Career as an Environmental Engineer

By: Jared Kronback

Career Goal - Environmental Engineer

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Career Overview

Environmental Engineers find ways to solve environmental problems that affect the welfare of humans and nature.

They find ways to: Reduce air and water pollution, increase recycling and improve waste disposal. Environmental engineers find or analyze contaminants such as chemicals in soil, air, and water. Sometimes they do this when a leakage is reported. Once they have collected information, they write a report that summarizes their findings.

When contamination is found, environmental engineers help their clients find the best ways to solve the problem. They often design systems or equipment to clean up a site. They present options for remediation, timelines, and costs. They help their clients understand the environmental rules that apply to them.

Environmental engineers coordinate the work done on environmental projects. They hire workers and obtain required permits. They also contact landfills to haul away and dispose contaminated soil.

To make sure work is completed safely, engineers create health and safety plans for each project. The safety plan outlines procedures in the event of an emergency. Workers may be required to test the air at the site to make sure harmful vapors are not present.

Environmental engineers also evaluate the impact of an activity will have on the environment. For example, if a shopping mall is to be built on farmland, they will write an environmental impact statement. They look at how the new shopping mall will affect the area's water and air.

Career Skills and Interests

Skills needed for environmental engineers are: communication, reasoning and problem solving, using math and science, work with people and perceive and visualize.


Listening to others ask questions.

Reason and problem solve:

Thinking of new ideas about a certain topic.

Use math and science:

Using scientific methods to solve problems.

Manage oneself, people, time and things:

Managing the time of yourself and others.

Work with people:

Looking for ways to help people.

Perceive and Visualize:

Identifying a pattern that is hidden in distracting material.

Interests that environmental engineers typically have are the following: Investigative,

  • Have investigative interests. They like work activities that have to do with ideas and thinking. They like to search for facts and figure out solutions to problem mentally.
  • Have realistic interests. They like work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They like to work with plants, animals, and physical materials such as wood, tools, and machinery. They often prefer to work outside.
  • Have conventional interests. They like work activities that follow set procedures, routines, and standards. They like to work with data and detail. They prefer working where there is a clear line of authority to follow.

Career Working Conditions

Have a moderately high lever of social interaction. They spend most of their time working with others, but also work alone when planning and writing reports. Be responsible for the health and safety of people and writing reports and the work outcomes of workers they assign to tasks.

Mostly work indoors, some indoor work sites may not be temperature-controlled. Sometimes wear protective gear when making site visits. Sometimes travel to and from work sites in an enclosed vehicle such as a car, truck, or van. Occasionally exposed to contaminants.

Accurate in performing their job, which is very important because they must follow guidelines and make sure procedures and standards are met. Meet strict deadlines weekly and rarely consult a supervisor before setting tasks and goals. Repeat the same physical or mental activities. They may need to work at the computer all day writing. They may also do repetitive tasks in the field, such as sampling.

Work more than 40 hours per week, may travel to conferences or sites, and must meet strict weekly deadlines.

Career Wages and Outlook

Earnings vary based on the engineer's level of education. Those with advanced degrees usually earn higher wages. Wages also vary by area of the country.

Benefits vary by employer. Most full-time engineers receive benefits such as paid vacation, sick leave, and health insurance. Government employees usually also receive a retirement plan.

U.S.: $83,360

Minnesota: $75,480

Career Related Occupations

The occupations listed below may have similar work duties, use similar skills, be in the same career ladder, have a similar level of education, or be related in another way.

  • Agricultural Engineers
  • Agricultural Scientists
  • Architectural and Engineering Managers
  • Biologists
  • Chemical Engineers
  • Civil Engineers
  • Climate Change Analysts
  • Compliance Officers and Inspectors
  • Conservation Scientists
  • Environmental Engineering Technicians
  • Environmental Scientists
  • Geologists and Geophysicists
  • Hazardous Material Workers
  • Mining Engineers
  • Natural Sciences Managers
  • Park Naturalists
  • Petroleum Engineers

Program of Study - Environmental Engineering

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Program Overview

Environmental Engineering programs prepare people to use math and science to design systems that help solve problems in the environment.

Environmental engineering programs include topics such as:

  • Pollution controls
  • Waste and hazardous material disposal
  • Health and safety protection
  • Conservation

Program Admission

You can prepare for this program by taking courses in high school that prepare you for college. This typically includes four years of English, three years of math, three years of social studies, and two years of science. Some colleges also require two years of a second language.

This is a list of high school courses that will help prepare you for this program of study:

  • Biology
  • Calculus
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science and Programming
  • English Composition
  • Physics

Program Typical Course Work

This program typically includes courses in the following subjects:

  • Calculus
  • Chemistry
  • Dynamics
  • Electronic Circuits
  • Engineering Physics
  • English Composition
  • Environmental Quality Engineering
  • Fluid Mechanics
  • General Biology for Environmental Engineering
  • Geology for Engineering
  • Introduction to Computer Science
  • Linear Differential Equations
  • Microbiology for Environmental Engineering
  • Senior Design Project
  • Solid and Hazardous Waste Management
  • Statistics
  • Thermodynamics
  • Water and Waste water Engineering

Related Programs

The programs of study listed are similar or related to the programs you are currently exploring:

  • Biological Sciences, General
  • Chemistry
  • Engineering
  • Engineering Physics
  • Engineering Technology, General
  • Engineering, General
  • Environmental Engineering Technology
  • Environmental Health
  • Environmental Science
  • Environmental Studies
  • Mining and Mineral Engineering
  • Nuclear Engineering
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Petroleum Engineering
  • Physics
  • Pre-Engineering
  • Water and Waste water Treatment Technology
  • Water Resources Engineering

Schools that Offer my Program of Study

  • University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
  • University of Wisconsin - Madison

College Choice - University of Wisconsin - Madison

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Size and Location

UW - Madison is located in Madison, Wisconsin and has about 31,289 undergraduate student that attend UW - Madison.

Admission Requirements

Things needed to be submitted are: high school transcripts, letter of recommendation (2, recommended, but not required), written essay or personal statement.

The deadline is the beginning of November, the tests required are either the ACT or the SAT. Average test scores on the ACT are 27-31, average GPA is 3.83, and class rank in the 85-97th percentile.

College Expenses

Tuition, Room, and Board: $23,848.90

Estimated total budget: $28,508.90

Application fee: $50

Financial Aid

School Sponsored scholarships in academics, art, special achievements and special characteristics. Some examples of these scholarships are:

  • Loper, Carl R. Jr., Undergraduate Scholarship
  • Performing Arts Students for the Overture Center Award
  • Dudley P. Howe Memorial Scholarship in the Arts


There are 19 different resident halls and 3 different apartment neighborhoods. In the resident halls, they have 3 choices of: Co-ed, just male, or just female.


Intramural Volleyball, Rugby and Water polo, Drama or theater groups and choral groups.

Informational Interview

Plans to Reach my Goal

I plan on job shadowing a few people and going out with them on the job to see what things they do on a daily basis. I want to go and be an intern in the field for gaining experience on whether or not I want to end up in that career. I plan on going to a four year college and achieving my bachelor's degree.