Is an Environmental Engineering Degree Right for You?

Students who have an interest in applying their math, science, and critical thinking skills to solving environmental issues and improving the lives of the people in their community should consider earning a degree in environmental engineering. Environmental engineers take on projects that can have a large impact on the environment and their communities. They work to address problems in the quality of the water supply, solid waste management, and air pollution control.

Advice for Earning Your Environmental Engineering Degree Online

If you are considering an online environmental engineering bachelor’s degree program, know that few, if any, programs are delivered entirely online. While many general education and engineering courses can be offered at a distance, lab and design courses must be delivered on a college campus. Therefore, working students will need to make arrangements with their employer ahead of time for any site-based requirements.

Prospective students should also make sure any environmental engineering program is accredited by ABET, which will not only mark all high-quality programs, but will also ensure they are eligible to become licensed engineers in their state if their career path requires this credential. Finally, consider programs that connect you with well-established cooperative programs, where you can earn college credit while gaining practical experience in the field, as this can improve your job prospects upon graduation.

Required Courses

An undergraduate environmental engineering program features in-depth study in chemistry, physics, and advanced mathematics, as well as foundational studies in engineering, such as statics, dynamics, fluid mechanics, and thermodynamics. Students build on this foundation with courses in environmental engineering analysis and design. Such programs typically conclude with two senior design projects. Courses you may take in such a program include:

  • Environmental Hydrology
  • Air Pollution Control Design
  • Solid and Hazardous Waste Management
  • Environmental Resource Management
  • Project Development & Management

Common Career Paths

Earning an online environmental engineering degree may open the door to a number of careers in environmental engineering or conservation. You can pursue careers in government agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in the private sector, or for a nonprofit organization concerned with environmental matters. Salaries in environmental engineering can vary greatly based on your experience, employer, and location. Possible careers include:

Environmental Engineer — Air Quality and Pollution Control

  • Expected Growth: 22%
  • Average Annual Salary: $85,140

Environmental engineers who specialize in air quality and pollution control are responsible for designing and testing devices meant to mitigate air pollution, according to a description of the field provided by the University of Vermont’s College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences (CEMS). They also devise mathematical models to help people get a better idea of the activity of pollutants in the environment.

A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering is typically required for such a position. The above job outlook and salary average were provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Environmental Engineer — Groundwater Quality and Remediation

  • Expected Growth: 22%
  • Average Annual Salary: $85,140

Environmental engineers who specialize in groundwater quality and remediation develop systems meant to preserve and manage groundwater, which is the primary source of drinking water in many communities. When these systems become contaminated, these engineers may also devise strategies to remediate the contamination, according to a description of the field by UV — CEMS. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering is typically required for such a position. Statistics shown reflect BLS data.

Environmental Engineer — Hazardous Materials Management

  • Expected Growth: 22%
  • Average Annual Salary: $85,140

Environmental engineers who specialize in hazardous materials management develop systems meant to mitigate the effects of hazardous waste on the surrounding environment, according to a description of the field by UV — CEMS. They may also design systems to contain such hazardous waste. As with other environmental engineering careers, a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering or a related specialization is required. Statistics shown represent BLS data.

Environmental Engineer — Water and Wastewater Treatment

  • Expected Growth: 22%
  • Average Annual Salary: $85,140

Environmental engineers who specialize in water and wastewater treatment design water/wastewater treatment facilities, according to a description of the field by UV — CEMS. Their work helps ensure that communities have safe, clean drinking water, and that wastewater is properly treated to prevent the spread of disease and prevent wastewater from negatively impacting the environment. A bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering or a related specialization is required for such a position. The above statistics are drawn from BLS data.

Hydrologist

  • Expected Growth: 18%
  • Average Annual Salary: $78,920

A bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering may also open the door to a career as a hydrologist. Hydrologists study the properties of water, including volume, stream flow, and distribution, to solve water quality and availability problems. Their responsibilities may include collecting water and soil samples to test for pollution levels, studying ways to improve water conservation, forecasting water supplies and the spread of pollution, and determining the feasibility of certain hydroelectric power plants and other projects.

A master’s degree in the natural sciences or engineering is needed to qualify for most positions in this occupation, but a bachelor’s degree may be an inroad to entry-level positions, the BLS explained. The employment growth projection and salary average provided above are available through the BLS.

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