Due to the hands-on nature of the field of environmental engineering, fully online programs are rare. While students can complete some of the courses online, the lab component of the program is typically required to be completed on campus; however, this can be done during the summer semester. Students may also be required to complete proctored exams. Additionally, since professional engineering licensure is recommended for environmental engineers, students will want to look for online programs that are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).
To become licensed as a professional engineer, ABET-accredited bachelor's holders must pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, complete relevant work experience (typically about four years) and pass the Professional Engineering exam. To maintain licensure, environmental engineers must complete continuing education requirements.
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Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Engineering
Students enrolled in undergraduate environmental engineering programs learn how to apply engineering strategies to manage environmental resources, such as water, air, land and soil. Such programs focus strongly on the sciences, with students delving deeply into chemistry, physics and biology. Students may also learn concepts in waste management, urban planning and pollution control. Graduates learn to interpret data related to environmental engineering, as well as to design and conduct their own experiments.
Program Information and Requirements
Online bachelor's degree programs in environmental engineering typically take 4-6 years to complete. Because undergraduate engineering classes often require lab components, few environmental engineering programs are offered completely online. Some programs may offer all classroom component courses online, and only require students to attend on-campus lab component courses.
List of Common Environmental Engineering Courses
Environmental engineering courses teach students engineering design and how to use computer-aided design programs, such as AutoCAD, to communicate ideas. Students also receive a strong background in physics and analytical skills.
Students learn the basics of statistics and probability. They learn to recognize and interpret correlations, test hypotheses and apply probability distribution functions.
Students typically learn the history, basic concepts and important developments of civil engineering. They may apply this knowledge by coming up with their own designs and communicating their ideas through computer software applications.
This mechanics course teaches students how forces interact with static objects. Students learn how to solve equilibrium equations, how to analyze and create their own free body diagrams and how to apply the concepts of statics to engineering.
This mechanics course focuses on moving bodies and how forces interact with these bodies. Students use calculus to analyze motion and apply their findings to real-life engineering situations.
This course teaches students how to analyze and design transportation systems. Topics covered include pavement design, traffic forecasting and transportation planning. Mathematical models are used in the analysis and improvement of transportation systems.
A four-year degree in environmental engineering prepares graduates to take on most entry-level jobs in environmental engineering. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) expected environmental engineering jobs to increase about 12% during the 2014-2024 decade. Per the BLS, the average environmental engineering salary was $88,040 in 2015.
Continuing Education Information
Students who wish to pursue higher education in environmental engineering after earning their bachelor's degree may decide to enroll in a graduate certificate program, or in a master's degree program. Unlike bachelor's degree programs, some graduate programs in environmental engineering are offered fully online. Students who choose to enroll in a certificate program may later be able to apply those courses toward earning a master's degree.
Fully online bachelor's degree programs in environmental engineering are rare, but are more common in a hybrid format with an on-campus lab component as students study topics like dynamics, civil engineering and statistics. Graduates of these programs can work in entry-level positions in environmental engineering, or may choose to pursue a graduate degree or certificate.