If you’re passionate about finding ways to protect the public from environmental issues, you may be interested in studying environmental engineering. When you go into this field, you can expect to use your engineering skills to work on major issues like recycling, trash disposal, and pollution to improve both public health and the planet.
If this type of work appeals to you, you’ll need to earn a master’s degree in environmental engineering to get a job. Before you decide that this path is right for you, take a look at what you’ll be studying, where to go for school, and what kind of position you can get with a master’s degree in environmental engineering.
What Is Environmental Engineering?
There are several branches of engineering, and just one of them is environmental. Environmental engineering focuses on finding ways to improve processes that affect both the environment and public health. For instance, in this field of work, you’ll scrutinize the quality of air, soil, and water—and work on finding ways to improve it. You’ll also use engineering and general scientific principles to work on important concepts like recycling, climate change, and waste disposal.
So, what can you do with a master’s degree in environmental engineering? One of the most popular jobs you can get in this field is simply called an environmental engineer. In this position, you design projects that could protect the environment. Projects include creating water reclamation centers and developing air quality control techniques. You’d also inspect and monitor programs that are supposed to have an environmental impact and prepare reports on how to help the local environment. Additionally, you’d likely provide guidance for other professionals—from construction teams to government agencies—on how to clean up and protect the planet as they carry out their own projects.
While an environmental engineer is the most common job title to take on when you get a master’s degree in environmental engineering, other roles are available. For instance, you can become an environmental engineering consultant, in which you advise different companies around the country about how to improve their projects to yield better results for the environment. You can also become a green building engineer—finding ways to build while leaving a smaller footprint on the planet—or you can specialize in working with the government, creating regulations that protect the environment. Simply put, you can do a lot with a master’s degree in environmental engineering.
Why Get a Master’s in Environmental Engineering?
One of the most popular reasons to get a master’s degree in environmental engineering is an interest in improving the environment and public health at the same time. If you have a passion for helping both people and the planet, this could be a rewarding field of study for you, especially considering the wide variety of environment-based jobs you could get in with this degree once you graduate.
Another reason to get into this field is the typical environmental engineering salary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for professionals in this industry was $92,120 as of May 2020. This is more than double the median annual wage for all occupations in the US, which is just under $42,000 per year.
Even if you start in an entry-level job and earn around the lowest 10 percent in this field, you’ll still make about $55,000 per year. As you gain experience or get into a specialty, you could earn up to $145,000 or more through your master’s degree in environmental engineering salary, according to the BLS. So, is a master’s degree in environmental engineering worth it? If you’re looking for a wage that’s better than average, it is.
How Much Does a Master’s in Environmental Engineering Degree Cost?
The cost of a master’s in environmental engineering degree varies quite a bit, but you should get an idea of the range in prices before you choose a program to attend. In general, the least expensive graduate-level programs in this field cost about $5,000 per year, while the most expensive options can cost more than $30,000 per year. The average tuition for a master’s degree in environmental engineering program is about $12,000 annually.
Granted, the cost of a master’s degree in environmental engineering depends on a few factors. For example, private schools tend to cost more than public schools. This means you should look into a public school in your state if you want to save money—since in-state tuition is usually cheaper than out-of-state tuition. You should also consider what financial aid is available to help you pay for school, as grants and scholarships can save you money on tuition. If you already have a job in this field, you can find out whether your employer will pay for some or all of your credits. It’s not uncommon for businesses to pay for their employees to improve their education.
Another aspect to consider is whether you attend on-campus or online. In many cases, online master’s in environmental engineering degree programs are less expensive than on-campus programs. Not only is tuition often a little less, but you can save money by staying home and doing the coursework on your computer rather than paying for the gas to commute to school. Additionally, online master’s in environmental engineering degree programs make it easy for you to work while attending school. You can work during the day and watch your classes and complete exams on the computer during nights and weekends.
