Environmental Engineers Career Information
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Using the principles of biology and chemistry, environmental engineers develop methods to solve problems related to the environment. They are involved in water and air pollution control, recycling, waste disposal, and public health issues. Environmental engineers conduct hazardous-waste management studies, evaluate the significance of the hazard, offer analysis on treatment and containment, and develop regulations to prevent mishaps. They design municipal sewage and industrial wastewater systems. They analyze scientific data, research controversial projects, and perform quality control checks.
Environmental engineers are concerned with local and worldwide environmental issues. They study and attempt to minimize the effects of acid rain, global warming, automobile emissions, and ozone depletion. They also are involved in the protection of wildlife.
Many environmental engineers work as consultants, helping their clients comply with regulations and clean up hazardous sites, including brownfields, which are abandoned urban or industrial sites that may contain environmental hazards.
Most engineers work in office buildings, laboratories, or industrial plants. Others may spend time outdoors at construction sites and oil and gas exploration and production sites, where they monitor or direct operations or solve onsite problems. Some engineers travel extensively to plants or worksites.
Many engineers work a standard 40-hour week. At times, deadlines or design standards may bring extra pressure to a job, requiring engineers to work longer hours.
Environmental engineers held about 52,000 jobs in 2009. More than one-third worked in engineering and management services and about 16,000 were employed in Federal, State, and local government agencies. Most of the rest worked in various manufacturing industries.
Environmental engineers should have favorable job opportunities. Employment of environmental engineers is expected to increase much faster than the average for all occupations through 2014. More environmental engineers will be needed to comply with environmental regulations and to develop methods of cleaning up existing hazards. A shift in emphasis toward preventing problems rather than controlling those that already exist, as well as increasing public health concerns, also will spur demand for environmental engineers. Even though employment of environmental engineers should be less affected by economic conditions than that of most other types of engineers, a significant economic downturn could reduce the emphasis on environmental protection, reducing environmental engineers’ job opportunities.
Median annual earnings of environmental engineers were $57,780 in 2009. The middle 50 percent earned between $45,740 and $71,280. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,210, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $87,290. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of environmental engineers in 2006 were:
Engineering and architectural services $53,580
State government 53,210
Management and public relations 52,110
According to a 2009 salary survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, bachelor's degree candidates in environmental engineering received starting offers averaging $51,167 a year.
Related OccupationsEngineers apply the principles of physical science and mathematics in their work. Other workers who use scientific and mathematical principles include architects, except landscape and naval; engineering and natural sciences managers; computer and information systems managers; computer programmers; Computer software engineers; mathematicians; drafters; engineering technicians; sales engineers; science technicians; and physical and life scientists, including agricultural and food scientists, biological scientists, conservation scientists and foresters, atmospheric scientists, chemists and materials scientists, environmental scientists and hydrologists, geoscientists, and physicists and astronomers.
American Academy of Environmental Engineers, 130 Holiday Court, Suite 100, Annapolis, MD 21401. Internet: http://www.aaee.net