Environmental Engineer Vs. Environmental Scientist

Individuals who are interested in protecting the environment professionally may want to consider a career as an environmental engineer or an environmental scientist. The similarities and differences between these careers are discussed here.

Comparing Environmental Engineer to Environmental Scientist

Although environmental scientists and environmental engineers both focus on preventing and solving environmental issues, one profession uses a close analysis of environmental data to get the job done while the other is more involved in the design of technologies used to help protect our soil and water. More details about these two careers are outlined below.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary* (2016) Job Outlook* (2014-2024)
Environmental Engineer Bachelor's Degree $84,890 12%
Environmental Scientist Bachelor's Degree $68,910 for Environmental Scientists and Specialists 11% for Environmental Scientists and Specialists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Environmental Engineer vs. Environmental Scientist

Environmental scientists and environmental engineers both typically need at least a bachelor's degree to enter their career field. These professionals are concerned with preventing environmental damage and may be involved in developing strategies to clean up areas that have been polluted. However, environmental scientists are more focused on testing samples in order to identify areas that are polluted or are at risk of becoming contaminated. Environmental engineers typically focus on developing community systems and infrastructure and may work with urban and regional planners to help design ways to dispose of waste or treat water that are more environmentally friendly.

Environmental Engineer

The work of environmental engineers involves assessing how communities perform such tasks as recycling and then developing strategies to improve the process with the primary objective of preventing or reducing environmental damage. They may spend some of their time working in offices, but they may also spend time working at outdoor sites. A bachelor's degree in environmental engineering or a related engineering discipline is required, and a master's degree may be preferred by employers.

Job responsibilities of an environmental engineer include:

  • Review community waste disposal procedures
  • Meet with urban or regional planners to discuss environmental concerns
  • Conduct studies of specific environmental issues
  • Identify strategies to reduce or repair environmental damage
  • Make recommendations to the government or other professionals about environmental issues
  • Assess programs and adjust them as needed to improve environmental protection

Environmental Scientist

A bachelor's degree in environmental science or a comparable subject area is necessary to enter this career field. Environmental scientists use their skills to determine whether people or areas are at risk of being contaminated by pollution as well as how to prevent soil contamination or other environmental issues. Since environmental scientists must assess data to make conclusions or recommendations, the data they collect needs to be thorough. Many environmental scientists work for the government. While they spend much of their time working in laboratories, they may also work outside at locations that are being assessed.

Job responsibilities of an environmental scientist include:

  • Determine the most effective assessment methods
  • Gather environmental samples and test them
  • Document their test results
  • Identify the sources of pollution
  • Develop a strategy to treat polluted areas

Related Careers

Anyone interested in a career as an environmental engineer may also be interested in being an urban planner, since urban planners make recommendations that involve environmental concerns and can help protect the environment with their recommendations for community development projects. Those considering becoming environmental scientists may also be interested in working as an environmental technician, since environmental technicians are also involved in testing samples to determine if an area is polluted.

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