Applicants need at least a bachelor's degree in environmental engineering or a related field, as well as GRE scores. Program lengths vary, but 60-72 credit hours of study above the bachelor's degree level are common. Ph.D. programs include comprehensive examinations. Many programs require first-year students to pass a qualifying examination that tests their overall knowledge of environmental engineering. Additional oral and written exams focus on a student's area of study. Students are typically required to work as teaching assistants at least once.
Doctorate in Environmental Engineering
These programs teach students how to apply engineering principles to issues that affect the health of the environment and the human population, and students work with advisers to select portions of their curriculum. The capstone requirement for a Ph.D. program is the doctoral thesis, which is a work of original research. Students complete this requirement in the second half of a program, and a significant number of credits are devoted to it. The following lists contains course topics that may be found in an environmental engineering Ph.D. program:
- Probability and statistics
- Environmental engineering research
- Special issues in environmental engineering
- Environmental molecular biology
- Environmental system dynamics
- Aquatic chemistry
Popular Career Options
While many environmental engineering Ph.D.s work as instructors and researchers in academia, they may also work in traditional engineering jobs. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that, besides traditional engineering service firms, many environmental engineers work in consulting services or for government organizations at all levels (www.bls.gov). The career options available to environmental engineers include:
- Air pollution engineer
- Water quality engineer
- Hazardous waste remediation engineer
- Wind energy engineer
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
From 2014-2024, environmental engineers should see a 12% increase in job opportunities, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That growth projection was faster than the average for all occupations at that time. Environmental engineers earned an annual mean salary of $88,040 as of May 2015, the BLS reported.
Individuals with Ph.D.s may consider becoming licensed professional engineers. The process to becoming licensed requires individuals to pass two exams and earn four years of work experience. Once licensed, individuals must meet continuing education standards to maintain eligibility. Additional certifications in environmental engineering are offered through professional organizations such as the American Academy of Environmental Engineers or the National Registry of Environmental Professionals. These certifications may include education and work experience requirements.
Students interested in both engineering and the environment might consider applying to a Ph.D. program in environmental engineering. These programs provide a foundation in core environmental engineering principles through coursework, research, and independent study.