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How to Become an Environmental Engineer

Bachelor's degree

In order to become an environmental engineer, a bachelor's degree is required. Environmental engineers need to have a bachelor's degree in environmental engineering or a related field including: general, chemical or civil engineering. Practical experience is highly valued by employers. Cooperative engineering programs that award college credit for specific job experience are valuable. Chances of employment are greatly enhanced after obtaining licensure.

Education & Training

High school students interested in a career as an environmental engineer should take courses in physics, calculus, biology, chemistry, trigonometry and algebra.

Environmental engineering jobs within entry-level positions require a bachelor's degree. Typically, programs are 4 years and include field studies, laboratory and classroom components. Certain universities and colleges provide cooperative programs to enable students to obtain practical experience while completing their degree.

Individuals may wish to enroll in special 5 year programs offered by some universities and colleges where they can graduate with a master's degree and a bachelor's degree. These graduate degrees enable engineers to do research and development or to work as an instructor at universities or colleges.

ABET accredited engineering programs are considered to be among the best. Certain employers will only hire candidates who have graduated from such a program. ABET accredited programs are typically required for those who want to be a licensed professional engineer.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Many environmental engineers desire PE or professional engineer licensing. Obtaining PE designation typically requires the following:

A) Successful completion of an ABET accredited engineering degree program

B) A passing score on the FE or Fundamentals of Engineering exam

C) A passing score on the PE or Professional Engineering exam

D) Relevant work experience

After graduating, the first FE exam can be taken. Once this test is passed, engineers are commonly referred to as EIs engineer interns or EITs or engineers in training. Once suitable work experience has been obtained, the second exam, known as the Principals and Practice of Engineering can be taken.

Many places have continuing education requirements in order for engineers to maintain their licenses. Many places will recognize licensure from other areas as long as it meets or exceeds local requirements. Board certification may be obtained to show that an environmental engineer has expertise in a specific area.

Skills and Qualities that will Help

Imagination: Environmental engineers often are required to design systems that will integrate into larger ones. Therefore, they need to imagine how their proposed design ideals will interact with components from the bigger picture. For example, along with environmental concerns, they may have to negotiate equipment, workers and machinery.

Interpersonal Skills: Environmental engineers need to work together with a variety of individuals to reach common goals. They often work alongside scientists and engineers who design other system components. Mechanics and technicians work with environmental engineers on a consistent basis to implement designs.

Problem-Solving Skills: These engineers need to simultaneously deal with numerous issues including: environmental protection and workers' safety when designing processes and facilities. It is vital to anticipate and identify certain issues in order to protect the health and safety of workers, prevent losses for their employers and assess environmental damage.

Reading Skills: Environmental engineers commonly work with lawyers, business people and numerous professionals outside of their field. They often have to comprehend and read documents that focus on information that is outside of their training realm.

Writing Skills: These engineers must write and communicate clearly so others can comprehend their proposals, plans, findings, specifications and numerous other documents.

How To Advance

Once engineers gain experience and knowledge, beginning engineers can take on more complex tasks. As they advance, greater independence will be granted for decision making, design development and problem solving. Environmental engineers may eventually advance to supervise a team of technicians or engineers.

Executive positions such as program managers may be taken on by engineering managers. Prior to obtaining any managerial position; engineers are usually required to work under supervision from an engineer with more experience. A master's degree is commonly required by individuals wishing to advance into a managerial position.