Environmental engineers apply science and engineering principles in order to improve the environment, remediate polluted sites, and provide healthier air, land and water for human habitation. Environmental engineers manage air and water pollution, waste disposal, recycling and public health issues. They do this through an extensive knowledge of environmental engineering law and the study of resource management.
Environmental engineering is a synthesis of multiple disciplines which include agricultural engineering, biology, civil engineering, ecology, chemistry solid waste, hydrogeology, statistics, public health, hazardous waste management, waste water management and solid waste management.
The average salary of the environmental engineer is dependant on several factors which include the industry in which they are employed and the geographical location of their employment. Overall, the top ten percent of environmental engineers have an average income in excess of $115,750 per year. The bottom ten percent of environment engineers have an average income of $47,660 per year and the middle ten percent have a median salary of $77.040 per year.*
Environmental engineers who are employed in the architectural industry have a median income of $82,980 per year and those employed in the technical consulting industry have a median income of $81,690 per year. Those working for state government have a median salary of $66,470 per year, while those working for the federal government have a median salary of $96,410 per year.*
The wages of environmental engineers are also dependant on where they are located. Environmental engineers working in the state of New Mexico have the highest median income which fall in the top ten percent and exceeds $95,410 per year. Other states with high published wages for environmental engineers include New Mexico ($95,910 per year), District of Columbia ($95,440 per year), Maryland ($88,110 per year), Hawaii ($87,170 per year) and California ($86,340 per year).*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Job Description and Outlook
Environmental engineers perform a number of duties which include evaluating hazardous waste sites, advice on treatment and containment of contaminants and developing regulations to prevent future mishaps. Environmental engineers may also design industrial waste water treatment systems and municipal water systems. They may also address local and global problems concerning issues such as acid rain, ozone depletion, groundwater contamination and air pollution from industrial sources.
Due to the increased concerns over environmental management, jobs in the environmental industry are expected to increase at a rate of ten percent over average for the next ten years. Environmental engineers are also increasingly receiving better compensation packages which may include life insurance, health insurance, retirement plans and paid vacations.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Training and Education Requirements
Most of the college degree programs in this field exist at the bachelor’s and master’s level. While there are some associates degrees in environmental engineering, they are less common and don’t result in employment in the field.. To gain employment as a environmental engineer, at least a bachelor’s degree is needed by the applicant. A bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering places significant emphasis on math and science, as well as courses that are specific to the field. Examples of these courses include environmental risk assessment, waste water management, principles of environmental engineering and air pollution engineering. A bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering generally takes five years to complete, though some students are able to complete it in four.
Some universities offer environmental engineering as a supplementary program to a bachelor’s degree in chemical, civil or mechanical engineering. Under these circumstances, students earn a degree in another branch of engineering while taking a minor in environmental engineering.
A master’s degree in environmental engineering requires that the applicant first have a bachelor’s degree in engineering, or in a related field such as science. Courses vary from university to university, but generally depend on courses in pollution control, water quality, protection of resources and environmental management. A master’s degree takes approximately two years to finish and many students pursue a master’s degree while working in the industry.
It is strongly recommended that environmental engineers obtain their Licensed Professional Engineers Certificate. The requirements for this certificate varies from state to state, but generally involves graduation from an accredited engineering program, completion of two exams and experience in the field. When the license is obtained, the applicant is known as a Professional Engineer.
Environmental engineers must also maintain licensure through completion of professional development hours. Professional development hours include participation in professional societies, continuing education credits, published professional works or books, and seminar attendance. The amount of professional development hours that are needed each year varies from state to state.
There are several professional associations that offer certification and support to environmental engineers.
- Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (http://www.abet.org/)
- Air & Waste Management Association (http://www.awma.org/)
- American Academy of Environmental Engineers (http://www.aaee.net/)
- American Institute of Chemical Engineers (http://www.aiche.org/)
- American Public Health Association (http://www.apha.org/)
- American Public Works Association (http://www.apwa.net/)
- American Society of Civil Engineers (http://www.asce.org/)
- National Society of Professional Engineers (http://www.nspe.org/)
- Solid Waste Association of North America (http://www.swana.org/)
- Water Environment Federation (http://www.wef.org/)