Environmental Engineer: Career Profile

Sep 10, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an environmental engineer. Get a quick view of the requirements, as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensing, to see if this is the right career for you.

Environmental engineers require formal education, work experience, and licensure. Read this article for more information about these requirements, as well as career outlook, salary and typical job responsibilities for this field.

Essential Information

Environmental engineers devise solutions to issues involving pollution and public health, such as contaminated drinking water and acid rain. Becoming an environmental engineer requires a bachelor's degree and licensure to work with the public. This profession pays well and is expected to grow rapidly. Individuals who are interested in helping the environment and are skilled at math and science may consider becoming environmental engineers.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Licensure Requirements Pass Fundamentals of Engineering and Principles and Practice of Engineering exams
Job Outlook (2018-2028)* 5% growth
Median Salary (May 2018)* $87,620

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Environmental Engineer Profile

Environmental engineers devise solutions to issues involving pollution and public health, such as contaminated drinking water and acid rain. They must be able to identify hazards and create plans for containment. Environmental engineers often spend time in the field observing conditions and collecting samples to conduct tests on. Depending on their employer and career interests, they may work on local or international issues.

Environmental engineers must be efficient in math and science, primarily biology and chemistry. They may be employed by public or private companies. Individuals who work for government agencies may perform regulatory duties or ensure that guidelines are being followed. Environmental engineers work with other professionals including construction workers, city employees and other engineers.

Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), environmental engineering is expected to see a five percent growth in employment between 2018 and 2028, which is as fast as the national average. This growth may be primarily due to the increasing number of regulations regarding the environment.

Salary Information

According to the BLS, the average annual wage for environmental engineers in May 2018 was $87,620; the 10th percentile of workers earned $53,180 and the 90th percentile earned $137,090. The largest number of environmental engineers was employed in the industry of architectural, engineering and related services in 2018, per the BLS.

Education and Licensing Information

According to 2019 O*NET OnLine reports, 48% of environmental engineers had a master's degree, while 41% had a bachelor's degree. Environmental engineering programs require sequences in calculus and science as part of the non-engineering curriculum. The engineering track includes coursework in environmental processes, pollution and design. Some programs offer concentration areas, such as air quality, water resources and ecology. Prospective programs should be accredited by ABET, Inc., formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.

Individuals who wish to offer their engineering services directly for hire need to be licensed. Licensure requires passing two exams. The first is the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, which may be taken while an individual is still in school. After four years of work experience, individuals may sit for the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam to become a licensed professional engineer. Both the FE and PE exams have a version specific to environmental engineering.

There is an increasing need for environmental engineers as our effect on the environment needs to be addressed with more urgency. Engineers must complete post-secondary education, get four years of work experience, and pass a licensure exam. Once all of these requirements are completed, job security appears to be strong for the next ten years.

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