10 Master’s in Environmental Engineering Online Degree Programs
Arizona State University – Online Master of Science in Engineering in Sustainable Engineering
Annual tuition: $17,200
Pre-requisites: Bachelor’s degree in engineering or related field; 3.0 GPA, GRE scores; personal statement; 3 letters of recommendation
California State University, Fullerton – Master of Science in Environmental Engineering
Annual tuition: $7,065 in-state; $13,000 out-of-state
Pre-requisites: Bachelor’s degree; 2.5 GPA
Columbia University – Master of Science in Earth and Environmental Engineering
Annual tuition: $34,100
Pre-requisites: Bachelor’s degree in engineering, science, math, computer science, or similar field; 3.0 GPA; GRE scores; 3 letters of recommendation; personal statement
North Carolina State University at Raleigh – Master of Environmental Engineering
Annual tuition: $5,548
Pre-requisites: Bachelor’s degree in environmental or civil engineering; 3.0 GPA
Old Dominion University – Master of Science in Environmental Engineering
Annual tuition: $8,925
Pre-requisites: Bachelor’s degree; 3.0 GPA; GRE test
University of Arizona – Master of Engineering in Innovation, Sustainability and Entrepreneurship
Annual tuition: $13,875
Pre-requisites: Bachelor’s degree in engineering or science field; 3.0 GPA
University of Central Florida – Master of Environmental Engineering
Annual tuition: $4,910 in-state; $17,276 out-of-state
Pre-requisites: Bachelor’s degree; 3.0 GPA
University of New Haven – Master of Science in Environmental Engineering
Annual tuition: $15,300
Pre-requisites: Bachelor’s degree; 3.0 GPA; statement of purpose; 2 letters of recommendation
University of North Dakota – Master’s in Environmental Engineering
Annual tuition: $13,050
Pre-requisites: Bachelor’s degree in Environmental, Civil, Chemical, or Geological Engineering; 2.5 GPA
Worcester Polytechnic Institute – Master’s in Environmental Engineering Online
Annual tuition: $26,565
Pre-requisites: Bachelor’s degree in chemical, civil, or mechanical engineering
Common Courses in Master’s in Environmental Engineering Degree Programs
As part of the master’s degree in environmental engineering requirements for graduation, you typically have to take a wide range of courses that will teach you the principles of this field. Some of the most common courses include:
- Hazardous waste management
- Air pollution management
- Remediation of contaminated soil
- Wastewater treatment
- Water sampling and analysis
- Environmental engineering research
- Microbiology for engineers
Other FAQs About Master’s in Environmental Engineering Degrees and Programs
How much do Master’s in Environmental Engineering graduates typically earn in salary?
BLS reports that the median annual wage for professionals in this field is $92,120 as of May 2020. You may be able to increase this salary by working for the federal government since the median annual salary for this type of employer is $110,250.
How long does it take to get a Master’s in Environmental Engineering degree?
The typical time it takes to get a master’s degree in environmental engineering is one to three years. Most programs take about two years on average, but you can adjust the length of the program by increasing or decreasing the number of credit hours you take each semester. Note that you must have a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering or a related field before you can get your master’s degree, and this takes three to four years on average. This means you should plan to be in school for about six years if you follow this course of study.
What GPA is required for a Master’s in Environmental Engineering program?
Many master’s in environmental engineering degree programs require a history of good grades during the undergraduate years. While the exact GPA required varies by school, most programs look for at least a 3.0 GPA before they accept you to the graduate program.
What is the job outlook for Master’s in Environmental Engineering graduates?
The BLS reports that the expected growth for this field is about 4 percent from 2020 to 2030, which is slower than average compared to all jobs. That means there are about 4,000 job openings available for environmental engineers every year. You should note that most of the demand in this field comes from state and local governments that are trying to increase water efficiency, as well as the federal government, which is focusing on cleaning up contaminated areas. So if you want job security, you should look at government jobs or consulting positions that would let you advise government agencies as needed.