careertrend article image
Nostal6ie/iStock/GettyImages

What Do Environmental Engineers Do?

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Helping Mother Earth

If you think that helping the environment is antithetical to a career as an engineer, think again. State, local and federal laws pertaining to clean air, water and soil must be enforced through testing and analysis, and this work falls to engineers, specifically, environmental engineers. Working mothers can serve as role models for their kids by showing them that it’s possible to earn a healthy salary and help the earth at the same time.

Job Description

An environmental engineer is a professional who uses engineering training and soil science, biology and chemistry to solve the country’s and the world’s environmental problems. Environmental engineers may be involved in improving recycling, regulating waste disposal, improving public health and controlling water and air pollution.

Think of environmental engineers as technological advisers whose job it is to assist with the issues of modern life on a crowded planet, such as land use, pollution, resource regulations and environmental laws. These professionals use engineering technology to develop sound solutions to these and other pressing issues. Their role makes them vital parts of the team that helps shape environmental public policy for current and future generations.

Education Requirements

You’ll need a college degree to get into the field of environmental engineering. Environmental engineers usually hold at least a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering or a related field such as mechanical, chemical or civil engineering. You may also want to earn a master’s or doctorate degree, which is required, especially for those who wish to join consulting firms or teach at a university level.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for environmental engineers is $84,890 per year. The term “median” indicates that half of all environmental engineers working in the country earn less than this amount, and half earn more. No data is available that suggests that environmental engineers with advanced college degrees earn more than those with bachelor’s degrees.

Relevant Industries

Environmental engineers work largely in the engineering services industry and as consultants. They also work for the state, local and federal governments, often for agencies.

Years of Experience

According to PayScale, the salary for this profession ranges for $48,256 to $95,181, with the average salary around $64,000. When you first start working in this field, you can expect around 9 percent less than this amount; after a few years’ experience, you can expect 12 percent more. Those with a decade of experience will earn 32 percent more than the average salary, while those with two or three decades of experience are likely to receive 59 percent more.

Job Growth Trend

Employment for environmental engineers is projected to grow 8 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Concerns at a state and local level about access to clean water will help fuel demand for these workers.