Last Updated on July 31, 2023 by Oluwajuwon Alvina
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Environmental engineering degree requirements
Few people defend the environment and safeguard public safety as staunchly as environmental engineers. These scientific-minded professionals oversee pollution control, hazardous waste management, environmental sustainability, and water quality, among other important elements of civilization. They design municipal and industrial systems and research ways to minimize their environmental and health impacts. Environmental engineers also work with governments to establish industrial, safety, and environmental regulations.
The scope of responsibility assumed by environmental engineers underscores the importance of proper training. Environmental engineers need excellent math, engineering, and science skills. Practical experience and licensing are essential, while additional certifications enhance one’s employability and demonstrate highly specialized knowledge. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that entry-level careers in environmental engineering require a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering where most students receive practical training through internships (BLS 2020).
Between 2019 and 2029, the BLS estimates 1,700 new environmental engineering positions will be needed and shows that this occupation is growing at a rate of 3 percent, which is nearly as fast as the national average for all occupations (BLS 2020).
This guide provides a step-by-step path to becoming an environmental engineer in the image of recommendations from the Association of Environmental Engineering & Science Professors Foundation (AEESPF). The steps required to become an environmental engineer are listed along with the time each step typically takes to complete.
FEATURED CIVIL & ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING PROGRAMS
ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY
Construction Management (MS)
Sustainable Engineering (MSE)
SOUTHERN NEW HAMPSHIRE UNIVERSITY
Online BS – Environmental Science
Online MSM – Construction Management
STEP 1: EARN A BACHELOR’S DEGREE IN CIVIL OR ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING (FOUR YEARS)
Environmental engineers must have at least a bachelor’s degree to practice. Prospective students should look for programs accredited by the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET). ABET accreditation not only verifies an engineering program meets established quality standards and best practices but is required by many graduate programs, licensing boards, professional organizations, and employers. One can earn ABET-accredited degrees online or on campus. Students enrolled in online environmental engineering programs can usually satisfy hands-on, practical requirements within their home communities.
Environmental engineering programs provide the education one needs to be licensed, earn certifications, and succeed in the field. Some, but not all engineering schools offer bachelor’s degrees in environmental engineering specifically. It is not uncommon for future professionals to attend programs in related fields such as civil, chemical, or general engineering before gaining specialized training in graduate school or on the job.
Students are encouraged to find programs that incorporate “co-ops” (i.e., they award credit for structured work experience). Doing so can help students meet future licensing and employment requirements. Some colleges offer combined five-year bachelor’s and master’s degrees, an accelerated option for students which can be more cost-effective than pursuing the two degrees separately.
Admissions Requirements – Environmental Engineering Bachelor’s Programs
Every environmental engineering program establishes its own admissions criteria; more rigorous programs usually have more rigorous requirements. Not surprisingly, highly competitive programs have steeper GPA and exam requirements and might even require an interview. Examples of typical admission requirements from real environmental engineering schools include:
Successful completion of prerequisite high school courses (e.g., physics, chemistry, calculus, algebra, trigonometry)
Minimum high school GPA of 3.0
SAT and ACT scores
Admissions essay or statement of purpose
Typical Courses – Environmental Engineering Bachelor’s Programs
Bachelor’s programs in environmental engineering usually offer a range of classroom, lab, and field-based components. Students balance required general education and core engineering courses with specialized electives. Here are some typical courses in undergraduate environmental engineering programs:
Introduction to Environmental Engineering
Drafting and Computer-Aided Design (CAD)
Introduction to Engineering Fundamentals
Elements of Geology
Water Quality Control
Chemical Engineering Process Design
STEP 2: EARN A MASTER’S DEGREE IN ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING (TWO YEARS)
Master’s degrees in environmental engineering are not necessarily required to enter the field, but forgoing them can limit students’ future professional roles and licensing opportunities. Graduate-level environmental engineering curricula are more advanced and specialized than that of undergraduate programs. Here are just some of the concentrations students pursuing master’s degrees might choose:
Environmental Risk Management
Hazardous and Solid Wastes
Subsurface Contaminant Hydrology
Water and Wastewater Infrastructure
Coastal and Ecological Engineering
Admissions Requirements – Environmental Engineering Master’s Programs
As one might expect, graduate programs in environmental engineering have steeper requirements than bachelor’s programs. The following criteria are examples taken from real schools across the nation. Note that requirements can vary significantly from one school to the next. For instance, some master’s programs only admit candidates with a certain number of years of professional experience, while others admit students fresh out of bachelor’s programs.
