Why an Environmental Engineering Degree?
Environmental Engineering is currently one of the most exciting aspects of Environmental Studies as, like other specialties in engineering, there is a demand for trained professionals, and often, correspondingly good salaries. Environmental engineering is often linked with civil engineering programs, as so many of the environmental issues fall within issues classically associated with civil engineers. Waste management; solid, fluid, and gaseous, are large components of the major. Designing innovative solutions to a diverse set of environmental and sustainable resource issues using ecological, physical, and biogeochemical components is the role of an Environmental Engineer.
If you know you are looking to work in certain aspects of Engineering, rather than just research science, upon completion of your degree, it is important to make sure you attend a school that is ABET accredited. ABET is a non-profit and non-governmental accrediting agency for academic programs in the disciplines of applied science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology. You can make sure your potential school is accredited using this ABET search engine.
Careers in Environmental Engineering range from the “standard” Army Corp of Engineers type position to waste system designers and pollution control experts. Employers range from teaching positions in schools and Universities to various levels of government agencies, private engineering consulting firms, and major corporations. In 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that environmental engineers earned a median salary of $92,120 per year and have a projected job growth rate of 4% over the next 10 years.
2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures and job growth projections for Environmental Engineers reflect national data not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed September 2021.
Undergraduate Degrees in Environmental Engineering
Many successful Engineers have a Bachelor's degree in Engineering. As Engineering is notoriously a difficult college major, many students may decide to stop schooling after they complete their undergraduate degrees. A few years later some of these students may decide to return to school, or they may be happy to act as field and laboratory technicians, waste treatment center workers, air pollution monitors, or instrumentation specialists, just to name a few potential roles. Others may plan to proceed straight to graduate school upon completion of their degree and take coursework they know is required for graduate admission.
Cornell University The Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering and the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering offer a joint undergraduate degree in Environmental Engineering. Students may enroll through the College of Engineering (CoE) as EnvE majors or they may enroll with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) directly. Environmental Engineering at Cornell University is in an accredited ABET program.
San Diego State University
San Diego State University Students pursuing a B.S. degree in Environmental Engineering have the benefit of doing so at an ABET accredited institute and can make use of the many laboratories the school offers; Biodegradation and Bioremediation, Chemical Oxidation, Analytical Instrumentation, Composting , Soil Erosion and Sediment Transport.
Is a Graduate Degree in Environmental Engineering is Right for You?
Perhaps you know you want to earn more than others, or have more responsibility and independence in your career than you believe a Bachelor's degree will afford you. Your next decision then is one between a M.S. or PhD. A Master's degree will usually take 1-3 years, while a Doctoral degree will usually take 5-6 years. Master's degrees can be all coursework or coursework and a thesis. You may have a lot of supervision, or very little, depending on the school you attend, the route you decide to follow (a no-thesis route would probably have less one-on-one interaction with a major professor in your field), and your own personality. A Doctorate degree generally requires the same basic steps as that of a doctorate in science; acceptance to the program, completion of core coursework, committee selection, thesis research, candidacy examination and completion, and dissertation. Schools may vary in the length of time a typical student attends, funding available, entrance requirements, etc., but they will generally follow a similar pattern for students pursuing a PhD in Environmental Engineering.
Master's Degree in Environmental Engineering
Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Consistently recognized as a top engineering school for years, CMU offers degrees in Environmental Engineering, at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Their Master's program requires an undergraduate degree in Engineering from an accredited school before entrance, or in some cases, a number of engineering courses could be completed before acceptance. The degree in Environmental Engineering lends itself to professional licensure in Civil Engineering, and those seeking such are given the correct course load. Program length depends on the type of program desired; course-based may be completed more quickly than research-based or professional training curricula. Students applying to the PhD program may have to complete a Master's degree first. Advisors with interests similar to the students are often paired together.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
University of Nebraska-Lincoln - The Master of Science in Environmental Engineering (M.S. EnvE) is jointly administered by the Departments of Civil Engineering and Biological Systems Engineering. Admission requires graduation from a fully accredited ABET accredited program with a 3.0/4.0 or a 2.75/4.0 for provisional status. Other students will be reviewed before acceptance. Students may opt to choose a thesis route or non-thesis route, but those who accept research funding are required to select the thesis route. All students have a small core course load, and can then take classes from the Department of Biological Systems Engineering, the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and the Department of Civil Engineering. About half of the graduates of the program stay in Nebraska for work, while the others obtain employment elsewhere.
PhD in Environmental Engineering Programs
Post-doctorate and career positions for PhDs in Environmental engineering include many universities and government agency positions. Private industry may hire PhDs to create solutions to complex problems they have been contracted to solve. Environmental law teams may add engineers to review cases for land and pollution management.
Georgia Institute of Technology
Georgia Institute of Technology offers degrees through a PhD in Environmental Engineering (EnvE). Program requirements follow those typical of a PhD in sciences and Engineering discussed above with an additional requirement of a minor outside the department. The principal focus areas include: environmental biotechnology, water quality and treatment, wastewater reclamation and reuse, hazardous and solid waste engineering, ground water modeling and treatment, air quality monitoring, pollution control and modeling, environmental sciences, and industrial ecology. Courses in EnvE highlight engineering and scientific principles, system design, applications of environmental engineering operations and processes, and atmospheric and hydrological systems. Further information about their courses and staff may be found here.
At the University of California-Berkeley students obtaining graduate degrees in Environmental Engineering focus in three areas; Air Quality Engineering (AQE), Environmental Fluid Mechanics and Hydrology (EFMH), and Water Quality Engineering (WQE).A number of different programs at Berkeley offer courses to students; Berkeley Atmospheric Sciences Center, Earth and Planetary Sciences, Energy & Resources Group, Environmental Science, Policy & Management, Integrative Biology, Mechanical Engineering, Plant & Microbial Biology, and the School of Public Health. PhD students generally take 5-6 years to graduate. Coursework includes a major and 2 minors (at least one outside the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering), as well as a thesis. Students must have graduate advisors and research advisors, and they may be two different people. Students coming into the PhD program should have a MS degree with at least a 3.5 in the subject area.
Learn about the history of environmental engineering.