Environmental Engineer

Career Information

Environmental Engineers
An environmental engineer tests the water quality of a river while another records the results. goodluz / 123RF

Job Description

An environmental engineer solves problems in the environment using her or his knowledge of engineering, soil science, chemistry and biology. His or her concerns include pollution control, recycling and public health issues.

Employment Facts

There were slightly more than 53,000 people employed in this occupation in 2012. Most work for engineering firms or management, scientific and technical consulting firms.

Local, state and the Federal government employs others.

Most jobs in this field are full time positions with overtime frequently required. Environmental engineers work in offices or outdoors depending on the project with which they are involved. They also present information and answer questions at seminars.

Educational Requirements

To become an environmental engineer one must typically earn a bachelor's degree in environmental engineering. Other acceptable degrees include general, civil or chemical engineering. Earning a degree from a program accredited by ABET (formerly known as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) can increase one's chance of getting hired. It is also required for licensing.

Why Do You Need to Know About Educational Requirements?

Other Requirements

Those who offer their services to the public must be licensed as professional engineers (PEs). Licensing is handled by individual states and you can find specific requirements on the Licensed Occupations Tool from CareerOneStop.

Generally, to become licensed, one must graduate from an ABET accredited program, take and pass a general engineering examination, get four years of experience and then pass a discipline-specific exam.

In addition to formal training and licensing one needs certain soft skills, or personal qualities, to succeed in this occupation.

Very strong critical thinking and problem solving skills are required. One must also have excellent reading comprehension skills. Good listening and speaking skills are also very important.


Entry-level environmental engineers work under the supervision of experienced colleagues. They begin to work independently as they gain experience. They may eventually become managers but must earn a master's degree to advance to this level.

Job Outlook

The future for environmental engineers is very promising. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment growth that will be faster than the average for all occupations through 2022.

Why Do You Need to Know About Job Outlook?


Environmental engineers earned a median annual salary of $83,360 in 2013 (US).

Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much an environmental engineer currently earns in your city.

A Day in an Environmental Engineer's Life

These are some typical job duties taken from online ads for environmental engineer positions found on Indeed.com:

  • Provide recommendations for maintaining and improving environmental performance.
  • Review environmental regulations and determine or seek assistance with applicability determinations.
  • Identify, assess and apply storm water best management practices for industrial, municipal and construction storm water programs.
  • Create and maintain environmental management systems to comply with air permits and air regulations.
  • Report all environmental incidents, including internal spills, external releases, potential permit non-compliances, regulatory inspections, or similar incidents to plant management.
  • Lead and/or support preparation and negotiation of permit applications.
  • Interface with regulatory agencies, prepare required documentation, schedule any required testing, and provide additional follow-up documentation as required.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Environmental Engineers, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/environmental-engineers.htm (visited April 14, 2015).

Employment and Training Administration, US Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Environmental Engineer, on the Internet at http://online.onetcenter.org/link/details/17-2081.00 (visited April 14, 2015).