An ABET-accredited B.S. in engineering or a related science
Minimum GPA of 3.0 on the last 60 hours of undergraduate coursework
Minimum score on the General Aptitude portion of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
Two letters of recommendation
Professional resume or curriculum vitae
A statement of purpose
Typical Courses – Environmental Engineering Master’s Programs
Many students earning master’s degrees in environmental engineering dedicate the first year to core engineering coursework and the second to electives that reflect their interests and/or formal concentrations. Examples of classes include:
Solid and Hazardous Waste Management
Marine Microbial Ecology
Coastal Chemical Systems
Water Quality Management
Free Surface Flow
Biological Treatment of Recirculating Aquacultural Systems
Fundamentals of Biodegradation
Operations and Processes in Sanitary Engineering
Natural Wastewater Treatment Systems Design
STEP 3: ESTABLISH PROFESSIONAL LICENSURE (TIMELINE VARIES)
Most environmental engineers cannot practice independently without being licensed. According to the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying(NCEES), licensing requirements are set by individual states, which means they can vary. The Council advises candidates to check licensing requirements in the state where they intend to work. Readers can research state requirements through the NCEES.
Some states require environmental engineering students and recent graduates to earn special Engineer in Training (EIT) or Engineer Intern (EI) licenses by passing the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam.
Fundamentals of Engineering Exam for Engineers in Training
The FE exam verifies candidates have the foundational safety and engineering knowledge necessary to work in the field. The NCEES offers FE exams in several concentrations, including the FE – Environmental Engineering. According to the Council’s official website, this exam explores knowledge in the following areas:
Probability and Statistics
Ethics and Professional Practice
Environmental Science and Chemistry
Water and Wastewater
Solid and Hazardous Waste
Groundwater and Soils
Undergraduate environmental engineering curricula are often designed with FE exam requirements in mind. Students can usually find this information online or by contacting the academic department overseeing the program.
STEP 4: GET PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE IN THE FIELD (ONE TO FOUR YEARS)
Environmental engineering graduates who meet state practice requirements—including those related to EIT or EI licensing—are free to enter the field, but only under the direction of Professional Engineers (PEs), who are discussed below. Work and any practical co-op experience completed in bachelor’s or master’s environmental engineering programs prepare new engineers to eventually become PEs themselves. Most board and professional certifications also require a certain number of years in the field.
STEP 5: BECOME A PROFESSIONAL ENGINEER (PE) IN ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING (AT LEAST FOUR YEARS)
Like master’s degrees in environmental engineering, a PE license is a voluntary but valuable credential. Professional Engineers typically enjoy higher earnings and advancement potential than non-credentialed peers. They can also practice independently and complete a wider variety of tasks. Among them:
Serving the public directly
Starting private firms
Bidding on government contracts
Managing major projects
Mentoring EIT and EIs
PE Licensing Requirements
Environmental engineers must meet the following criteria to become licensed PEs:
A degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program
A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
Relevant work experience, typically at least four years
A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam
STEP 6: CONSIDER BOARD AND PROFESSIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING CERTIFICATIONS (AT LEAST EIGHT YEARS)
Board and professional certifications are additional voluntary, yet highly beneficial credentials. These certifications demonstrate that an environmental engineer is truly an expert in the field, whether at large or within one specialized area. The following are the most common types of advanced certifications.
ASCE Board Certification
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) board certification is a credential for highly skilled engineers. Because environmental engineering is considered a subfield of civil engineering, the ASCE offers board certification in many concentrations relevant to them.
Specializations – Environmental engineers can become certified in the following specializations:
Water Resources Engineering
Requirements – Eligible candidates must have master’s degrees, PE licenses, and eight years of post-licensure engineering experience. ASCE certifications are overseen by Civil Engineering Certification, Inc. and accredited by Council of Engineering & Scientific Specialty Boards (CESB).
AAEES Board Certification
The American Academy of Environmental Engineers & Scientists also offers board certification specifically for environmental engineers. Candidates who meet the Academy’s requirements can call themselves Board Certified Environmental Engineers (BCEE). Environmental engineering is a very diverse field, however, so one typically becomes board certified in one of the following concentrations:
Air Pollution Control
General Environmental Engineering
Hazardous Waste Management and Site Remediation
Industrial Hygiene Engineering
Radiation Protection Engineering
Solid Waste Management
Water Supply/Wastewater Engineering
Requirements – A BCEE-designated environmental engineer is considered a true expert in whatever area in which he or she is certified. Such an advanced credential is only available to those with the education and experience necessary to sustain that role. Eligibility requirements include:
A PE License
Eight years of full-time environmental engineering experience in the field (e.g., research, teaching, professional)
Successful completion of a written exam and oral peer review
Other Professional Certifications – Environmental Engineering
A number of environmental engineering organizations offer their own professional certifications, which usually target a particular skill or specialty. These certifications can give one an edge when competing for jobs or advancements. Examples of other relevant professional certifications and associated organizations include:
Dangerous Goods Professional – Institute of Hazardous Materials Management
LEED AP Building Design + Construction – Green Business Certification Inc.
