A Comprehensive Guide: How to Launch a Successful Career as an Environmental Engineer

As the world grapples with environmental challenges, the role of environmental engineers has never been more vital. They’re the unsung heroes, using their scientific knowledge to design solutions that help protect our planet. But how does one join this league of eco-warriors?

Embarking on a journey to become an environmental engineer can seem daunting, yet it’s an incredibly rewarding career path. It’s a profession that combines creativity, problem-solving, and a passion for the environment. This article sheds light on the steps needed to enter this dynamic field, providing a roadmap for those who dream of making a real difference.

How to Become an Environmental Engineer

Paving the path towards becoming an environmental engineer commences with acquiring a deep understanding of their role. This segment delineates what environmental engineers do daily, along with key challenges and rewards associated with this career path.

What Does an Environmental Engineer Do?

An environmental engineer specialises in designing, developing and implementing solutions to environmental challenges. They utilise principles of engineering, soil science, biology, and chemistry to curtail the negative impacts of human activity on the environment. For instance, they create systems for waste disposal or water treatment, fix public health issues related to environmental hazards, and deal with regulations ensuring environmental responsibility.

Their typical tasks include designing processes and equipment for industrial pollution control, conducting research to address environmental problems, and advising policy makers on environmental issues. Furthermore, they also play a significant role in sustainable energy production projects, like designing wind farms and solar energy systems.

Educational Requirements for Environmental Engineers

Preparing to become an environmental engineer begins with a solid educational foundation. Professionals working in this field typically require certain key academic qualifications, which equip them with the skills needed to devise solutions to environmental challenges. Here, we discuss the academic journey one can expect while pursuing a career in environmental engineering.

High School Preparation

In high school, prospective environmental engineers lay the groundwork for their future careers. Most often, they study subjects such as mathematics, chemistry, and physics. These subjects, particularly when taken at advanced levels, can provide a critical understanding of the basic concepts that underpin environmental engineering. They’ll also often study biology, as it helps develop an understanding of the natural world and how human activities impact it. Already, by willingness to emphasise these subjects, high school students can set themselves on a path towards becoming environmental engineers.

Certifications and Licence Needed

Navigating the world of environmental engineering involves obtaining certain certifications and licences. Demonstrating comprehension, implementation, and practice of engineering principles through these steps signals a higher level of competence and skill in the field.

Fundamentals of Engineering (FE)

The Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam serves as the gateway to professional licensure. Administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), it’s a must-take test for environmental engineers aiming for professional recognition. Graduates often tackle this exam shortly after earning a bachelor’s degree. Topics span from chemistry and biology to mathematics and engineering, echoing the diverse requirements of environmental engineering. Successful completion of the FE marks a candidate as an Engineer-In-Training (EIT), paving the way for the next licensing phase.

Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE)

The Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam represents the second step towards becoming a licensed Professional Engineer, a credit that boosts credibility in the profession. Following a few years of work experience as an EIT and commitment to continued learning, environmental engineers become eligible to take the PE exam. 

Showcasing competencies in specialised areas, such as water and wastewater engineering, air quality engineering, or soil mechanics, this intensive test concludes the formal licensing process. Environmental engineers passing the PE exam can confidently demonstrate expertise and commitment to their profession, promoting higher standards of tech-savviness and strategic problem-solving.