My name is James, and I'm an Environmental Engineer. I have been working in the field for the last 30 years at a major US Federal agency. You might be able to guess which one.
I am planning to write a series of posts on environmental engineering topics and thought I would start with an introduction to what environmental engineering is.
What Is Environmental Engineering?
Environmental engineering is a field of engineering dealing with understanding and minimizing mans impact on the environment as well as minimizing the exposure to the public of harmful pollutants.
There are many different areas of interest in environmental engineering including:
- Air pollution
- Waste water (sewage and industrial)
- Potable (drinking) water treatment
- Solid waste management (trash)
- Hazardous waste management (nasty liquid and solid waste)
- Storm water management
- Climate change
I am have been working in the air pollution field.
How Do You Become An Environmental Engineer?
Like other engineering fields, to become an environmental engineer you will need an engineering degree from an accredited University. I have a bachelors and a masters in Environmental Engineering from the University of Florida (Go Gators!).
As with most engineering fields a masters degree is not necessary however due to the breadth of sub-fields in environmental engineering a masters degree can help you focus on your area of interest.
Environmental Engineering is a relatively new engineering field and has grown out of multiple other engineering fields including Civil Engineering (building of water and waste water treatment plants), mechanical engineering, and chemical engineering.
What Types of Classes Do You Need to Take?
As with other engineering fields, the first two years of course work focuses on general math and science fields - calculus, physics, chemistry, and biology.
After you have the prerequisites completed you can apply to the college of Environmental Engineering to begin more engineering focused courses such as thermodynamics (the study of the movement of heat), and statics and dynamics (the study of forces) as well as environmental courses such as the Fate and Transport of Pollutants.
The majority of your bachelors course work is pre-determined by your college. They give you a list of classes you must take. However, there is little room for tailoring your studies while working on your Bachelors degree.
For me, I felt I needed to continue my studies and get a Masters degree in order to focus more on the sub-filed I was interested in (a decision made much easier by the full fellowship I was given).
What Kind of Jobs Are Available for Environmental Engineers?
As mentioned the field of Environmental Engineering is very broad and as such so is the job market. Jobs can be found in -
Many environmental engineers work in industrial plants to help them reduce their pollution and meet the ever growing regulatory requirements. Most industrial facilities will have an environmental manager who's responsibility is to make sure pollution controls are implemented and properly operated.
Environmental Engineers work in all levels of government. At the Federal level, Environmental Engineers work to understand and solve many of the most challenging environmental threats. Studies are done to understand the physical and chemical causes of pollution and evaluate the effectiveness of potential control strategies. Based on the findings of the studies, regulations may be developed to mandate pollution controls.
State and local government agencies also employ environmental engineers. In many ways, this is where the rubber meets the road. State and local agencies implement and Federal requirements and are often the first line of enforcement.
Consulting firms (often referred to as contractors) work for both Government and Industry to provide support on various short and long term environmental projects.
Because many environmental issues ultimately end up in court, many an environmental engineer has returned to school to get a legal degree. Lawyers with environmental engineering backgrounds are needed on both sides of the legal battles.
Is Environmental Engineering Right for You?
If you love math and science and are interested in helping protect the health and safety of our environment then Environmental Engineering may be something you should consider.
Environmental Engineering can be a rewarding profession - both financially and emotionally. It isn't hyperbole to say an Environmental Engineers job is to save the planet.
(Sorry LeoFinance folks, I tried to post this at STEMsocial but got an error).
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