Environmental Engineering Careers

Read on to learn about typical courses, resources, and careers in this field.

Staff Writer

2022-11-1415 min read

Environmental engineers have a wide range of lucrative career options.

Also, professionals in this field can work in different industries, including construction, water treatments, mining and extraction, consulting services, and more. This resource puts together some of the best environmental engineering jobs to help chart your career path.

It also covers the educational requirements for a successful career, the employment prospects, and the future job outlook. You'll also learn how to boost your career, the skills you'll develop while studying environmental engineering, and how to switch to the profession.

So, let’s get started.

Why Choose Environmental Engineering?

Environmental engineering focuses on developing solutions to environmental problems.

As a professional in this field, you will work towards protecting and improving the quality of our natural environment, making it safe for everyone.

Environmental engineering is versatile—you will never be short of career options. Also, several universities in the world offer degrees in environmental engineering. Therefore, you can easily find a program that suits your interest and career objectives.

Additionally, a typical environmental engineer earned about $96,800 median annual salary in 2021, which is over $40,000 more than the median yearly salary in the U.S.

So, a career in this field means you’ll be able to feed well and care for most of your personal needs.

How to Start your Environmental Engineering Journey

You’ll need a college degree to have a successful career in this field. You could also begin with associate degree programs. Let’s explore the educational path you can take.

Education Requirements

Associate Degree

An associate degree prepares you for entry-level roles in this field.

You can run the program full-time or part-time with day and evening classes. During your study, you'll take introductory courses on environmental engineering instrumentation, environmental chemistry, air sampling, and analysis.

Your coursework might also include fluid dynamics, analysis of environmental pollutants, health physics, and site investigation sampling and monitoring.

Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor's degree in environmental engineering prepares you for more advanced roles.

About 75 percent of professionals in this field have this degree, so getting yours from an accredited university could help you compete on almost equal footing for jobs with them.

The degree also lets you run several other professional certification programs, like Certified Environmental Systems Manager (CESM), Certified Environmental Professional, and Environmental Compliance Certification (EC), to advance your skills.

It also lets you land high pay environmental engineering jobs.

Master’s Degree

A master’s degree lets you secure managerial roles in environmental engineering. It also helps you get more specialized and pursue more advanced postgraduate degrees.

During the program, students gain practical experience and advanced skills to design, produce and manage complex environmental and technological systems.

You'll also learn mining of precious metals, drilling of fossil fuels, renewable energy resources development, and environmental sustainability.

You may also explore ways to resolve climate change, deal with flooding and draining and manage natural disasters and environmental crises.

Doctorate in Environmental Engineering

A doctorate prepares you for management-level roles like Chief Environmental Engineer in large corporations. It also lets you explore career options in academia.

During the program, you'll complete specialized courses, learn how to use quantitative tools to solve issues, and undertake top-level research.

Employment Prospects

Professionals in this field can work in manufacturing, oil and gas plants, extraction, and construction companies, overseeing compliance with environmental regulations and best practices.

They may also find employment with urban and regional planners, hazardous waste removal services, and utility companies.

Many environmental engineers also work with governments, who often need their skills to improve existing systems for monitoring air and water quality, manage natural disasters, control flooding, or develop policies to protect the natural environment.

Most employers prefer professionals with experience. So, building yours and earning a postgraduate degree and professional certifications can improve your employment prospects.

Environmental engineers also have successful careers as consultants.

Environmental Engineering Career Forecast

Environmental engineering jobs will grow by four percent between 2021 and 2031, as fast as the average for all occupations.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected about 3,400 new openings each year; on average, that's about 34,000 over the decade. Most of the jobs will result from the need to replace retired workers and those that transferred to different occupations.

Lucrative Environmental Engineering Career Paths

Let’s explore some of the top career paths in environmental engineering.

Environmental Compliance Specialist

Environmental compliance specialists help organizations and government agencies comply with environmental laws and regulations.

Average Salary

The estimated average annual base salary for environmental compliance Specialists is $60,314. However, the top ten percent take home about $90,000 at the end of the year.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Ensures organizational construction and waste disposal activities comply with environmental regulations and standards
  • Provides technical assistance for environmental health policy formulation and implementation
  • Identify and report non-compliance to environmental health and safety guidelines

Industries Employing Environmental Compliance Officers

Typical employers for professionals in this field are:

  • The government
  • Industrial plants
  • Oil and gas companies
  • Utility companies

Water Treatment Specialist

Water treatment specialists process and purify wastewater and water sources, ensuring clean and safe water is available to the public for drinking, bathing, and other daily activities.

