Thanks to advances in technology and a growing awareness of environmental issues, environmental engineering has become a popular career choice for those who want to make an impact on the planet.
Environmental engineers use concepts from engineering and various sciences to design projects aimed at improving environmental protection and health.
Environmental Engineering Careers: Education and Licensing Requirements
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), individuals need a bachelor's degree in environmental engineering or a related engineering discipline in order to qualify for a career in the field. Before pursuing a college degree, however, the BLS suggests several courses for students to take during high school, some of which are listed below:
Students who decide to pursue environmental engineering programs can learn practical information and technical knowledge on the many pressing environmental issues facing humanity. Specific concepts vary by program but often include the following:
- How to properly treat and dispose of waste water
- Water purification and reuse
- Hazardous waste disposal
- Air pollution control
- Dealing with contaminated groundwater and soil
Programs often include lab and field studies components. Students who want to do research and development or work as a university instructor can consider five-year programs that lead to both a bachelor's and master's degree. On the other hand, individuals who want to work as a technician who assist environmental engineers may only need an associate degree in environmental engineering technology or a related subject area.
The BLS states that all environmental engineers must be licensed as a professional engineer. Licensing requirements differ by state, but individuals typically must fulfill the following requirements:
- Earn a degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program
- Pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam
- Pass the Professional Engineering exam
- Gain relevant work experience
After becoming a licensed engineer, individuals can prove their expertise in a specific discipline of environmental engineering by becoming certified by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists.
Environmental Engineers: Career Outlook
Because of an overall increase in governmental and public interest in water conservation and treatment, the BLS expects environmental engineering careers to grow by 15 percent nationally between 2012 and 2022. Specific concerns include waste water treatment, contamination, and compliance with new environmental regulations.
Individuals with a master's degree in environmental engineering or another relevant graduate degree may have better employment prospects than those with just a bachelor's degree.
"ABET," Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, May 22, 2014, http://www.abet.org/
"AAEES Board Certification for Environmental Engineers," American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists, May 22, 2014 http://www.aaees.org/membership-boardcertification-environmentalengineers.php
"Environmental Engineering Technicians," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/environmental-engineering-technicians.htm
"Environmental Engineers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/environmental-engineers.htm