Registered Environmental Professional – National Registry of Environmental Professionals
Diplomate, Port Engineering – Academy of Coastal, Ocean, Port & Navigation Engineers
Advanced Specialty Certification in Environmental Planning – American Planning Association
CAREER AND SALARY PROJECTIONS FOR ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERS
Aspiring environmental engineers may be curious about potential earnings and projected growth of openings into the future. Fortunately for people seeking careers in this field, environmental engineering is both relatively lucrative and secure with respect to future job opportunities.
Earnings – The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019) reported environmental engineers earned a mean annual salary of $94,220. Wages were highest for professionals working for the federal government followed by engineering services and local governments. In more detailed terms, here’s a breakdown of salary data in environmental engineering:
United States (55,400 environmental engineers employed):
10th percentile: $54,330
25th percentile: $68,000
50th percentile (median): $88,860
75th percentile: $114,250
90th percentile: $142,070
Also, data from PayScale (2020)—a site for self-reported salaries—suggests that environmental engineers with project management, regulatory compliance, environmental compliance, and engineering design experience also tend to earn more.
Job Outlook – Government efforts to improve water quality and efficiency, clean contaminated sites, and enforce environmental regulations drive demand for environmental engineers. The BLS (2020) projected that environmental engineer employment would grow 3 percent nationally between 2019 and 2029, about as fast aas average for all occupations around the country (4 percent). Prospects are generally best for candidates with master’s degrees.
HELPFUL RESOURCES AND PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
Lastly, professional and educational environmental engineering organizations support students and professionals throughout their careers. They provide career and training information, professional networking opportunities, continuing education courses, and more. Now-and-future environmental engineers may find the following agencies helpful:
Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET)
Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP)
American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)
International Society of Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering (ISSMGE)
American Geophysical Union (AGU)
American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)
International Water Association (IWA)
American Water Works Association (AWWA)
Water Environment Federation(WEF)
National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES)
National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE)
Environmental engineering degree courses
When studying in a college program, courses are the individual classes that make up the program. Most programs require a set of courses and allow students to select the rest freely. Courses commonly require a few months of study to complete.
What are courses in environmental engineering? The field of environmental engineering focuses on the protection of the environment as well as the human population from environmental hazards. This field incorporates aspects from many different types of sciences and engineering disciplines to fulfill these tasks. As an environmental engineering student, you will likely study biology, life science, chemistry, physics, and general engineering.
The skills developed while studying provide some of the biggest benefits. These skills can make it easier to enter into a career and earn a higher salary. After studying environmental engineering, the skills you will have developed can include scientific understanding, critical thinking and evaluation, and environmental manipulation.
Before enrolling, you should understand how much an environmental engineering course will cost. This depends on several factors, which can include the school, program, and country in which you are studying. To be fully prepared, research these aspects before you enroll.
If a student studies environmental engineering, they likely are pursuing a career in this field. While environmental engineer is a possible position, there are many more diverse and specialized jobs that can be attained, which include civil engineer, chemical engineer, natural scientists, and engineering manager. There are all sorts of applications for these careers, from global protection projects to local development positions. Wherever humans are building or expanding, there are careers to ensure the environment is not damaged.
To begin your environmental engineering studies, the first step is to find the right courses that suit your needs. You can search for your program below and contact directly the admission office of the school of your choice by filling in the lead form.
Those who work for the environment may join the undergraduate programme in Environmental Engineering. To hone their skill further they may enroll themselves for the postgraduate programme too. The duration of B. Tech in Environmental Engineering is for 4 years and that of M. Tech programme is for 2 years.
Here, we have tabularised the different programmes of Environmental Engineering:
|Name of the Courses
Eligibility Criteria to Pursue Environmental Engineering
Like any other engineering courses, the eligibility criteria are same for Environmental Engineering. Those who want to pursue the undergraduate programme in Environmental Engineering are required to sit for JEE Main, JEE Advanced and other state level entrance tests. Usually JEE Main is held twice in a year, in January and in April. The candidates can sit for either of the Tests or the both. JEE Advanced is held in May. The qualified candidates of JEE Main are eligible to take up JEE Advanced. The state level entrance tests are held in April or May.
Besides, the candidates must have to pass 10+2 Board examination with Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics as subjects. Those who have appeared for the class XII Board examination may sit for the entrance tests, but they have to produce their final mark sheet at the time of admission.
