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Water Engineer Careers

Do you have an interest in working around water? If yes, you should consider a career as a water engineer. Water engineers work on various projects, including flood defense schemes and sewer improvement programs. Therefore, it'll be your job to supervise the operation and maintenance of water and sewage infrastructures. You'll also monitor flood levels during periods when the risks of a flood are high. That's not all. You'll as well be monitoring the project budget and site workers and writing reports on each project. Plus, you'll be working on a construction site most of the time.

To be considered a good water engineer, you need to possess some vital skills. These skills include communications skills, team-working skills, problem-solving skills, IT skills, and good management skills. Also, you will need a degree in mechanical, chemical, or civil engineering, physical science, and geology. You'll make an average salary of $79,340 per year from this job.

What Does a Water 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 a Water 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
$81,515
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
5%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
12,550
Job Openings

Water Engineer Career Paths

Top Careers Before Water Engineer

Top Careers After Water Engineer

Teacher
6.9 %

What is the right job for my career path?

Tell us your goals and we'll match you with the rights job to get there.

Average Salary for a Water Engineer

Water Engineers in America make an average salary of $81,515 per year or $39 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $113,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $58,000 per year.
Average Salary
$81,515

Best Paying Cities

City
ascdesc
Average Salarydesc
San Francisco, CA
Salary Range98k - 153k$123k$122,843
Corvallis, OR
Salary Range79k - 122k$98k$98,407
Taylorsville, UT
Salary Range76k - 118k$95k$95,214
Bowie, MD
Salary Range72k - 110k$89k$89,312
Houston, TX
Salary Range69k - 109k$87k$87,123
Kearny, NJ
Salary Range67k - 104k$84k$83,934
$56k
$153k

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyascdescCompanyascdescStart DateascdescSalaryascdesc
Source Water and Emerging Contaminants Engineer
Source Water and Emerging Contaminants Engineer
Colorado State
Colorado State
03/06/2020
03/06/2020
$65,79603/06/2020
$65,796
Water Engineer
Water Engineer
Colorado State
Colorado State
01/24/2020
01/24/2020
$75,86401/24/2020
$75,864
Water Engineer
Water Engineer
Santa Clara Valley Water District
Santa Clara Valley Water District
01/16/2020
01/16/2020
$137,73801/16/2020
$137,738
Water Engineer
Water Engineer
Randstad
Randstad
01/16/2020
01/16/2020
$120,00001/16/2020
$120,000
Water Engineer
Water Engineer
State of North Carolina
State of North Carolina
10/30/2019
10/30/2019
$51,00010/30/2019
$51,000
See More Recent Salaries

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Water Engineer Demographics

Gender

male

78.2 %

female

16.5 %

unknown

5.3 %

Ethnicity

White

62.4 %

Asian

16.5 %

Hispanic or Latino

10.8 %

Foreign Languages Spoken

French

33.3 %

German

22.2 %

Spanish

11.1 %
See More Demographics

Water Engineer Education

Degrees

Bachelors

58.3 %

Masters

12.6 %

Certificate

12.6 %

Top Colleges for Water Engineers

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, MA • Private

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

2. Georgia Institute of Technology

Atlanta, GA • Public

In-State Tuition
$12,424
Enrollment
15,201

3. Cornell University

Ithaca, NY • Private

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

4. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, MI • Public

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

5. Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, NY • Private

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

6. University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, CA • Public

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

7. Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, MD • Private

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

8. Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, PA • Private

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

9. California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo, CA • Public

In-State Tuition
$9,816
Enrollment
21,047

10. University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$56,225
Enrollment
19,548
See More Education Info
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Internship
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Top Skills For a Water 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, 16.4% of water engineers listed infrastructure on their resume, but soft skills such as reading skills and writing skills are important as well.

  • Infrastructure, 16.4%
  • Cost Estimates, 10.2%
  • GIS, 10.2%
  • Water Quality, 8.4%
  • Treatment Facilities, 6.8%
  • Other Skills, 48.0%
  • See All Water Engineer Skills

Best States For a Water Engineer

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a water engineer. The best states for people in this position are California, Alaska, Nevada, and Louisiana. Water engineers make the most in California with an average salary of $109,442. Whereas in Alaska and Nevada, they would average $105,028 and $99,969, respectively. While water engineers would only make an average of $98,573 in Louisiana, 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. California

Total Water Engineer Jobs:
2,108
Highest 10% Earn:
$169,000
Location Quotient:
1.65
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. Nevada

Total Water Engineer Jobs:
80
Highest 10% Earn:
$152,000
Location Quotient:
0.87
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 Water Engineer Jobs:
280
Highest 10% Earn:
$146,000
Location Quotient:
1.54
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
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Top Water Engineer Employers

1. Arcadis
4.7
Avg. Salary: 
$67,961
Water Engineers Hired: 
31+
2. United States Army
4.0
Avg. Salary: 
$88,674
Water Engineers Hired: 
13+
3. AECOM
4.5
Avg. Salary: 
$69,652
Water Engineers Hired: 
13+
4. Carollo Engineers
4.5
Avg. Salary: 
$98,490
Water Engineers Hired: 
5+
5. Chevron
5.0
Avg. Salary: 
$137,065
Water Engineers Hired: 
4+
6. Jacobs Engineering Group
4.7
Avg. Salary: 
$71,774
Water Engineers Hired: 
4+
Updated October 2, 2020