What is an Environmental Engineer

Environmental Engineers strive to create solutions for environmental problems created by pollution and the exploitation of natural resources. They combine knowledge from engineering, biology, chemistry, and soil science, in an attempt to re-establish the sustainable balance of our environment.

As an environmental engineer, your tasks will vary based on your setting. When working on urban or regional planning, you might use an office, do field research on location, or work at construction sites when implementing solutions.

To set out on this career path, you will need a degree or complete a cooperative engineering program, which provides you academic credit for work experience. On average, you will make around $88,860 per year, but more importantly, you will have a profession that allows you to make a difference.

What Does an Environmental Engineer Do

Environmental engineers use the principles of engineering, soil science, biology, and chemistry to develop solutions to environmental problems. They are involved in efforts to improve recycling, waste disposal, public health, and water and air pollution control. They also address global issues, such as unsafe drinking water, climate change, and environmental sustainability.

Learn more about what an Environmental Engineer does

How To Become an Environmental Engineer

Environmental engineers must have a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering or a related field, such as civil, chemical, or general engineering. Employers also value practical experience. Therefore, cooperative engineering programs, in which college credit is awarded for structured job experience, are valuable as well.

Education

Entry-level environmental engineering jobs require a bachelor’s degree. Programs include classroom, laboratory, and field studies. Some colleges and universities offer cooperative programs in which students gain practical experience while completing their education.

At some colleges and universities, a student can enroll in a 5-year program that leads to both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. A graduate degree allows an engineer to work as an instructor at some colleges and universities or to do research and development, and some employers prefer candidates to have a master’s degree.

Students interested in becoming an environmental engineer should take high school courses in chemistry, biology, physics, and math, including algebra, trigonometry, and calculus.

Many engineering programs are accredited by ABET. Some employers prefer to hire candidates who have graduated from an accredited program. A degree from an ABET-accredited program is usually necessary for a person to become a licensed professional engineer.

Important Qualities

Imagination. Environmental engineers sometimes have to design systems that will be part of larger ones. They must be able to foresee how the proposed designs will interact with other components of the larger system, including the workers, machinery, and equipment, as well as with the environment.

Interpersonal skills. Environmental engineers must be able to work with others toward a common goal. They usually work with engineers and scientists who design other systems and with the technicians and mechanics who put the designs into practice.

Problem-solving skills. When designing facilities and processes, environmental engineers strive to solve several issues at once, from workers’ safety to environmental protection. They must be able to identify and anticipate problems in order to prevent losses for their employers, safeguard workers’ health, and mitigate environmental damage.

Reading skills. Environmental engineers often work with businesspeople, lawyers, and other professionals outside their field. They frequently are required to read and understand documents with topics outside their scope of training.

Writing skills. Environmental engineers must be able to write clearly so that others without their specific training can understand their plans, proposals, specifications, findings, and other documents.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Licensure is not required for entry-level positions as an environmental engineer. A Professional Engineering (PE) license, which allows for higher levels of leadership and independence, can be acquired later in one’s career. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs). A PE can oversee the work of other engineers, sign off on projects, and provide services directly to the public. State licensure generally requires

  • A degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program
  • A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
  • Relevant work experience, typically at least 4 years
  • A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam

The initial FE exam can be taken after one earns a bachelor’s degree. Engineers who pass this exam are commonly called engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs). After meeting work experience requirements, EITs and EIs can take the second exam, called the Principles and Practice of Engineering.

Several states require continuing education in order for engineers to keep their licenses. Most states recognize licensure from other states if the licensing state’s requirements meet or exceed their own requirements.

After licensing, environmental engineers can earn board certification from the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists. This certification shows that an environmental engineer has expertise in one or more areas of specialization.

Advancement

As beginning engineers gain knowledge and experience, they move on to more difficult projects and they have greater independence to develop designs, solve problems, and make decisions. Eventually, environmental engineers may advance to become technical specialists or to supervise a team of engineers and technicians.

Some may even become engineering managers or move into executive positions, such as program managers. However, before assuming a managerial position, an engineer most often works under the supervision of a more experienced engineer. For more information, see the profile on architectural and engineering managers.

