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Undergraduate Studies in Environmental Engineering
Environmental engineering and science training offers to work in any aspect of environmental protection. The major areas include air pollution control, industrial hygiene, radiation protection, hazardous waste management, toxic materials control, water supply, wastewater management, storm water management, solid waste disposal, public health, and land management. And, within each of these major categories are many sub-specialties.
Environmental engineering and science provides limitless opportunities as to type of work, for whom you work, and where you work. A career in environmental engineering and science provides a comfortable salary, job security, and considerable personal satisfaction.
- Competitive salaries --- As the 1990's drew to a close, B.S. degree engineers were receiving starting salaries ranging from $36-$42,000 with some as much as $48,000; with a Masters degree, $40-$45,000; and with a Ph.D., $42-$50,000. A licensed engineer (it takes a minimum of four years of post B.S. degree experience to qualify) with five years experience can expect to earn $50-$60,000. Like most engineering disciplines, the salary versus time curve for environmental engineers is marked with rapid, significant increases early in the career and then flattening with time so that increases are not as rapid later in your career, the exception to this curve is for those that expand their work into management activities in addition to or in lieu of the technical aspects of engineering. Along with salary comes the standard fringe benefits of vacation, insurance, etc.
- Job security --- Since before the turn of this century, there have always been many more jobs than environmental engineers to fill them. So, you will never be out of work. However, the work of an environmental engineer changes with changing government policies and the public's priorities --- for a time you might work with wastewater, then for another time with solid waste and still other specialties before retirement. Accordingly, a commitment to life-long learning is essential --- a college degree is just the beginning of ones education.
- Job Availability --- While the job security of environmental engineers is good, the ease of breaking into the profession varies over time based on market conditions which are affected by government policies, priorities, and funding. An outstanding academic record of accomplishment is always a plus.
- Dream realization --- You will experience the fulfillment of seeing something you conceived in your mind realized in concrete, steel and other tangible materials; and from being a part of the successful solution to a problem.
- Helping your fellow humans --- Knowing that your efforts make the world a better place for you and your fellow human beings to live will provide additional satisfaction.
Type of Work
The kind of work you can do as an environmental engineer is very diverse. The following examples are illustrative, not comprehensive. You can be a researcher, a designer, a planner, an operator of pollution control facilities, a professor, a government regulatory agency official, a manager of programs, or be involved in professional society work. Your employer can be private consulting engineering firms, universities, private research firms, testing laboratories, government agencies of all types (federal, state and local), or all types of major corporations and private businesses.
CEE Students Luke Smith and Ethan Gingerich speak to 500 first year engineers about CEE, building bridges, and providing safe water in developing countries
Your work can take you around the world. It can be done inside and out; typically, most jobs will find you inside about 75 percent of the time and 25 percent outdoors. However, there are many instances of 100 percent either way. Since most pollution problems are located where there are concentrations of people, the largest number of job opportunities (your employer's location) will coincide with where the greatest number of people live. However, modern information technologies are operating to alter the above described historic pattern.
Many job positions require a B.S. degree in engineering --- probably civil, chemical, mechanical or environmental. And, while you are still comfortable with the school life, you should take another year or so to get a Masters degree in environmental engineering (more and more employers are giving preference to those who have a Masters degree). If you can afford it, you are also encouraged to get your Ph.D.; while not required, it will provide additional advantages in your subsequent career.
You must do your best in the math, science and engineering courses that comprise any engineering degree. Equally important, you need to focus on the humanities. Since environmental engineering is so intertwined with people, it is necessary that you understand how people and societies function. Through both your formal training and your activities during your college career, you need to work on developing your writing and speaking skills. Environmental engineers must be able to communicate effectively with people of all types if they are to succeed in solving problems. These skills can only be learned by doing --- the more you do, the better you will become.
Taken from the ASEE national website