How to Become an Environmental Engineer
What is environmental engineering? Environmental engineering is the branch of engineering that protects others from the harsh environmental effects, such as pollution. This specialist engineer strives for a cleaner environment by using biology, soil science, and chemistry. Continue reading this complete guide for educational requirements, salaries, and more for environmental engineers.
Our society wouldn’t be the same without manufacturing and mining; however, these things create a lot of pollution. Environmental engineers are involved in maintaining and updating procedures, improving public health, and improving waste disposal. There are notable leaders in this career field including G.D. Agrawal and Ellen Henrietta Swallow Richards. Those who are interested in helping the environment and have an impact on the future may consider becoming an environmental engineering technician.
What Does an Environmental Engineer Do?
Environmental engineers use chemistry, mathematics, and biology to prevent hazards from impacting the environment. These technicians prepare, update, and maintain environmental investigation reports and plans. They also analyze data, perform inspections, monitor progress, and design projects that aid in protecting the environment. Some are even involved in toxic clean-ups. They use a wide variety of tools including:
- Biofiltration water treatment systems
- Radiation detectors, computers
- Air quality monitoring
- Oil-in-water monitors
- Volatile organic compound analyzers
- Groundwater monitoring equipment
- Industrial equipment
- Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation
- Water quality testing instruments.
The most common software that is useful for this career may include Matlab, Microsoft Excel, Geographical Information System (GIS), Land Use Evolution and Impact Assessment Model (LEAM), and Statistica. A few qualities of a successful environmental engineer include:
- Being a critical thinker
- Great communication skills
- Analytical skills
- Ability to work in a group environment
- Attention to detail,
- Judgment and decision-making
- No fear of getting dirty
- A strong work ethic
Key Duties & Responsibilities
Environmental engineer roles and responsibilities vary and can primarily include overseeing pollution control and waste management activities, staying up-to-date with water, waste, and air regulations, and generating environmental reports.
Junior Environmental Engineer Job Description
A junior environmental engineer is an entry-level position. This professional works under the supervision of a senior-level engineer. Their key responsibilities include:
- Assisting senior engineers in the development of design plans, environmental reports, data analysis, and engineering calculations
- Learning federal and state environmental regulations
- Preparing operation and maintenance plans, and sampling and analysis plans
- Fieldwork such as; surface water, soil, groundwater sampling, and air monitoring
- Working with the project team
- Evaluating remedial progress of water, air, soil, and waste
- Participating in engineering team meetings, project meetings, and training events
- Interpreting and presenting data
Senior Environmental Engineer Job Description
Senior environmental engineers lead several different projects for their organization. They work with facilities to guarantee that their projects meet all the specifications by the government. Key responsibilities for a senior environmental engineer include:
- Working with different staff and offices to organize and arrange projects
- Reviewing contaminated sediment remedial design and construction components including; drawings, design specifications, and cost estimates
- Training, mentoring and helping with environmental engineering issues
- Preparing regulatory compliance submissions, proposals, and project reports
- Assigning and managing work
- Managing and mentoring of junior staff
- Building and maintaining trusted client relationships
- Working independently and in a team setting
- Leading tasks and projects
- Excellent communication, both written and verbal
Where Do Environmental Engineers Work?
Environmental engineers normally work in an office with other engineers. However, they also travel to sites to gather samples. Some research in an industrial plant, while others research in a lab. Needless to say, the environmental engineer work environment can vary greatly. Most environmental engineers work a normal 40 hour week. However, deadlines and projects may bring extra stress, causing some engineers to work more hours. Environmental engineering career paths may lead to employers from different industries including consulting engineering firms, government and regulatory agencies, and non-profit environmental organizations.
What is the Average Environmental Engineer Salary?
Those looking to pursue a career in his field may be wondering: How much do environmental engineers make? According to the BLS in May 2018, the median salary for an environmental engineer was $87,620. Different factors can change your base pay including; location, employer, years of experience, and degrees. For instance, the median pay for an environmental engineer working for the Federal government is $105,410 per year. Whereas, the median pay for State government engineers is closer to $80,370 annually.
