What is an Environmental Engineer?

An environmental engineer uses the principles of engineering, soil science, biology, and chemistry to develop solutions to environmental problems.

They are involved in efforts to improve recycling, waste disposal, public health, and control of water and air pollution.

What does an Environmental Engineer do?

Environmental engineers conduct hazardous-waste management studies, in which they evaluate the significance of the hazard and advise on treating and containing it. They collaborate with environmental scientists, planners, hazardous waste technicians, engineers, and other specialists, such as experts in law and business, to address environmental problems and sustainability.

Three environmental engineers conducting a hazardous waste management study.

Environmental engineers study ways to minimize the effects of acid rain, global warming, automobile emissions, and ozone depletion. They also design municipal water supply and industrial wastewater treatment systems and research the environmental impact of proposed construction projects.

Environmental engineers typically do the following:

  • Prepare, review, and update environmental investigation reports
  • Design projects leading to environmental protection, such as water reclamation facilities, air pollution control systems, and operations that convert waste to energy
  • Obtain, update, and maintain plans, permits, and standard operating procedures
  • Provide technical support for environmental remediation projects and legal actions
  • Analyze scientific data and do quality-control checks
  • Monitor progress of environmental improvement programs
  • Inspect industrial and municipal facilities and programs to ensure compliance with environmental regulations
  • Advise corporations and government agencies about procedures for cleaning up contaminated sites

When designing facilities and processes for treating wastewater and other pollution, environmental engineers strive to solve several issues at once, from workers’ safety to environmental protection. They identify and anticipate problems to prevent losses for their employers, safeguard workers’ health, and mitigate environmental damage.

Environmental engineers often work with business people, lawyers, and other professionals outside of their field, and are required to read and understand documents that are sometimes not within their scope of training. Often, their designs are only a part of a larger project. Therefore, they need to foresee how the proposed designs will interact with other components in the process, including the workers, machinery, equipment, or the environment.

Are you suited to be an environmental engineer?

Environmental engineers have distinct personalities. They tend to be investigative individuals, which means they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive. They are curious, methodical, rational, analytical, and logical. Some of them are also conventional, meaning they’re conscientious and conservative.

Does this sound like you? Take our free career test to find out if environmental engineer is one of your top career matches.

Take the free test now Learn more about the career test

What is the workplace of an Environmental Engineer like?

Environmental engineers can be found working in a variety of settings, depending on what project they are working on and who they are interacting with.

When working with other engineers and urban and regional planners, environmental engineers are likely to be working in an office setting. Construction projects are likely to be at construction sites. When working with hazardous waste technicians and environmental scientists, work will be at specific sites outdoors.

Once in awhile travel may be a requirement, as environmental engineers are sometimes asked to present information and answer questions at various seminars throughout the country.

Environmental Engineers are also known as:
Environmental Engineer and Scientist Civil and Environmental Engineer Board Certified Environmental Engineer