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Average Salary
$66,995
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
5%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
19,893
Job Openings
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Environmental Engineer Career Paths

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Average Salary for an Environmental Engineer

Environmental Engineers in America make an average salary of $66,995 per year or $32 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $88,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $50,000 per year.
Average Salary
$66,995
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Environmental Engineer Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming an Environmental Engineer. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

Learn How To Write an Environmental Engineer Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Environmental Engineer resumes and compiled some information about how to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

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Environmental Engineer Demographics

Environmental Engineer Gender Statistics

male

64.9 %

female

29.3 %

unknown

5.8 %

Environmental Engineer Ethnicity Statistics

White

71.3 %

Asian

14.9 %

Hispanic or Latino

7.4 %

Environmental Engineer Foreign Languages Spoken Statistics

Spanish

52.3 %

French

6.6 %

Chinese

5.6 %
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Environmental Engineer Education

Environmental Engineer Majors

Environmental Engineer Degrees

Bachelors

75.3 %

Masters

16.3 %

Associate

4.4 %

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Associate
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Master's
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Top Colleges for Environmental Engineers

1. University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$14,184
Enrollment
30,845

2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$51,832
Enrollment
4,550

3. Cornell University

Ithaca, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,188
Enrollment
15,105

4. Stanford University

Stanford, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$51,354
Enrollment
7,083

5. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, MI • Private

In-State Tuition
$15,262
Enrollment
30,079

6. Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$59,430
Enrollment
8,216

7. Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, MD • Private

In-State Tuition
$53,740
Enrollment
5,567

8. University of Washington

Seattle, WA • Private

In-State Tuition
$11,207
Enrollment
30,905

9. Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, PA • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,465
Enrollment
6,483

10. University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

Minneapolis, MN • Private

In-State Tuition
$14,760
Enrollment
31,451
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Online Courses For Environmental Engineer That You May Like

ISO 14001:2015 Environmental management system
udemy
4.4
(2,493)

How to implement an Environmental Management System and obtain ISO 14001:2015 certification...

Environmental Pollution Events and Emergency Response Introduction
edX (Global)

This course uses case studies and seminars to explore the occurrence of and responses to major environmental emergencies both at home and abroad, such as the Rhine River pollution incident, the Songhua River pollution event, the London smog episode, the Beijing haze pollution event and the Tianjin explosion accident. The background, causes, ecological restoration measures, accountability mechanisms, emergency response measures and ecological and environmental impacts of major environmental...

Environmental Hazards and Global Public Health
coursera

The second course of the Impacts of the Environment on Global Public Health specialization will explore a number of different environmental hazards. These are: air pollution, water pollution, solid and hazardous waste, and two physical hazards (radon and noise). These hazards each have the potential to harm human health, and we will explore how you may come into contact with these hazards and how they may harm you, as well as what we can do to minimize these exposures and health impacts. We will...

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Top Skills For an Environmental Engineer

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 10.2% of Environmental Engineers listed Environmental Compliance on their resume, but soft skills such as Imagination and Reading skills are important as well.

12 Environmental Engineer RESUME EXAMPLES

Best States For an Environmental Engineer

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as an Environmental Engineer. The best states for people in this position are Louisiana, California, Oregon, and Washington. Environmental Engineers make the most in Louisiana with an average salary of $85,693. Whereas in California and Oregon, they would average $81,566 and $77,998, respectively. While Environmental Engineers would only make an average of $77,344 in Washington, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Washington

Total Environmental Engineer Jobs:
642
Highest 10% Earn:
$103,000
Location Quotient:
1.49
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. California

Total Environmental Engineer Jobs:
2,393
Highest 10% Earn:
$116,000
Location Quotient:
1.39
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Oregon

Total Environmental Engineer Jobs:
275
Highest 10% Earn:
$104,000
Location Quotient:
1.12
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
Full List Of Best States For Environmental Engineers

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Top Environmental Engineer Employers

What are the best companies to work for an Environmental Engineer?

Jack Puleo Ph.D.

Professor and Chair, University of Delaware

Best can be arbitrary. Overall, the job market seems strong with positions in oil companies, government, and the engineering industry.Show more

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