Environmental Engineers

What Environmental Engineers Do

Environmental engineers use the principles of engineering, soil science, biology, and chemistry to develop solutions to environmental problems.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSxcetMCZZ0

Work Environment

Environmental engineers work in a variety of settings because of the nature of the tasks they do. When they are working with other engineers and urban and regional planners, environmental engineers are likely to be in offices. When they are carrying out solutions through construction projects, they are likely to be at construction sites.

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, which provide college credit for structured job experience, are valuable as well.

Pay

The median annual wage for environmental engineers was $88,860 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Employment of environmental engineers is projected to grow 3 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. State and local governments’ concerns regarding water availability and quality should lead to efforts to increase the efficiency of water use. 

Environmental engineers use the principles of engineering, soil science, biology, and chemistry to develop solutions to environmental problems. They work 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 or air pollution control systems
  • 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, urban and regional 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.

Environmental engineers held about 55,800 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of environmental engineers were as follows:

Engineering services 26%
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 20
State government, excluding education and hospitals 13
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 7
Federal government, excluding postal service 6

Environmental engineers work in a variety of settings because of the nature of the tasks they do:

  • When they are working with other engineers and with urban and regional planners, environmental engineers are likely to be in offices.
  • When they are working with businesspeople and lawyers, environmental engineers are likely to be at seminars, presenting information and answering questions.
  • When they are working with hazardous materials removal workers and environmental scientists, environmental engineers work at specific sites outdoors.

Work Schedules

Most environmental engineers work full time. Those who manage projects often work more than 40 hours per week to monitor the project’s progress, ensure that deadlines are met, and recommend corrective action when needed.

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of environmental engineers.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2019

Chemical engineers

Chemical Engineers

Chemical engineers apply the principles of chemistry, biology, physics, and math to solve problems that involve the use of fuel, drugs, food, and many other products.

Bachelor’s degree $108,770

Civil engineers

Civil Engineers

Civil engineers design, build, and supervise infrastructure projects and systems. 

Bachelor’s degree $87,060

Environmental Engineering Technicians

Environmental engineering technicians carry out the plans that environmental engineers develop.

Associate’s degree $50,620

Environmental Scientists and Specialists

Environmental scientists and specialists use their knowledge of the natural sciences to protect the environment and human health.

Bachelor’s degree $71,360

Hydrologists

Hydrologists

Hydrologists study how water moves across and through the Earth’s crust.

Bachelor’s degree $81,270

Natural Sciences Managers

Natural sciences managers supervise the work of scientists, including chemists, physicists, and biologists.

Bachelor’s degree $129,100

For more information about environmental engineers, visit

American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists

For more information about education for engineers, visit

American Society for Engineering Education

For more information about accredited engineering programs, visit

ABET

For more information about becoming licensed as a professional engineer, visit

National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying

National Society of Professional Engineers

For more information about engineering summer camps, visit

Engineering Education Service Center

CareerOneStop

For a career video on environmental engineers, visit

Environmental Engineers

O*NET

Environmental Engineers

Water/Wastewater Engineers


Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Environmental Engineers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/environmental-engineers.htm (visited ).