To pursue the postgraduate programme in Environmental Engineering, the aspirants would have to clear GATE. Moreover, they have to complete the undergraduate programme in the same discipline.
The following table will provide you idea about the eligibility criteria of Environmental Engineering:
|Name of the Courses
|Minimum Marks Required
|Passed or appeared 10+2 Board Examination with Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics as subjects
|Minimum 60% marks in the aggregate for the general candidates and minimum 55% marks in aggregate for the reserved category candidates and a good score in either JEE Main, JEE Advanced and State level Entrance Tests
|M. Tech/ M.E
|Passed or in the final Semester of B. Tech in Environmental Engineering
|60% marks in the aggregate and good score in GATE
Environmental Engineering Course Structure and Fees
The undergraduate programme of Environmental Engineering has the duration of 4 years and postgraduate programme of the same is of 2 years. An academic year is divided between two semesters. The entire B. Tech programme has 8 semesters and M. Tech programme has 4 semesters. Usually, the odd semesters begin in July/ August and the even Semesters start in January/ February. An examination is held at the end of each semester.
The fee for the undergraduate programme varies from college to college. Generally, the students have to pay Rs. 30,000-80,000 per semester for B. Tech course.https://a3411884c68c9471aefdf394a092d7ea.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.htmlhttps://a3411884c68c9471aefdf394a092d7ea.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
Environmental Engineering Syllabus at the Undergraduate level
The syllabus of Environmental Engineering has been structured to provide in-depth knowledge into the subject along with practical training. Environmental engineering has been considered as a sub-division of Chemical Engineering and Civil Engineering. So the students have to study sections of Civil and Chemical engineering too. Besides, they have to study the principles of Biology, Microbiology, Physics and Organic Chemistry that deals with the theory of biodiversity, climate change, conservation of soil, ground water etc. Here we have attempted to provide a detailed idea about the syllabus in the form of a table:
|Semester 1& 2
|Engineering Maths 1 &2
|Engineering Mathematics 3
|Elements of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics
|Strength of Materials
|Elements of Mechanical Engineering
|Basic Electrical Engineering
|Engineering Physics Lab
|Environmental Analysis Laboratory 1
|Constitution Of India and Professional Ethics
|Surveying Practice 1
|Engineering Mathematics 4
|Municipal Solid Waste Management
|Origin and Characterization of Environmental Pollution
|Environmental Chemistry 2
|Water Supply and Distribution System
|Elements of Environmental Protection
|Geotechnical Engineering 1
|Hydraulics and Hydraulic Machines
|Hydrology and water Resources Engineering
|Applied Engineering Geology
|Water Treatment Engineering
|Environmental Analysis Laboratory 2
|Design and Drawing of Environmental System 1
|Fluid and Hydraulic Machinery Lab
|Environmental Process Laboratory 1
|Management and Entrepreneurship
|Computer Application in Environmental Engineering
|Environmental Transport Processes
|Ecology and Environmental Impact Assessment
|Atmospheric Environmental Engineering
|Advanced Waste Water Treatment
|Waste Water Collection and Drainage System
|Estimation, Specification and Financial Aspects of Environmental Facilities
|Wastewater Treatment Engineering
|Elective 2 Group B ( Nuclear, Radioactive and Bio-medical Waste Technology, Occupational Safety and Health, Operation and Maintenance of Environmental Facilities)
|Elective 1 Group A ( Environmental Biotechnology, Eco-friendly Energy Sources, Environmental System Optimization)
|Elective 3 Group C (environmental Aspects of Development Projects, Environmental Applications of Remote Sensing and GIS, Geo Environmental Engineering)
|Atmospheric Environmental Lab
|Design and Drawing of Environmental system II
|Environmental Process Lab 2
|Computer Application Lab
Job Profile of Environmental Engineers
At present, there is a huge demand of Environmental Engineers. It is hoped that these engineers would work for the protection of the environment by reducing the pollution, managing the waste materials, utilising the renewable sources of energy etc. After completing the B. E/ B. Tech programmes the candidates may take up jobs in the environment, energy and agricultural sector of the government and no-government organizations. They may work as:
- Air Quality Engineer
- Assistant Policy Specialist
- Environmental Engineer
- Field Chemist
- Wasteland Ecologist
- Safety Design Manager
- Waste Resource Manager Etc.
|Shanghai Jiao Tong University Ranking (2017)
|Stanford, United States
|ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
|Cambridge, United States
|University of California, Davis
|Davis, United States
|University of Wisconsin Madison
|Madison, United States
|University of California, Berkeley
|Berkeley, United States
|Technical University of Denmark (DTU)
|Princeton, United States
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
|Cambridge, United States
|University of Alberta