What is an Environmental Engineering Degree?
Individuals seeking an environmental engineering degree typically possess a strong commitment to improving the condition of the environment using principles of biology and chemistry to solve and prevent environmental problems. Successful environmental engineering students tend to be detail oriented with strong backgrounds in math and science.
Careers in Environmental Engineering
Duties of professionals in this field vary according to the nature of the project and may include such areas as hazardous waste management, wastewater management, radiation protection, industrial hygiene or air pollution control. The opportunities for a career in environmental engineering are limitless and can provide a comfortable income, job security and personal satisfaction. The following examples are just a sampling of the wide array of careers available to the individual who holds an environmental engineering degree:
Professor of Environmental Engineering
Operator of a pollution control facility
Government regulatory agency official
Environmental planning/Landscape Architect
Sustainable energy engineer
Environmental Engineering Degree Levels
The majority of environmental engineering careers require at least a bachelor’s degree, though an engineer’s education is continuous and rarely ends at the undergraduate level. Successful environmental engineers need to remain current in the field and often must continue their education with graduate degrees and continuing education courses. Online environmental engineering degrees are often pursued by those who have already obtained an undergraduate environmental engineering degree and are seeking a master’s or doctorate’s degree in order to further their careers and remain current in the field.
Environmental Engineering degree programs primarily are offered at the bachelor’s and master’s level. Because of the necessary education level to succeed in the environmental engineering field, undergraduate certificate programs and Associate’s degrees are rarely offered.
Bachelor's Degrees in Environmental Engineering
An environmental engineering degree at the Bachelor’s level is generally the minimum requirement to obtain employment in the field of environmental engineering. Emphasis is put on math and science courses as well as classes specific to the field, such as environmental risk assessment, air pollution engineering, and principles of environmental engineering. Typically, an environmental engineering degree will take five years to complete, though some individuals may be able to finish the program in four.
Master's Degrees in Environmental Engineering
An environmental engineering degree at the Master’s level is pursued by those who already hold a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering or a related field of study. Courses typically include such classes as pollution control, management and protection of resources. The majority of master’s degrees take two years to complete. Online degree programs at the Master’s level have become a popular option for working professionals to advance their study without having to leave their jobs.
Certification and Licensure
Successful environmental engineers often obtain certification and licensure to become Licensed Professional Engineers. While the requirements often vary from state to state, they generally include an environmental engineering degree acquired from an accredited college or university, work experience and exam completion. Even after obtaining licensure, many states require a professional engineer to maintain licensure through professional development hours. Examples of these hours include:
Published articles, books and professional papers
Conference and seminar attendance
Continuing education or college credit hours
Participation in professional societies
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that careers in the environmental engineering field will increase dramatically over the course of the next decade. With the acceptance of the reality of climate change and an eagerness to find creative measures of tackling the environmental problems humans have created, environmental engineering has become a popular and rewarding field of study. As environmental concern and awareness steadily grows in the world, so too will the career opportunities for the individual who holds an environmental engineering degree.