What does an environmental engineer do?
Environmental engineers occupy a variety of positions related to public health and the environment. Combining an extensive knowledge of biology and chemistry, environmental engineers design water supply systems and wastewater treatment systems, assist in the management and prevention of air and water pollution, evaluate the environmental impact of current and planned construction projects and industrial sites, work towards limiting the effects of emissions and global warming, and consult with companies regarding environmental regulations and responsibilities.
Environmental engineers are also crucial to hazardous waste management and prevention. Some environmental engineers specialize in hazardous waste management and provide services such as testing and evaluating hazardous waste, determining the best ways to contain and treat the waste and recommending regulations to assist in the prevention of future hazardous waste issues.
What kind of training does an environmental engineer need?
Most entry-level environmental engineer jobs require a bachelor degree in environmental engineering. Undergraduate environmental engineering programs place a heavy emphasis on math and science, including courses in algebra, trigonometry, calculus, physics, chemistry and biology. Aside from general core curriculum courses, environmental engineering majors will be required to complete an extensive engineering curriculum, including courses focused on environmental engineering.
Environmental engineers who provide services to the public must be licensed in the state in which they intend to work. The first step of the licensing process, the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam, can be completed directly after graduation. This exam is administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), which also administers the second exam, the Principles and Practice of Engineering Exam. The second exam is required for full licensure as an engineer and can be taken after state licensing requirements have been met. This generally includes completion of an Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET)-approved degree program and four years working in the engineering field.
What are the prospects for a career as an environmental engineer?
As of 2006, there were approximately 54,000 environmental engineers working in the United States. Environmental engineering career opportunities are expected to expand by 25% by the year 2016, which is considerably faster than the average rate of growth expected for other engineering fields and the average rate of growth across industries. This growth will come as a result of a growing population, the need to manage current environmental hazards and prevent new problems, and a growing focus on both public health and environmental issues. (1)
How much do environmental engineers make?
Entry-level environmental engineer salaries vary depending on level of experience and education, geographical region and additional certifications obtained. The base salary range for environmental engineers with the entry-level title of Environmental Engineer I is $41,574 to $61,290, with most environmental engineers at this level making between $46,430 and $56,750. Median salaries, based on geographical region are $53,300 for the Northeast; Middle Atlantic, $53,400; South, $49,200; Midwest, $49,700; and West, $52,600. (2)
Students who are interested in working to protect wildlife and the environment, or improving public health through environmental clean up and prevention of new issues, will enjoy going into the field of environmental engineering.