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What is an environmental engineer?

What does an environmental engineer really do on a daily basis? I can’t decide if it’s what I really want to do but I have been considering it. Any advice?

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Michael’s Answer

Hi Charlotte:

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, here is a link on the duties of an Environment Engineer:

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

According to U.S. News & World Report, here is a link to the Best Colleges and Universities for Environmental Engineering:

- University of California (Berkeley)
- Stanford University
- University of Michigan (Ann Arbor)
- University of Illinois Urbana - Champaign (Grainger)
- Georgia Institute of Technology
- University of Texas - Austin (Cockrell)
- Virginia Tech
- Carnegie Mellon University (Carnegie)
- Cornell University
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- University of Minnesota (Twin Cities)

When reviewing colleges and universities, it is best to check the following:

- In-State vs Out of State Tuition
- Internships
- Scholarships
- Career Placement upon graduation
- Course work and offered classes
- Post-Graduate Degrees - Master and Doctoral

Scholarship applications can start to be submitted during your Junior year and will continue throughout your Senior year in high school. It is best to ask your Academic Advisor/School Counselor on the timeline process as well. Scholarship applications will have specific deadlines and requirements to meet in order to be submitted for review and consideration.

You may want to start to compile your resume/portfolio since a majority of scholarship applications will require academic grade point average (GPA), academic accomplishments, school activities (clubs, sports, etc.), community involvement (volunteer, church, etc.), academic and personal recommendations, etc. There may be essay requirements on why you are a qualified candidate to receive the scholarship, what your future goals are academically and professionally and other questions centering around who you are, your beliefs, etc.

Here are a couple of links for College Scholarships:

Also, it will be best to check with the colleges and universities that you will be applying to. You can check with the School/Department of your desired major, the Campus Career Center and the Register's Office for additional information for college scholarships and grants and specific requirements for qualifications.

Best wishes for your education and career path in Environmental Engineering!
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Michelle’s Answer

Hello, Charlotte !

I am happy to see that you are interested in Environmental Engineering, as it is a field of work in which you would have a good impact on the way people live and on quality of life.

Environmental engineers work with many things. Some of these are wastewater management, water and air purification systems, waste disposal and recycling. You would also be doing research and sometimes teaching and sometimes work at construction sites or wherever there is a need. They also build structures sometimes such as sewage systems, wastewater treatment plants, green roofs and air purification mechanisms.

You would need to get a Bachelors degree in environmental engineering or it can be in civil, chemical or general engineering. A lot of employers prefer to hire people who have had experience, so you would want to look into an internship or some sort of engineering program to build up that experience. The pay is good and the job outlook for the future is average. This field of work is growing.

The first best way to figure out if this career is for you is to read a lot about it. Research what the duties entail, how the job market is in your area, if you can go to school locally for that major or would you have to relocate. Consider all of these things. If you decide that you still are interested, I would advise making steps towards meeting some environmental engineers who are active in their career now. You can call the town office in Mukwonago, WI , at the Public Works Dept. and speak to the Superintendent at (262) 666-4415. See if there are any opportunities in your town to shadow. That will be very helpful in your further decisions.

I hope that this has helped you and guided you on how to find out more about Environmental Engineering. It seems like it is a career with a lot of variety which probably makes the workday very interesting. Best wishes to you in your decision !
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Lynn’s Answer

On any given day as an environmental engineer, you will be reviewing reports written by others or writing reports. Filling out permit application forms for your projects Going into the field to investigate a problem or check on progress on a project or take samples. You'll attend lots of meetings. You'll be calling clients, vendors and regulatory agencies. You might be designing small parts of a larger project or eventually, overseeing others as they design small parts of your project. You will have to learn how to keep multiple projects going at the same time.

Exactly which parts of each of those you will do, it depends on what type of position you have and how much experience.

Lynn recommends the following next steps:

You might want to reach out to a few local firms that do environmental work and see if they'll let you shadow one of their employees for a couple of hours.
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Sarah’s Answer

I work at a chemical manufacturing facility, we work with quite a few environmental engineers. Environmental engineers working at a chemical plant assist with helping our plant to maintain and improve our environmental performance. They monitor our air emissions (flares and vent stacks), waste and water impacts, ensuring environmentally safe waste disposal. They monitor our drinking water for the site.

We have company goals to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and improve our company-wide sustainability. Environmental engineers are leading the charge on these efforts.

We produce chemicals and plastics that improve lives (think of all of the uses for plastics: medical supplies, keeping food shelf stable for longer times, ice chests, kayaks...). Environmental engineers help to ensure that while we produce these products, we do so with as minimal impact to the environment as possible, and maintain compliance with all environmental regulations and standards.

Sarah recommends the following next steps:

Check out our company website on Sustainability:
Check out what several companies are doing to end plastic waste: