Environmental Engineering Bachelor’s Degree

What is the Main Focus of an Environmental Engineer?

Engineers are the world’s lifeline to everything that defines our civilization, not unlike the Romans with their aqueducts, toilets, and sewer systems. Environmental engineering is a critical career field that helps keep our planet inhabitable and sustainable.

If you are considering embarking on a career dedicated to environmental engineering, there are many facets of your education that will come into play, and the more you know now, the better engineer you will be.

Your role as an environmental engineer will involve providing safe and plentiful water supplies, developing systems for reducing pollutants in air, water and hazardous wastes; anticipating the effects of contaminants’ transport, and correcting improper disposal situations where hazardous materials are concerned.

As an environmental engineer, you will seek solutions to public health threats, improvements in and adherence to the law surrounding sanitation and construction, waste disposal, recycling, industrial hygiene, and environmental sustainability.

Types of EE

Environmental engineers are most concerned with the effects of technological advances on the environment. Hazardous-waste treatment is a significant issue needing regulation which these engineers can design and help implement through laboratory and legal avenues.

Worldwide issues in the environmental engineer’s expertise include everything from farm runoff to ozone depletion, and all of the water sources in between. Today’s engineers often further their education with specialized training in law and use legal paths to access routes to improvement. The study and practice of environmental engineering is as broad as the elements that make up the Earth.

What Are the Prerequisites for a B.S.?

Schools of engineering can vary in their requirements, but are also quite similar. Typically, a university offers the CEE (civil and environmental engineering) degree, and a B.S. in environmental engineering (BS EnvE). The curriculum provides students with the fundamentals to address emerging issues with air and land resources, human health, water, and environmental restoration.

All prerequisites must be satisfied before graduating with a B.S. The B.S. EnvE degree requires acceptable letter grades in math, physics, chemistry, and COE.

Can I Get a Masters?

Students seeking specialized graduate degrees in environmental engineering have four basic choices. Those wanting a career that does not require research can get a master of engineering (M.Eng.) degree. For a master of science (M.S.), students must complete a thesis research project showing their increased knowledge. The Ph.D. degree (doctor of philosophy) is awarded for expertise in research, and the D.Eng. (doctor of engineering) degree awards combined technical expertise with management skills.

There are online schools for B.S. degrees in engineering, but they are not reviewed here. The many laboratory components of engineering studies may not be available online; careful attention should be given to selecting an institution.

What Kinds of Classes Do I Take?

First and Second years

  • Students take courses in English composition, mathematics, biology, physics, chemistry, and introductory engineering.

Third year

  • Introduces advanced engineering courses, including solid and fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, and laboratories in engineering materials, hydraulic engineering, and environmental monitoring and process engineering.


  • Primarily these studies are based on students’ electives and if they are laying the foundation for a graduate level degree.

Graduate Level

Students specializing in environmental engineering can pursue four graduate degrees. The master of engineering (M.Eng.) degree is for those who seek careers that do not include research. The master of science (M.S.) degree requires students to conduct a thesis research project and expand their knowledge.

The doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degree is awarded for expertise in research, and the doctor of engineering (D.Eng.) degree is designed to combine technical expertise with management skills.

There are online schools for B.S. degrees in engineering, but they are not reviewed here. The many laboratory components of engineering studies may not be available online; careful attention should be given to selecting an institution.

What Are Some of the Jobs Specific to Environmental Engineering?

Because technology is always changing, job titles and work settings change, so the niche you set your cap for may be listed under new and expanded headings by the time you have your B.S. Positions for environmental engineers are widespread throughout industry, government, research organizations, management, and consulting. The need exists worldwide for environmental engineers to find solutions to our human needs.

Environmental engineers can choose career opportunities from designing waste treatment facilities and developing management strategies, to creating predictive models of human impacts on the environment and conducting research. They can work with carbon management, structural safety, water and air quality, transportation infrastructure, and sustainability. The list is far too long for this overview.

Environmental engineering degrees can lead to jobs in the power industry, with architectural and engineering firms, engineering consulting firms, and city, state and federal government.

Companies who hire Environmental Engineers

  • Alcoa
  • Bechtel Corporation
  • Cliffs Natural Resources
  • Csx Transportation
  • Golder Associates
  • Kiewit
  • Kl Engineering
  • Union Pacific Railroad
  • US Army Corps of Engineers

How Much Does An Environmental Engineer Earn?

According to the Bureau of Labor statistics the 2010 median pay as $78,740 per year with an entry-level education of bachelor’s degree. There were 51,400 such jobs in the U.S. in 2010 and job outlook was at 22% (faster than average).

From NACE Report, Summer 2011-, the average starting salary of $55,309 was based on having a B.S. degree. Salary level typically increases with experience and/or educational degrees.

Professional Organizations

There are countless professional organizations that welcome the participation of environmental engineers. You can find a few of them at http://www.pages.drexel.edu/~enve/Professional_Links.html.


There are many excellent schools of engineering, and while the following websites contributed to parts of this brief introduction to environmental engineering education, there is no intention to endorse any particular institution.






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