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Would a degree in Environmental Science or Environmental Engineering provide more job prospects out of college?

I am currently interested in studying Environmental Engineering.. I want to focus on Soil and want to make sure that I will have job prospects coming out of college. #environmental-engineering #environmental-science

Hi Halli, This sounds like a conversation I had with my son on Geology vs. Geological Engineering. I told him to take the Engineering route, and as expected, his best job prospects were in Geological Engineering. He got his engineering BS, and a Masters in Geology. He ended up being hired to work primarily in Geology, but the company's output had a strong engineering component. He held his own with the other engineers and this gave him access to several career paths within the organization, which he has been been happy to take advantage of. I have had 35 years as an Environmental Engineer and Manager, and found that the Engineering discipline provided opportunities not available to those without that background. 'Nuff said. Donald Windeler

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Charles’s Answer

In my opinion, which is based on my career as a civil/environmental engineer with colleagues who are both engineers and scientists, an ABET accredited degree in environmental engineering opens up more career opportunities than a degree in environmental science. With an engineering degree under your belt you will qualify for and be able to do jobs that only require a science degree because the core math and science coursework is generally the same; however, the opposite is not always true. In particular, if a job requires a licensed engineer, you will generally need an engineering degree as a prerequisite for professional licensure. Speaking from personal experience, I was enrolled in an environmental science program up until halfway through my sophomore year of college, when my adviser, who happened to be an engineer, asked why I picked science over engineering. I told him I liked the outdoors and wanted a job that allowed me to help the environment. Long story short, he told me I’d have more opportunities to do just that with an engineering degree. As a result of that conversation I switched to civil engineering with an environmental focus, and later earned a M.S. in environmental engineering. Looking back on that decision 15 years later, I’m so glad my adviser offered that advice when he did because I have had a very fulfilling career that, truthfully, wouldn’t have been possible with a degree in environmental science.

Charles recommends the following next steps:

Do some searches on CareerBuilder or Indeed to see for yourself what the minimum qualifications are for jobs that peek your interest.
Apply to schools with a healthy variety of science and engineering programs so as to keep your options open.
I know you didn't ask for advice about picking a college/university, but I would suggest you don't go into extreme debt earning your degree. While it may be somewhat helpful to have a name brand school on your resume landing your first job; honestly, no one cares where you went to school a few years later. The quality of the work you do will be more important in advancing your career than the school(s) on your resume.

Thank you for this great advice! I am now leaning into Environmental Engineering. I have been accepted to a program, but I need to check if it is ABET accredited. I want to work in the outdoors too. I job shadowed at an Air Force Base near me and the work was extremely interesting and what I want to do. Halli R.

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Rachel’s Answer

<span style="background-color: transparent;">Collegeboard.org is a great resource for this! I poured through the pages of universities all over the U.S. when I was a senior in high school. Collegeboard was my go-to site! They put all of the information in one place and it is very easy to use. They even have various filters you can apply to see only colleges that have programs you are interested. To determine academic rigor, look at the admissions requirements, G.P.A. of past admitted applicants, SAT/ACT scores, class rank etc. This will give you an idea of what scores and grades you need to be accepted. However, don't be discouraged your application will be reviewed based on the full picture! College-board will help you get an idea of what is most important to the specific school you are applying to.</span>

This professional recommends the following next steps:

  • <span style="background-color: transparent;">Chat with your Guidance Counselor</span>
  • <span style="background-color: transparent;">Create a Collegeboard.org account</span>
  • <span style="background-color: transparent;">Start using CollegeBoard as a resource to look up schools.</span>