Environmental health engineering, more commonly called environmental engineering, deals with measuring and minimizing human impact on the environment. Degrees in environmental engineering are offered at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels. Online options can also be found at undergraduate and master's level. Students complete hands-on research projects, along with classroom lectures and labs. These programs can lead to careers in water resource management, hazardous waste management, environmental consulting and more.
Prerequisites for environmental health engineering include a high school diploma or GED. Entry to graduate levels requires an undergraduate degree and possibly GRE scores. Practical experience may also be required in some cases.
Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering
Bachelor of Science (B.S.) programs in environmental engineering cover topics like air and water pollution, recycling, garbage disposal, public health and energy conservation. Students research past climate change and forecast future environmental issues. Much of the coursework emphasizes research and statistical methods used to understand environmental data.
Environmental engineering students must be competent in advanced math and science, including calculus, chemistry, physics and biology, so taking high school Advanced Placement (AP) classes in those subjects is helpful. Applicants are usually required to submit their scores on either the ACT or SAT Reasoning Test.
Students in environmental engineering B.S. programs listen to classroom lectures and complete hands-on research projects to learn to quantify and lessen humankind's effect on the environment. Environmental engineering courses discuss the following topics:
- Solid mechanics
- Fluid mechanics
- Thermal science
- Pollution control
- Organic chemistry
Master of Science in Environmental Engineering
Students in environmental engineering Master of Science (M.S.) programs learn about controlling indoor and outdoor air quality, preventing and managing natural resource wastage, controlling erosion and creating effective urban infrastructures. Students at the master's level often choose a specialty, such as groundwater and geo-environmental studies, wind and hydraulics engineering, atmospheric science or water resources. Most programs require students to present a thesis project before graduating.
Applicants to environmental engineering M.S. programs need to have excellent skills in reasoning, mathematics, science and research. Incoming students must have a bachelor's degree in a subject related to environmental studies or the natural sciences. Most applicants also have to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and submit at least one letter of recommendation.
Curricula for environmental engineering M.S. programs emphasize how natural and human-made phenomena affect the environment. Students conduct research in their areas of specialty to learn how people can have a positive effect on their physical surroundings. Classes in the following subjects are offered:
- Water resource management
- Geotechnical engineering
- Infrastructure design
- Climate change management
- Erosion prevention
Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Engineering
People who earn a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in environmental engineering learn advanced theories and research methodologies used to explain how the environment changes over time. Coursework often blends instruction from several fields, including the natural sciences, engineering, law and the humanities, to help students understand the interdisciplinary nature of environmental health. Students usually have to write and orally explain a dissertation.
Environmental engineering Ph.D. program applicants usually need to submit their undergraduate transcripts, GRE scores, letters of recommendation and a personal statement. Admissions officers usually seek well-rounded students who've completed extensive science and engineering coursework and have excellent communication and research skills.
Most Ph.D. students meet with an academic adviser to choose an area of emphasis within the field. Once students complete a core curriculum of environmental engineering topics, they take a series of specialized courses to prepare for their dissertation. Students often learn about the subjects noted below:
- Green construction
- Environmental impacts of urban infrastructures
- Environmental informatics
- Industrial ecology
- Environmental policymaking
Popular Career Options
While many master's degree students continue their education at the doctoral level, those who enter the workforce have a variety of career options. Graduates can work for the government, private agencies or independently in one of the following capacities:
- Vehicle emissions research assistant
- Global warming research assistant
- Environmental health consultant
After graduating from an environmental engineering B.S. program, students can find entry-level work in the public or private sectors. Graduates often choose to work in one of the fields noted below:
- Industrial hygiene
- Hazardous waste management
- Public health
People who earn a Ph.D. in environmental science are qualified for many consulting, teaching and research positions. The careers mentioned in the following list are popular choices:
- Environmental lobbyist
- Climate change researcher
- University professor
Available degree programs for students wishing to study environmental health engineering include bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels. Common courses across each level include organic chemistry, water resource management and hazardous waste management.