Average Salary

Water Treatment Specialists earn between $53,987 and $74,045 annually. The average annual salary for professionals in this field is $61,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Handle industrial wastewater treatment, and ensure water meets environmental and public health standards.
  • Ensure the proper collection, transportation, and disposal of waste to prevent water contamination
  • Supervise installation of water purification equipment and deployment of advanced water treatment technologies

Industries Employing Water Treatment Specialists

Water treatment specialist carries out their roles in various industries, such as:

  • Chemical manufacturing plans
  • Industrial wastewater treatment plants
  • Food processing
  • government

Land Surveyor

Land surveyors measure lands and mark boundaries. They use geographic information system devices to report the type of soil, vegetation, waterways, and the general flatness of a property.

Average Salary

Land surveyors receive an average base salary of $80,307 annually, while the most experienced surveyors make up to $117,000 yearly.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Responsible for land surveying, identifying land ownership and property boundaries.
  • Locates buildings, roads, and utilities during real estate development
  • Use global positioning systems (GPS) to establish a specific location
  • Write the legal description of a parcel

Industries Employing Land Surveyors

Some of the top employers are:

  • Construction
  • Real estate development
  • Government

Environmental Scientist

Environmental scientists conduct field tests and analyze laboratory samples to determine pollution levels, bacterial issues, and other environmental factors that may affect the health of the local environment or ecosystems.

Average Salary

Environmental scientists take home an average base salary of $54,077 each year. The top ten percent can earn as high as $78000 annually.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Study how human activities affect the environment
  • Advises the government and organizations on ways to protect the environment
  • Help organizations comply with environmental laws
  • Develop plans to prevent and fix environmental challenges, such as land or water pollution, ensuring environmental sustainability

Industries Employing Environmental Scientists

Environmental Scientists are capable of working in fields such as:

  • Consulting firms
  • Construction and engineering services
  • Public health departments
  • The military
  • Industrial and municipal facilities

Geotechnical Engineer

Geotechnical engineers use their understanding of soil types, waterways, and other natural features to determine how they interact with man-made systems.

Average Salary

Geotechnical engineers make between $53,000 and $95,000 annually. But the median salary in this field is $68,866.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Assesses the integrity of soil, clay, silt, sand, and rock before construction works
  • Ascertain whether the ground can withstand the impact of added pressures or changes brought by construction
  • Ensure safety and maintenance of the natural environment during natural resource extraction and building, road, and railway constructions

Industries Employing Geotechnical Engineers

Geotechnical engineering avails the opportunities to work in fields such as:

  • Oil and gas
  • Marine operations
  • Construction
  • Waste disposal services
  • Consulting services

Environmental Engineer

Environmental engineers find innovative solutions to environmental issues, including performing field tests and analyzing local ecosystems to identify potential threats to people and nature. They can also work as hazardous waste technicians.

Average Salary

The annual salary for these professionals is between $53,000 and $102,000. But environmental engineers typically earn an average base salary of $67,862 annually.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Develop environmental improvement programs
  • Responsible for recycling, waste disposal, public health, and water and air pollution control for environmental protection
  • Attend to global issues, such as unsafe drinking water, climate change, and environmental sustainability.
  • Designing projects and processes that lead to environmental protections

Industries Employing Environmental Engineers

Environmental engineers work:

  • Constructions
  • Mining and oil drilling
  • Waste management company
  • Manufacturing
  • Technical consulting services

Environmental Health and Safety Director

Environmental health and safety directors work behind the scenes, ensuring companies comply with environmental, safety, and health regulations.

Some organizations advertise the opening as Environmental Compliance and Training Director or Environmental, Health, and Safety Engineering Director.

Average Salary

Professionals in this field earn about $117,160 on average annual base salary. The lowest earners take up to $75,000 annually, making the profession one of the most financially rewarding.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Develop and implements the organization's health and safety policies, including environmental improvement programs
  • Ensures the organization is up to date with the latest safety standards and measures
  • Leads and manages employees in the health and safety unit, or the equivalent
  • Hires and mentors junior employees
  • Prepare and schedule training on emergency procedures and workplace safety.

Industries Employing Environmental Health and Safety Directors

The top employer of these professionals are:

  • Hospitals
  • The military
  • Supermarkets and large food retailers

Natural Resource Engineer

Natural resource engineers design and implement resource management solutions that improve and maintain the sustainability of natural resources and protect the environment.

