NatureWORKS Jobs: Environmental Engineer

Published aug. 13, 2015
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What do Environmental Engineers do?

"We study where there could be an impact on the environment or people's health, and then we create solutions to try and mitigate that impact." —Tamar Losleben to the National Science Foundation.

Listed as number 20 in the best jobs list created by CNN Money in 2012, environmental engineers are among the highest paid jobs related to green infrastructure, and the number of jobs is projected to grow at a faster rate than the national average. Environmental engineers are vital to the design and construction of green infrastructure initiatives. They study engineering principles related to bettering our environment and protecting nature and its resources and attempt to solve problems such as pollution and hazardous waste disposal. They work on a wide range of projects, such as:

  • Greenbelt design
  • Studies on the effects of pollution on the environment
  • Construction of "green" buildings
  • Design and management of water control systems
  • Inspection, evaluation, and reporting of environmental systems or pollution control methods

The specific tasks of an environmental engineer include:

  • Researching and reporting on issues such as air pollution
  • Designing systems meant to protect the environment, such as green infrastructure
  • Analyzing data and participating in quality control in processes like water treatment and other pollution solutions
  • Monitoring program progress
  • Advising governments and corporations on environmental policy

Environmental engineers often work in a multidisciplinary, team environment with other professionals such as environmental scientists, hazardous waste technicians, civil engineers, and more.

How do I Become an Environmental Engineer?

Environmental engineering—like other types of engineering—requires strong math and science skills and an interest in creative problem solving.[1] Those wishing to become environmental engineers must attend a four-year program at a college or university and obtain a Bachelor's degree in environmental or civil engineering. To qualify for professional licensure, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) must accredit a college's program. If the program is not accredited by ABET, graduates are not qualified to become Professional Engineers (PEs)[2]. However, even without a PE qualification, they can still work in the field of environmental engineering as engineering technicians or environmental sales engineers, among other careers.

Graduates from an accredited program may choose to become PEs through their state licensing board. All states have different exams and qualifications, but most require at least four years of experience working under the supervision of a professional engineer as well as a four-year degree.

It is also possible to obtain a Master's degree in Environmental Engineering. Those with a Master's degree have a higher earning potential as well as more potential for upward mobility toward positions such as Engineering Manager.

Environmental engineers most often work for independent engineering firms, consulting firms, and state governments. Those who work in the oil and gas industry sector tend to make the highest salary.[3]

Employment Information for Environmental Engineers

Job Growth: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for environmental engineers is expected to grow 15 percent from 2012 to 2022.

Earnings: On average, environmental engineers make $80,890 per year.

Other Resources

[1] The College Board. Career Profile: Environmental Engineers. Retrieved from:

[2] WorldWideLearn

[3] Salary and Career Info for Environmental Engineers