What Environmental Engineers Do
Environmental engineers use the principles of engineering, soil science, biology, and chemistry to develop solutions to environmental problems.
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.
The median annual wage for environmental engineers was $88,860 in May 2019.
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.
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:
|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.
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.
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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 ).