How to Become an

Environmental Engineer

The complete career guide to be an Environmental Engineer: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $88,040
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 12.5%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Get to Travel
    Career Attribute

An environmental engineer typically plans, designs and executes steps in order to safeguard against environmental threats. Their expertise and skills are often required for pollution control, waste management and wastewater treatment.

Recommended Schools

What is an Environmental Engineer?


As an experienced environmental engineer, you would be performing the following tasks:

  • Collect, compile and monitor spatial or geographic data from various sources like aerial photographs, maps, field observation or satellite imagery.
  • Support the creation of regular correspondence and reports on data, work plans, client proposals, health and safety documents, budget estimates and purchase orders, in accordance with environmental regulatory standards.
  • Using advanced mathematical calculations and computer modelling, plan and implement a range of field-related work like groundwater monitoring, remedial system operations and maintenance, and supervision of external contractors and other assigned staff.
  • Compare findings to relevant research and regulations at the state, federal and local level to confirm compliance.
  • Enter and gather new geography data via direct input of information or utilizing tools like a digitizer for location coordinates, with longitude, latitude, map scales and topography.

Day In The Life

An environmental engineer spends most of their time applying their knowledge base to create and establish structures for the proper control of pollution or waste for the protection of public health. For instance, you will work on detailed processes and infrastructure for regulating pollution and waste, like clean-up, reclamation and wastewater management systems actions, stack scrubbers, etc.

The role also involves overseeing the coordination of different recycling and repurposing activities at manufacturing and mining sites, especially to ensure that all waste materials are handled correctly, and treated for disposal as required by environmental and health guidelines. Related to this, you may work as a contractor for several companies or industrial firms that want to ensure compliance with existing regulations for ongoing development or construction projects.

Providing advice on the environmental risks of building projects, making a note of applicable regulations during the planning stage, and performing inspections for compliance also fall under your purview. In addition, you will have to be articulate and communicate clearly to write environmental investigation reports that elaborate on key findings.

Work Schedule And Typical Hours

Timings for this job is full-time with frequent overtime due to looming deadlines. This role requires the individual to be comfortable working in a range of settings outside the conventional office. You must travel often depending on the assigned project conducting technical audits, and this includes after work hours on weekends and late evenings. Exposure to different weather conditions is also quite common from outdoors field work. However, meetings with other team members and planners would likely take place in an office.

Growth Of The Job

Employment of environmental engineers is expected to grow by 8 percent between 2016 and 2026, around the average rate for all occupations. With mounting concerns from state and local government bodies regarding water security and availability of resources, there will be greater push for professionals in environmental engineering.

In addition, there is greater focus on recycling waste materials like industrial wastewater, especially that from fracking for natural gas. Older employees retiring will open up more vacancies for young professionals in this sector. Individuals holding a postgraduate degree will get more preference for available positions.

Typical Employers

Most environmental engineers work in architectural, environmental design and engineering firms. Some are also employed in related sectors like management, land and property development, manufacturing, energy, science and technical consulting. Many also join positions in the local, federal and state government and executive agencies like the Environment Agency, in advisory and research roles.

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How To Become an Environmental Engineer

Environmental engineers usually hold a bachelor’s degree in a related subject such as environmental engineering, geology, chemical engineering or civil engineering. There are several undergraduate and graduate engineering programs that now offer concentrations in environmental engineering. Some of the topics you cover in a degree program include ecosystem processes, alternative energy technology, wastewater and water treatment, air quality control systems, statistical process controls, remediation technology, sustainability principles, etc.

Since practical experience is highly coveted, certain programs also give you the option of getting college credit for industry work experience. Client interaction and organizational skills are required to excel in this kind of role, for regular communication with technical professionals, clients, and regulatory officials. Further, knowledge and understanding of federal and state environmental regulations a plus.

Environmental Engineer Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range




High Range


National Hourly Wage

Low Range




High Range


How do Environmental Engineer salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Environmental Engineer's can make an average annual salary of $88,040, or $42 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $64,610 or $31 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #105 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming an Environmental Engineer. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Environmental Engineers

  • 5.9%   Doctorate
  • 28.7%   Masters
  • 53.3%   Bachelors
  • 2.7%   Associates
  • 3.7%   College
  • 5.3%   High School
  • 0.4%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Environmental Engineer job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 6,900 jobs for a total of 62,000 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 12.5% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #139 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally

What Companies Employ The Most Environmental Engineers

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Engineering services 15,300 3,500 4%
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 11,200 3,100 3%
State government, excluding education and hospitals 8,400 200 0%

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