become an environmental engineer

What does a Environmental Engineer do?

An environmental engineer works to improve water and air pollution, recycling, public health, and waste disposal by using the principles of engineering chemistry, biology, and soil science to develop solutions to environmental problems such as unsafe drinking water or climate change. They also obtain, update, and maintain standard operating procedures and plans for environmental projects.

Watch a video to learn what an environmental engineer does.

How to Become an Environmental Engineer

Environmental engineers need a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering or a related field like chemical, civil, or general engineering. Programs include field studies, laboratory, and classroom time. Because employers also value practical experience, cooperative engineering programs are helpful where college credit is given for structured job experience.

Some universities and colleges offer a 5-year program where students ultimately earn a master’s degree. Graduate degrees are valuable for engineers, as they may have additional career opportunities in research. Some employers prefer hiring candidates that hold a degree from an accredited program, like the ABET, and an accredited program is normally necessary to become a licensed, professional engineer. High school students who may be interested in this career should take classes in physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics.

Job Description of an Environmental Engineer

Environmental engineers review, prepare, and update environmental investigation reports and design projects that help protect the environment. This includes operations that convert waste into energy. They also give the technical support necessary for environmental remediation projects and for legal actions.

An environmental engineer performs quality control checks, analyzes scientific data, and monitors environmental improvement programs. They inspect industrial and municipal facilities and programs to ensure compliance with environmental regulations. They also advise government agencies and corporations about clean-up procedures for contaminated sites. An environmental engineer can be found working in a variety of places, depending on the nature of their job task.

Environmental Engineer Job Posting

Let’s look at a job description posted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This job announcement is looking for a person to perform the following responsibilities:

  • Performs duties related to the review, investigation, and resolution of environmental contamination issues on civil, military, and ‘work for other agencies’ projects.
  • Investigates potential environmental remediation sites, analyzes results of investigations, and makes recommendations.
  • Prepares related products such as schedules, cost estimates, health and safety plans, scopes of work, chemical data acquisition plans, environmental investigation reports, design documents, and detailed contamination assessments.

This position was posted to run 08/02/2018 until 08/01/2019 with a salary range of $37,630 to $105,392 per year on (link opens in a new tab). is an official website of the United States government and part of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Environmental Engineer Career Video Transcript

Just about every large-scale human activity has an impact on the environment. Preventing damage and managing it when it does occur, is the job of environmental engineers. This is a career that combines practicality and creativity to keep air, soil, and water quality healthy and productive. Environmental engineers use research and design skills to manage waste treatment and pollution control efforts. They also use a variety of tools, and the latest technology, to find efficient ways to monitor environmental well-being. Since much of their work involves meeting government regulations, environmental engineers need to be experts at requesting permits and maintaining plans and procedures that insure others support the systems they put in place.

Environmental engineers divide their work between the office and the outdoors. They often do some traveling to collaborate with scientists and experts in law or business. Many work as consultants to help corporations and government agencies with the cleanup of contaminated sites. A master’s degree in environmental engineering or a related field is required for some positions, while other positions require only a bachelor’s degree. When this job is done well, the earth gains a little protection, so future generations can enjoy its bounty. Produced by CareerOneStop. CareerOneStop is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Environmental Engineers.

National Center for O*NET Development. 17-2081.00. O*NET OnLine.

The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.

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