How to Become an Environmental Engineer

With the push for a green economy and more green jobs worldwide, a career as an environmental engineer is one of the fastest growing engineering careers with opportunities growing at a faster than average rate.

Education and Training

An environmental engineer will possess an undergraduate degree in engineering, usually one specifically for environmental engineering. Once the undergraduate degree is completed, most engineers work for a year as an engineer in training and then apply to become a professional engineer.


The American Academy of Environmental Engineering offers specialty certification in the following areas: General Environmental Engineering, Air Pollution Control, Hazardous Waste Management, Industrial Hygiene, Environmental Sustainability, Solid Waste Management and Water Supply and Waste Water Engineering.

You can also apply to become a Board Certified Engineer, though you need a minimum of eight years as a professional engineer before applying to become Board Certified. You will also need to be an engineer in good standing, possess experience which qualifies you to become Board Certified and pass an examination. The application, examination and renewal all require that the applicant pays a fee to receive the special designation.

Basic Tasks

Environmental engineers usually work in four main areas: public health, pollution, waste management and recycling. In these areas an environmental engineer will review plans and documents, be engaged in testing and examine plans and proposals for new projects. They will also measure the impact of existing projects, calling on their training as engineers and their knowledge of biological sciences to make recommendations. Depending on your field of expertise, you will also be consulted on construction projects.

Work Schedule

Most environmental engineers work full-time, forty hours a week, most often in an office setting, though they will occasionally travel to the job site. Many environmental engineers work as consultants, so there may be periods that are slower than others, whereas some periods can be quite hectic, possibly requiring overtime as well as additional travel time.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nationwide average for environmental engineers is $69,940 per year, which is similar but slightly higher than mechanical engineers and civil engineers.

Different Types of Environmental Engineers

Environmental engineers that investigate water and air pollution will look at the impact of emissions on air and water quality, the effect on plants and animals and their habitats.

Waste water environmental engineers will determine how to deal with human waste and its impact on the environment. They will be involved in testing, making recommendations and employing technology to limit or mitigate the effect of waste. They will also assist in the design and maintenance of waste facilities and containers.

Air quality managers will assess the impact of combustion on the environment and their role is to reduce the effect of air pollutants on the environment. Many of these engineers are employed by manufacturers or companies that extract and refine resources, such as oil and gas companies, to help the company reduce the emissions from their manufacturing processes.

Some environmental engineers will also work for non-profit associations or government, reviewing applications and grant proposals to determine if they are feasible in the area and their cost and impact.