Average Salary

The estimated package for professionals in this field ranges between $55,000 annually to $117,000. The average base salary is $69,090.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Improve and maintain the sustainability of natural resource use through creative designs and the application of technology.
  • Assess the impact of natural resource exploitation on the natural environmental
  • Ensures that mining and extraction activities comply with environmental laws

Industries Employing Natural Resource Engineers

The professionals in this field can work in:

  • Wildlife and forestry
  • Oil and gas
  • Mining and extraction

Energy Efficiency Engineer

Energy efficiency engineers audit and evaluate electrical systems and installations to optimize energy usage and reduce bills. Also, they find ways to implement renewable energy systems.

Average Salary

Energy Efficiency Engineers take home an average base salary of $71,434, while the more experienced professional earns as much as $106,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Conduct energy audits to find ways to reduce energy waste in the future.
  • Help install green energy systems
  • Provide technical expertise and assist with energy-saving plans

Industries Employing Energy Efficiency Engineers

Some of the top employers of energy efficiency engineers are:

  • Manufacturing
  • Production companies
  • Government agencies
  • Energy auditing companies
  • Power generation and transmission companies
  • Private practice as engineer efficiency consultants

Air Quality Engineer

As the name suggests, air quality engineers develop processes, measures, and systems that ensure consistent maintenance of quality, clean, and safe air in the environment.

Average Salary

The average base salary for these professionals is $82,731. The more experienced professionals earn as much as $127,000,

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Responsible for emission control and contaminant removal
  • Ensure proper workplace ventilation
  • Monitor and controls air pollution

Industries Employing Air Quality Engineers

Air quality engineers works perform their duties in the following industries:

  • Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal government departments
  • Industrial facilities
  • Public health agencies

Ecological Engineer

Ecological engineers apply engineering principles to ecological restoration, waste management, and ecosystem services. They also work towards improving land and water resources and air and soil quality and solving environmental problems.

Average Salary

Ecological engineers earn an average base salary of $57,500. The top ten percent take home about $140,000 annually.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Improve recycling, waste disposal, public health, and water and air pollution control.
  • Attend to challenges such as unsafe drinking water, climate change, and environmental sustainability.
  • Design sustainable natural and artificial ecosystems that improve the relationship between human society and its natural environment.

Industries Employing Ecological Engineers

Professionals in this field work in various companies such as :

  • Hospitals
  • Government agencies
  • Consulting firms

Project Engineer

A Project Engineer manages environmental engineering projects, ensuring all parties complete their work safely, efficiently, and in ways that will not harm the environment.

Average Salary

Project engineers earn around $71,502 annual base salary. The more experienced professionals can take home up to $100,000 at the end of the year.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Supervise all site safety and legal requirements
  • Manages environmental remediation projects
  • Provide project specifications and implementation plans

Industries Employing Project Engineers

Several companies employ the service of a project engineer. Some of these are:

  • Manufacturing
  • Construction
  • Mining and oil drilling
  • Urban and regional planners

College Instructors

College and university instructors in this field train and prepare students for a career in environmental engineering. They also carry out research to help advance environmental engineering scholarship.

Average Salary

College and university course instructors earn between $35,000 and $80,000. The average salary for professionals in this field is $50,079.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Develop lesson plans’ deliver lectures and assess students
  • Perform academic and non-academic research
  • Perform administrative duties assigned by the department head or dean

Industries Employing College Instructors

Colleges, universities, and higher education institutions are the top employers of college instructors. Also, private organizations and governments hire them, especially professors and senior instructors, for part-time consulting roles.

How to Boost your Environmental Engineering Career

Nearly eight in ten people entering this profession already have a bachelor's degree.

Your best bet to stand out and land a high pay package is to earn postgraduate degrees, industry-recognized professional certifications, and relevant work experiences.

You can also take online courses from recognized institutions and e-learning platforms like Udemy, Coursera, and Alison, to gain more specialized skills and knowledge. Also, join professional bodies to gain an edge over others in the field.

Some options you might want to consider are:

Pros and Cons of Environmental Engineering Careers

An environmental engineering career is lucrative. However, it's not a bed of roses. We’ll examine the pros and cons to enable you to make an informed decision.


  • You’ll be involved in protecting our environment and making it liveable
  • The field offers lucrative career paths and options
  • The salary is competitive and above the national average
  • Professionals in this field can work in a wide range of industries
  • It's easy to switch careers and occupations with an environmental engineering degree
  • You can set up a private practice, working as an environmental engineering consultant
  • You can easily switch careers and take up jobs in fields like mechanical engineering, geology, civil engineering, and soil science.


  • Most high-paying environmental engineering roles require at least a bachelor's degree, which is costly.
  • The job is stressful and might require you to get out of the office regularly.
  • You might need to invest heavily in continuous learning, professional licenses, and certifications to have a financially rewarding career.

