dealing with contaminated site cleanup and wastewater treatment.

Environmental Engineering: Pros and Cons

While there are fairly stringent expectations for licensure and certification, this profession has a surprisingly low education barrier for a career in the hard sciences. Licensure and certification are very helpful to your career—more and more employers look for them—but hands-on experience is still highly valued. In addition, the pay is high and the job outlook is predicted to be stable—making this career a good bet in the long run.


Jobs for Environmental Engineers: