What Does An Environmental Engineer Do?

"Growing up where I have, I’ve always been upset by the way the environment is treated. I have thought for a long time that I want to do something about it when I grow up, but I don’t want to go into politics or activism or anything like that. I really love engineering, and recently I heard someone mention that his uncle works as an environmental engineering. I wondered if this would be a way for me to combine the two things that I care about most—engineering the environment. What do environmental engineers do? Could this be the career I’ve been searching for?"

asked by Matt from Newark, NJ

You sound like you are the perfect candidate for a career in environmental engineering, which combines the two pursuits most important to you: the health of the environment, and the field of engineering. Environmental engineers (sometimes known as ecological engineers) apply their knowledge of science and engineering to solving a wide range of problems for human living in a way that protects the environment. We can start talking about what environmental engineers do by discussing the courses you will be studying as an environmental engineer. The knowledge you gain from your degree will be used in solving problems in the field.

When you study environmental engineering, you will be taking classes in engineering, soil science, chemistry, and biology. If you are still in high school now, I suggest getting a head start by taking as many classes in those subjects as you can. When you go on to an accredited four- or five-year environmental engineering degree, you will learn advanced knowledge in these fields, and also pick up problem-solving and interpersonal communication skills that are essential to the work of an environmental engineer. Now let’s talk about what that work entails.

Protecting Environmental Stability in a Changing World

We live on a planet where our population is growing swiftly. It is becoming more and more crowded, and human needs are becoming challenging to meet. On top of that, we have already done a great deal of damage to the environment through our industrial processes. Each year, industries throughout the country create billions of tons of waste which is potentially hazardous not only to the ecology, but to human health.

Now federal, state, and local governments are starting to recognize how severe the need is to protect our environment from further damage and also clean up and replenish the environment in areas where we have already caused damage. At the same time, we still need to provide environmental solutions for human problems that are only continuing to grow.

As an environmental engineer, you would be hired to provide those human solutions in such a way that the environment does not suffer. The majority of environmental engineers are employed by federal, state, and local governments to just that end. If you become an environmental engineer, you would come up with engineering solutions which utilize natural resources efficiently, preserving nonrenewable resources, and causing minimal damage. Sometimes businesses also employ ecological engineers to help them to comply with state, local, and federal regulations protecting the environment.

Job Duties of an Environmental Engineer

If you become an environmental engineer, you may find yourself in any one of a number of different job roles, regardless of the area of work you are in. Here are some typical examples of environmental engineering job duties which may be applicable in various project areas:

If these job duties and areas of work sound exciting to you, you may find a career as an environmental engineer to be a rewarding and profitable one. Invest in your future now by taking classes in science, engineering, mathematics, and communication, and plan to take an accredited four or five year university program in environmental engineering. Once you graduate, you will be able to start your important work of protecting the environment while providing efficient energy and wastewater solutions!

Career Spotlight: Environmental Engineer

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