Environmental engineers work to develop solutions to problems such as air pollution, water supply, waste disposal, recycling, and public health issues. They regularly apply concepts in soil science, biology, chemistry, and engineering in their day-to-day work. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists these as some important duties for jobs in environmental engineering:
- Draft, review, and revise reports regarding environmental investigations.
- Design solutions for environmental issues, including air pollution control, water reclamation, and waste disposal and conversion.
- Perform quality-control checks, analyze scientific data, and monitor the progress of environmental improvement projects.
- Inspect a variety of facilities to ensure their meet regulations.
Those with environmental engineering careers work to address important global issues such as climate change, sustainability, conservation, and access to safe drinking water. They may help develop government regulations, advise developers on proposed construction projects, or work in research. Some large companies also employ environmental engineers to ensure, on their own end, that they meet all regulations and maintain sustainable practices.
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Becoming an Environmental Engineer
To qualify for entry level environmental engineering jobs you must have a bachelor's degree in this field or a closely related area of engineering, such as civil, chemical, or mechanical engineering. Internships or other practical experience gained while in school is also highly valued by employers. When looking for a program in this field, be sure to choose one that is accredited by ABET (the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology). Most employers will prefer to hire graduates of these type of programs, and it will be a requirement for those seeking certification as a licensed professional engineer.
Students studying environmental engineering will gain a solid foundation in mathematics and the natural sciences. Curriculums will include a combination of survey, seminar, laboratory, and field studies courses. Below are a few common classes you might expect to see with this type of degree program:
- Engineering Materials
- Sustainable Design
In addition to core classes, students will complete a range of design laboratory classes to gain hands on experience applying the theories and concepts they have learned. Some environmental engineers pursue their professional engineer license, which requires the completion of an ABET-accredited program, the passage of the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, relevant work experience, and the successful completion of the Professional Engineering (PE) exam. In some states, engineers will need to complete continuing education classes to maintain their licensure. Those who pursue careers in environmental engineering may also gain certification from the American Academy of Environmental Engineers after receiving their licensure.