Environmental Engineer Career Facts

Environmental engineers are specialists that are exclusively concerned with practical environmental issues and problem solving. Their work is based on development of management systems and concepts for a vast variety of environmental situations, on national, regional and local levels.

The work environment

Environmental engineers work in multiple environments. Their work includes field and office work. These are some of the major areas of an environmental engineer's work:

  • Waste management systems: Sewage, garbage, etc.
  • Air pollution: Air quality monitoring systems, including methods and data analysis
  • Recycling systems: Methods of recycling, materials separation, handling, recycled products systems
  • Toxic waste: Special systems for dealing with chemical, biological, and other hazards
  • Industrial systems: Production, energy efficiency, emissions management, product waste issues
  • Environmental safety: The reduction and prevention of hazards in an environmental system
  • Oil spills: Recovery, damage control, spill monitoring
  • Wildlife protection: Creation of wildlife corridors, with things like road tunnels for wildlife
  • Carbon footprint issues: Broad based analysis and design of systems for identifying and minimizing carbon productions by human activity. 
  • Alternative energy systems: Wind, wave, hydro-electrical, solar, biological and geothermal energy sources.

Specializations in environmental engineering

The environmental engineer's multiple scenarios relate to forms of specialization in conventional engineering fields. A biological or chemical engineer, for example, is well suited to work in many of the above areas, because biology and chemistry are particularly important in environmental issues. An electrical or electronic engineer will work on the functional aspects of the systems involved in environmental testing, research, and the creation of environmentally friendly industrial processes and technology. A civil engineer is particularly well qualified to deal with planning and infrastructural issues in environmental areas. Architectural engineers design environmentally based buildings and sometimes communities. 

Environmental engineering adds new dimensions to all of these professional areas. The engineer's specialty develops in the context of environmental concepts and studies. This is a natural progression within their existing areas of expertise, although in many cases engineers undertake advanced studies in environmentalism.

The work itself often involves the development of whole new concepts in engineering and often helps turn environmental concepts into practical solutions to serious problems. Solar power, for example, was originally based on simple photovoltaic cells, with low yields and limited capacity. Environmental engineering has created vastly improved solar systems, which are now able to contribute power to national grids.

Wages

The typical salary for an engineer is $45,000 to $110,000. Income may also include consultation fees and project, contract or commission based fees.

Hours

The engineer will work standard hours and within variable field work, with additional time in consultation scenarios.

The career outlook

Environmental engineers work in one of the most rapidly expanding areas of engineering. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts an employment growth rate of 25% in the coming decade.