Environmental Engineer

What Is An Environmental Engineer?

An environmental engineer is a person who applies science to the pursuit of making the world a safer place for humans and animals. Environmental engineering is like other engineering careers in that it combines the principles of mathematics and science to solve problems or create new products. The difference is the focus. Environmental engineers focus their work on environmental problems. Environmental engineering has many specialties, such as public health engineering, radiation protection, solid waste management, water supply engineering, and wastewater control.

What Do Environmental Engineers Do?

  • Research and discover methods to prevent, control and solve environmental problems in such areas as air pollution control, hazardous-waste, industrial hygiene and public health. For example, they might help figure out how to clean up an oil spill, or design a process to make coal burn more cleanly
  • Act as technical advisors to private industry
  • Coordinate a cleanup of hazardous waste sites
  • Research and analyze air pollution
  • Evaluate specific environmental risks
  • Work on water-purification systems wastewater projects, and garbage disposal and recycling plants
  • Advise clients on how to appropriately dispose of gas, oil, and other chemical compounds
  • Inspect public buildings, food processing plants, and transportation systems
  • Travel into space to explore new life-support systems, such as a closed-loop life support system in which water, oxygen, and food can be recycled and used

Where Do Environmental Engineers Work?

Often private industry employs environmental engineers to ensure a safe work environment for employees and to ensure that waste products are properly managed. The environmental engineer can work either on the inside or outdoors. Most jobs find the environmental engineer on the inside about 75 percent of the time. Private industry also employs environmental engineers to work on environmental issues of construction projects being done by other private companies.

The public sector employs environmental engineers as well. These positions are commonly in a natural resources/environmental protection division or related to an area's sustainable development.


A bachelor's degree in an engineering discipline, such as chemical, civil or petroleum engineering is a minimum requirement for an entry level position. A graduate degree may be required for a more advanced position. Anyone who plans to pursue a specialized career in environmental engineering and do research, or teach will need a master's degree.

Public awareness of a range of environmental issues is causing industry and government to do more to protect the environment by encouraging legislation. An environmental engineering career is in high demand because of these regulations and concerns over environmental quality.

For more information visit: The Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors

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