A Career as an Environmental Engineer
If you’re thinking about pursuing a career in environmental engineering, congratulations! This fast-growing field is always in need of people who possess a unique combination of a scientific mind and a deeply caring heart for the environment. As more and more companies are becoming mindful of sustainability, the environmental engineering field continues to grow.
Let’s take a look at different career options for people with a background in environmental engineering.
Corporate Environmental Engineer
Average Salary: $57,000
An environmental engineer can work in a variety of different settings. Many environmental engineers work for large corporations, helping to ensure that factories and/or manufacturing plants are meeting legal environmental standards. Some environmental engineers work to help companies go above and beyond legal requirements, finding ways to change their products and procedures to reduce negative effects on the environment. Often, environmental engineers need to be budget savvy; companies may want to do the right thing and help the environment, but they need to do so within budgetary constraints.
In this career, it’s important to be flexible with your preferred workspace. Environmental engineers may spend some of their time outside, in the field, looking at problems and coming up with solutions firsthand. Some of their time is also usually spent giving presentations, meeting with executives, and working with a team to come up with plans to solve environmental problems.
Nonprofit Environmental Engineer
Average Salary: $58,000
There are many nonprofit organizations that focus on improving the health of the environment. Many of these organizations are privately funded through corporate and individual donors and hire environmental engineers to help solve difficult problems. Just as in a corporate setting, an environmental engineer in a nonprofit setting must work hard to come up with solutions to help the environment, while staying within budget.
Nonprofit environmental engineers typically have the freedom to identify problems they would like to fix, as well as to create solutions to solve these problems. In this field, engineers are likely to present their findings to board members who help fund the nonprofit organization.
Environmental Remediation Engineer
Average Salary: $64,000
Environmental remediation is a fairly new field. In environmental science, remediation is the process of removing contaminants and pollutants from soil and water, with the goal of returning these areas to their natural, non-polluted states. Typically, these pollutants have been left behind by companies/ factories that did not maintain environmentally friendly manufacturing practices. Some companies are held legally responsible for their actions, while others are not.
Whether or not companies are held responsible, the fact remains that someone needs to figure out how to clean up the mess that’s left behind. This job is difficult, and can even be dangerous. Environmental remediation engineers are experts in dangerous chemicals and their effect on the environment. In this job, engineers take special precautions to return natural areas to their pre-pollution state. It often takes months of careful planning to figure out how to remove pollution without doing further damage to the area.
Average Salary: $73,000
If you love the environment and being near the ocean, becoming a coastal engineer may be a good career choice for you. Coastal engineers specialize in the health of the coastline and the ocean.
A coastal engineer spends much of his or her time outdoors, surveying the health of the coastline firsthand. This is a job in which tasks can change quickly, as a once healthy coastline can transform rapidly due to an oil spill or other type of pollution.
Coastal engineers take into account the health of the water, plants, and animals on the coast. Many are hired by coastal cities to care for their beaches, while some are employed by construction companies that build near the coast. Special considerations exist for the construction of buildings near the ocean to ensure that wildlife and the landscape are not harmed. Construction companies depend on coastal engineers to guide their planning and building process to keep the ocean environment safe.
Coastal engineers are also looked to as experts on their area’s weather, storms, and wave patterns.
Wastewater Treatment Engineer
Average Salary: $73,000
Every day, households all over America use an incredible amount of water, for everything from doing dishes to flushing toilets. This water is contaminated, and needs to be treated to be made safe before it is returned to the environment. This is where wastewater treatment plays a significant role in an area’s environmental health.
When treating wastewater, there are a number of different factors for engineers to consider. They need to know what types of contaminants are typical for the wastewater in the area, and they need to conduct regular testing to find out current contamination levels. They need to study the safest, most effective ways to remove these contaminants from the water.
Wastewater treatment engineers also need to study the areas where the wastewater is returned to the environment in order to ensure that the treated water is not having a negative effect on plants and animals. Wastewater treatment plants are typically run by local and/or state governments.
Air Quality Engineer
Average Salary: $67,000
From gasses let off by farm animals to emissions from cars, trucks, and planes, contaminants make their way into the air we breathe every day. Air quality engineers work hard to discover ways to reduce the number of contaminants in the air, as well as to remove contaminants already there.
Air quality engineers may work for governmental regulatory agencies, private organizations, or consulting agencies. Air quality consulting agencies work with large companies to help them reduce the amount of pollution they are releasing into the air, especially if they are out of compliance with environmental laws.
Average Salary: $43,000
Wetlands engineers work to either maintain the health of wetlands or to improve the health of wetlands that have been damaged. Many animals depend on wetlands for their habitat and food, and it’s important that these inhabited areas are treated with care.
Wetlands engineers may be hired by the government, or by companies that are interested in building near a protected wetland. In this job, duties can differ from day to day. Some days are likely to be spent outdoors assessing the health of the wetland, while other days are spent inside, reporting on findings and developing new ways to help keep wetlands safe and healthy.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Environmental Engineer
Average Salary: $96,000
The EPA is the governmental organization responsible for protecting the environment in the United States. The EPA makes laws, rules, and regulations that companies and corporations must follow to keep the environment safe.
The EPA employs many environmental engineers. Tasks at the EPA can change from day to day; environmental engineers may perform random checks at companies in order to ensure that they are following environmental standards, or they may go to different areas of the country to do wellness checks on the environment. They also work to protect endangered animals, and they may investigate the environment of these animals to see what can be done to help increase their populations.
Average Salary: $32,000
Environmental educators may work in a variety of settings, including schools, museums, and outdoor education centers. Environmental educators may have a variety of backgrounds, including environmental engineering, biology, chemistry, environmental education, or environmental biology. In this career field, the day is often spent educating others on the importance of taking care of the environment. Some environmental educators travel to schools to teach young children about the importance of taking care of the Earth.
There are many different career opportunities for environmental engineers, and these opportunities multiply every year. As companies and governments commit more and more of their budgets to sustainability, they need people who are educated in how to best serve the environment.