Entry Level Environmental Engineer Salary
The entry-level environmental engineer salary is approximately $56,408 per year. This is $27.12 an hour. In general, the lowest 10 percent earn less than $53,180, compared with the top 10 percent who earned more than $137,090.
Environmental Engineering Salary With Masters
The average salary for a senior environmental engineer with a master’s degree is around $94,269 annually. This is close to $48.30 an hour.
Environmental Engineering Job Outlook
The employment of environmental engineers is reported to increase five percent in the next 10 years (between 2018-2028). Overall, the environmental engineering career outlook is growing at an average rate. Opportunities are likely to increase, as more and more companies are “going green”, which is, in turn, creating a stronger market for this career.
Environmental Engineer Education Requirements
Typically, the minimum education level that employers look for in a candidate is a relevant college degree – usually at least a bachelor’s. You may want to earn your master’s in environmental engineering to advance into a senior-level position. Others may consider an environmental engineering graduate program like a Ph.D. or doctorate.
How long does it take to become an Environmental Engineer?
The first step in becoming an engineer is getting your bachelor of environmental engineering – which typically takes about 4 years. It is strongly encouraged for ambitious young professionals to get their master’s degree, and these days there are plenty of options for online masters in environmental engineering. Some accredited training programs offer a five-year educational program to obtain a Master’s degree. It’s not required, but it is encouraged. Environmental Engineering Master’s programs will take about 1 to 3 years to complete, and a doctoral degree will take about five to six years to complete. To advance to the senior level, most positions look for at least four years of relevant work experience.
Environmental Engineer High School Recommendations
High school students who are interested in this profession should take classes including biology, mathematics, trigonometry, calculus, physics, chemistry, and algebra. Finding a high school internship is important, too. This helps you to get a little more experience in the field. It also looks great on a resume. Environmental Engineering internships for high school students can also allow you to figure out if this is the field you truly want to go into. A great way for you to stand out is to find an internship or get involved in extracurricular activities. Try volunteering for a non-profit organization, enrolling in a summer program or college classes, finding a paid internship, or job shadowing someone in a relevant field.
When it comes to choosing between environmental engineering courses, there are many options to consider. You can even enroll in an online environmental engineering degree program. There are many options for choosing an environmental engineering major. Some recommended environmental engineering programs include:
- Environmental Science & Climate Change: Learning through the lens of climate change adaptation and mitigation, this program allows students to step into enriching careers that make a difference. In addition to the core scientific studies, this bachelor’s degree helps to improve critical thinking, analytical skills, and communication skills.
- Sustainable Energy Management: With a heavy emphasis on experiential and outdoor learning, rigorous studies at all levels of scientific inquiry, and small lab sections taught by nationally recognized professors, this program equips students with the skills needed to solve the world’s most pressing environmental problems.
- Environmental Policy, Law, and Society: This degree offers an extraordinary mix of environmental science and social science learning—providing students with exceptional pre-law training and the knowledge to speak articulately and intelligently about environmental issues.
- Earth & Environmental Science: This degree empowers students fascinated by the formation, evolution, and monitoring of the physical landscape–and to pursue their passion with hands-on experience.
Additional Certifications and Licenses
Typically, entry-level environmental engineering requirements don’t include any specific licenses. A necessary license for higher levels of leadership is a Professional Engineering license (PE). Licensures typically requires a passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, generally four years of relevant work experience, and a degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program.
- PE Licensure (NSPE): The NSPE provides its members with information and resources they need to earn and maintain the PE seal, whether they are already licensed or soon-to-be licensed.
- FE Exam (NCEES): The FE is typically the first step in becoming a professional licensed engineer (P.E.). It’s for recent graduates who are close to finishing an undergraduate engineering degree from an EAC/ABET-accredited program.