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Working as an Environmental Engineer

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.

Duties

Environmental engineers typically do the following:

  • Prepare, review, and update environmental investigation reports
  • Design projects that lead to environmental protection, such as water reclamation facilities, air pollution control systems, and operations that convert waste to energy
  • Obtain, update, and maintain plans, permits, and standard operating procedures
  • Provide technical support for environmental remediation projects and for legal actions
  • Analyze scientific data and do quality-control checks
  • Monitor the progress of environmental improvement programs
  • Inspect industrial and municipal facilities and programs in order to ensure compliance with environmental regulations
  • Advise corporations and government agencies about procedures for cleaning up contaminated sites

Environmental engineers conduct hazardous-waste management studies in which they evaluate the significance of a hazard and advise on treating and containing it. They also design systems for municipal and industrial water supplies and industrial wastewater treatment, and research the environmental impact of proposed construction projects. Environmental engineers in government develop regulations to prevent mishaps.

Some environmental engineers study ways to minimize the effects of acid rain, climate change, automobile emissions, and ozone depletion. They also collaborate with environmental scientists, planners, hazardous waste technicians, and other engineers, as well as with specialists such as experts in law and business, to address environmental problems and environmental sustainability. For more information, see the job profiles on environmental scientists and specialists, hazardous materials removal workers, lawyers, and urban and regional planners.

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$68,341
Job Growth Rate5%

Environmental Engineer Jobs

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 best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

View Detailed Information

Environmental Engineer Career Paths

Top Careers Before Environmental Engineer

Top Careers After Environmental Engineer

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Average Salary for an Environmental Engineer

Environmental Engineers in America make an average salary of $68,341 per year or $33 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $84,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $55,000 per year.
Average Salary
$68,341

Best Paying Cities

Average Salary
Salary Range67k - 99k$82k$81,828
Salary Range65k - 99k$81k$80,607
Salary Range65k - 92k$78k$77,863
Salary Range64k - 88k$76k$75,743
Salary Range60k - 85k$72k$71,877
Salary Range58k - 86k$71k$70,992
$45k
$99k

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyCompanyStart DateSalary
Environmental Engineer I, II or III
Environmental Engineer I, II or III
State of Nebraska
State of Nebraska
10/30/2020
10/30/2020
$50,79810/30/2020
$50,798
Environmental Engineer
Environmental Engineer
Indian Health Service
Indian Health Service
10/27/2020
10/27/2020
$39,14910/27/2020
$39,149
Environmental Engineer
Environmental Engineer
Aerotek
Aerotek
10/26/2020
10/26/2020
$50,00010/26/2020
$50,000
Environmental Engineer
Environmental Engineer
Manpowergroup
Manpowergroup
10/23/2020
10/23/2020
$90,00010/23/2020
$90,000
Environmental Engineer
Environmental Engineer
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
10/20/2020
10/20/2020
$65,76110/20/2020
$65,761
See More Recent Salaries

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Environmental Engineer Demographics

Gender

male

64.9%

female

29.3%

unknown

5.8%

Ethnicity

White

71.1%

Asian

12.4%

Hispanic or Latino

9.8%

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

52.3%

French

6.6%

Chinese

5.6%
See More Demographics

Environmental Engineer Education

Degrees

Bachelors

46.5%

Masters

41.1%

Doctorate

3.8%

Top Colleges for Environmental Engineers

1. University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, CA

Tuition and fees
$14,184
Enrollment
30,845

2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, MA

Tuition and fees
$51,832
Enrollment
4,550

3. Cornell University

Ithaca, NY

Tuition and fees
$55,188
Enrollment
15,105

4. Stanford University

Stanford, CA

Tuition and fees
$51,354
Enrollment
7,083

5. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, MI

Tuition and fees
$15,262
Enrollment
30,079

6. Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, NY

Tuition and fees
$59,430
Enrollment
8,216

7. Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, MD

Tuition and fees
$53,740
Enrollment
5,567

8. University of Washington

Seattle, WA

Tuition and fees
$11,207
Enrollment
30,905

9. Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, PA

Tuition and fees
$55,465
Enrollment
6,483

10. University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

Minneapolis, MN

Tuition and fees
$14,760
Enrollment
31,451
See More Education Info

Entry Level Jobs For Becoming An Environmental Engineer

Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

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, 10.7% of environmental engineers listed environmental compliance on their resume, but soft skills such as analytical skills and writing skills are important as well.

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, Washington, California, and Idaho. Environmental engineers make the most in Louisiana with an average salary of $80,383. Whereas in Washington and California, they would average $75,318 and $75,174, respectively. While environmental engineers would only make an average of $73,122 in Idaho, 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. Idaho

Total Environmental Engineer Jobs:
89
Highest 10% Earn:
$99,000
Location Quotient:
1.36
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. Washington

Total Environmental Engineer Jobs:
604
Highest 10% Earn:
$101,000
Location Quotient:
1.23
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. Louisiana

Total Environmental Engineer Jobs:
168
Highest 10% Earn:
$118,000
Location Quotient:
1
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
View Full List

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.

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

Learn How To Write an Environmental Engineer Resume

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

View Detailed Information

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Top Environmental Engineer Employers

1. Arcadis
4.5
Avg. Salary: 
$64,877
Environmental Engineers Hired: 
142+
2. AECOM
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$62,702
Environmental Engineers Hired: 
116+
3. CDM Smith
4.8
Avg. Salary: 
$66,049
Environmental Engineers Hired: 
116+
4. Carollo Engineers
4.3
Avg. Salary: 
$67,187
Environmental Engineers Hired: 
73+
5. Malcolm Pirnie
3.6
Avg. Salary: 
$68,528
Environmental Engineers Hired: 
68+
6. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
4.9
Avg. Salary: 
$56,532
Environmental Engineers Hired: 
63+

Environmental Engineer Videos

Recently Added Environmental Engineer Jobs

Updated October 2, 2020