Skills You’ll Develop While Studying Environmental Engineering

Studying environmental engineering in an accredited university or college will equip you with valuable skills to succeed in your career. Some of them include:

Critical Thinking and Analysis

Climate change, natural disasters, and pollution are some of the most significant environmental threats. As a result, professionals in this field will often have to think outside the box to solve issues like these.

Studying environmental engineering enables them with critical thinking and analysis capabilities to analyze issues objectively and proffer actionable solutions to environmental problems.

Software Skills

Water and air quality sampling and analysis, fluid dynamics, and site investigation are part of what environmental engineers do. Most of these duties involve using software, presentation, and spreadsheets.

Environmental engineering degrees equip students pursuing a career in this field with the knowledge and abilities to use technology and computer programs, like Autocad and SAS, to solve issues.

Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skill is the ability to get along with others, show empathy and make the most of every interaction.

Taking environmental engineering courses gives students the skills to communicate and collaborate effectively with colleagues and external stakeholders on projects.

Project Management Skills

A degree in environmental engineering will equip you with the skills to manage projects from start to finish, including prudent utilization of resources, project planning, scheduling, and execution.

It also lets you delegate effectively to put your workforce to its most productive uses, identify and manage risks and negotiate with stakeholders.

How to Prepare for an Environmental Engineering Career

Follow these four steps to prepare for a career in environmental engineering.

1. Acquire Environmental Engineering Education

You'll need a formal education to begin your journey in environmental engineering. As earlier stated, your best bet is to earn a bachelor's degree in environmental, mechanical engineering, geology, civil engineering, soil science, or other related fields from an accredited institution.

2. Earn Relevant Certifications

Environmental engineering is a competitive space, so you might need more than a college degree to make you stand out. Earning relevant professional certifications can broaden your job prospects and put you neck and shoulders above others.

Most employers prefer candidates with an Engineer in Training (EIT) or Professional Engineer (PE) license. So you might want to add them to your checklist.

3. Gain Experience

Experienced environmental engineers are odd-on-favorite to get employment quickly and better-paying jobs. Gain several years of professional industry experience through internships, volunteering, co-op, and entry-level roles.

4. Prepare Your Resume

Prepare your resume and apply for jobs that align with your career objective after earning a degree and professional certifications and gaining enough industry experience. Use a professionally designed resume to stand out and win recruiters’ attention.

5. Get Postgraduate Degrees

A postgraduate degree program prepares you for specialized roles in environmental engineering. It also advances your credibility and expertise, enabling a more financially rewarding career.

Environmental Engineering Resources to Help Your Career

Professional programs, online course materials, and industry resources are available for people in this field. They can advance your skills, helping you have a successful career in environmental engineering.

You can begin with some of these free online courses from MIT:

Additionally, you might also want to check out these industry publications and journals:

How to Switch to an Environmental Engineering Career

A career switch to environmental engineering is pretty straightforward if you have a bachelor's degree from closely related disciplines like chemical and civil engineering, geology, and environmental health.

You can begin with online conversion courses and a postgraduate diploma program to learn the fundamentals of the profession and build a solid foundation for a successful career.

Additionally, run professional certification programs to advance your skills and show industry-recognized credibility. Also, you can compensate for your lack of industry experience with a master's degree program.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Environmental Engineering?

Environmental engineering is the branch of engineering that focuses on solving environmental problems and protecting humans and the natural environment from adverse environmental effects, like pollution, oil spill, and natural disasters.

Also, it's concerned with improved air and water quality, recycling, and safe waste disposal.

What certification do I need for an Environmental Engineering career?

Several professional certifications are available for professionals in this field. Some of them include Engineer in Training (EIT). Certified Environmental Systems Manager (CESM), Certified Environmental Professional, and Environmental Compliance Certification (EC)

Can I get an Environmental Engineering degree online?

Yes, you can get an environmental engineering degree online. Some top universities offering this program are American Public University, Oakland University, Oregon State University, and Southern New Hampshire University.

What fields can Environmental Engineering professionals work in?

Professionals in this field have high job prospects and can work in different industries, including utility companies, chemical plants, soil science labs, biohazard waste disposal companies, and mining and oil drilling services. They can also work in civil engineering, government, and private practice as consultants,

Is there a high demand for Environmental Engineering majors?

The demand for environmental engineering majors is high. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that jobs in this profession would grow by four percent over the next decade.

Final Thoughts

Environmental engineering offers lucrative career options to students. Also, the job outlook and pay for professionals in this field look promising due to the growing environmental protection consciousness worldwide, which drives the demand for environmental engineers.

When you decide to begin your journey, go for options that align with your educational background and career objectives. Then, use this resource to streamline your searches and make an informed decision.

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