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Environmental Engineers

At a Glance

  • Solve environmental problems
  • Work on teams
  • Have a bachelor's degree (many have a master's degree)
  • May need a license

Career summary

Environmental engineers find ways to solve environmental problems that affect the welfare of humans and nature.

#checked 3/5/19 lh

Environmental engineers find ways to:

Environmental engineers find or analyze contaminants such as chemicals in soil, air, and water. Sometimes they do this when a company wants to buy property or when a leakage is reported. Once they have collected information, they write a report that summarizes their findings.

When contamination is found, environmental engineers help their clients find the best ways to solve the problem. They often design systems or equipment to clean up a site. They present options for remediation (or clean up), timelines, and costs. They help their clients understand the environmental rules that apply to them.

Environmental engineers coordinate the work done on environmental projects. They hire workers and obtain required permits. They also contact landfills to haul away and dispose contaminated soil.

To make sure work is completed safely, engineers create health and safety plans for each project. The safety plan outlines procedures in the event of an emergency. Workers may be required to test the air at the site to make sure harmful vapors are not present.

Environmental engineers also evaluate the impact an activity will have on the environment. For example, if a shopping mall is to be built on farmland, they will write an environmental impact statement. They look at how the new shopping mall will affect the area's water and air.

Related careers

This career is part of the Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to environmental engineers.

Common work activities

Environmental engineers perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, environmental engineers:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Environmental engineers frequently:

It is important for environmental engineers to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for environmental engineers to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Environmental engineers need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


#3/5/19 lh

To work as an environmental engineer, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Environmental engineers need at least a bachelor's degree in civil, mechanical, or chemical engineering. Most universities offer a bachelor's degree in civil engineering. Some colleges and universities also offer engineering programs with an emphasis on environmental systems and design. Engineering programs take four to five years to complete.

Work experience

You should consider participating in an internship with an engineering firm while you are in college. An internship is usually part of a four-year degree program. It offers you a chance to apply what you have learned in the classroom to a work situation. It also allows you to build skills and make contacts with people in the field.

Many engineering companies have their own testing labs. They often need extra help during the summer when construction activities are at a peak. Getting a summer job in an "in house" laboratory is a good way to gain experience and make contacts.

On-the-job training

Employers usually provide training for employees working with and around environmental contaminants. Many states require environmental workers to be certified. Certification courses usually take place during a 40-hour training week. You learn about chemical exposure risks and ways to prevent injuries. You may also receive first aid training. The length of training varies by employer, but usually lasts less than a year.

Some environmental engineers may also receive additional training in the use of special equipment.

Military training

The military does not provide initial training in this field. However, the military may provide work experience to environmental engineering graduates.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum (external link) may be different from your state's graduation requirements (external link). Engineers use math and science frequently. Try to take math classes through Trigonometry and science classes through Physics.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups (PDF file) that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers look for environmental engineers who have at least a bachelor's degree in engineering. They also look for applicants who are licensed engineers or who have taken the first test in the licensing process. Licensing requirements vary by state.

Some employers prefer to hire environmental engineers that have taken environmental courses. They may also look for applicants with a master's degree.

Employers prefer to hire environmental engineers who are creative and analytical. They look for people who can solve problems and work with abstract ideas. Oral and written communication skills are also important. Employers look for people who can work as part of a team. Employers also prefer environmental engineers who have strong computer skills.

Employers also seek people with the ability to keep time commitments and who can work on multiple projects at the same time.

Costs to workers

Some may wish to join a professional association, which may have annual dues. Workers may have to pay for continuing education classes to keep up with changes in the field.


Engineers employed in responsible positions in government or in firms offering services to the public, or who stamp their work as being done by an engineer, must be licensed by the Washington State Department of Licensing.

Getting a license as an engineer-in-training requires:

Professional engineer licensing requirements include:

Engineers who want to be licensed must pay an exam fee to the National Council of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors and a $65 fee for the initial state exam application. The state licence renewal fee is $116 every two years. Not all industrial engineers must be licensed.

For information on testing, contact:

National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (external link)
PO Box 1686
Clemson, SC 29633-1686

For licensing information, contact:

Washington State Department of Licensing
Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and
Land Surveyors Licensing Program (external link)

PO Box 9025
Olympia, WA 98507-9025

Licensing requirements vary from state to state. People who want to work in another state should find out what that state requires.

#No change to licensing info 4/5/16, 3/27/18 cj. updated exam statement 3/5/19 lh

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Environmental engineers (SOC 17-2081)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $27.63 $37.99 $47.74 $58.18 $69.43
Monthly $4,788 $6,584 $8,273 $10,083 $12,032
Yearly $57,470 $79,010 $99,300 $121,020 $144,400
    Bellingham Hourly $29.34 $40.86 $47.39 $57.33 $63.98
Monthly $5,085 $7,081 $8,213 $9,935 $11,088
Yearly $61,021 $84,991 $98,567 $119,252 $133,094
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $33.39 $42.10 $52.63 $62.67 $75.14
Monthly $5,786 $7,296 $9,121 $10,861 $13,022
Yearly $69,446 $87,578 $109,482 $130,356 $156,274
    Longview Hourly $21.04 $26.78 $36.87 $46.73 $54.11
Monthly $3,646 $4,641 $6,390 $8,098 $9,377
Yearly $43,758 $55,697 $76,688 $97,191 $112,548
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $41.72 $43.80 $48.35 $56.82 $63.98
Monthly $7,230 $7,591 $8,379 $9,847 $11,088
Yearly $86,789 $91,094 $100,554 $118,200 $133,094
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $30.64 $38.89 $45.02 $48.57 $48.75
Monthly $5,310 $6,740 $7,802 $8,417 $8,448
Yearly $63,744 $80,872 $93,646 $101,033 $101,400
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $32.59 $42.33 $51.96 $61.67 $74.49
Monthly $5,648 $7,336 $9,005 $10,687 $12,909
Yearly $67,787 $88,065 $108,074 $128,268 $154,939
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $30.64 $35.92 $42.84 $46.23 $48.58
Monthly $5,310 $6,225 $7,424 $8,012 $8,419
Yearly $63,733 $74,734 $89,107 $96,160 $101,047
    Vancouver Hourly $30.90 $36.15 $44.25 $55.10 $68.05
Monthly $5,355 $6,265 $7,669 $9,549 $11,793
Yearly $64,278 $75,198 $92,037 $114,616 $141,554
    Walla Walla Hourly $26.70 $31.37 $45.47 $46.66 $54.06
Monthly $4,627 $5,436 $7,880 $8,086 $9,369
Yearly $55,519 $65,254 $94,563 $97,045 $112,443
    Yakima Hourly $23.71 $35.13 $37.02 $42.93 $53.27
Monthly $4,109 $6,088 $6,416 $7,440 $9,232
Yearly $49,305 $73,067 $77,001 $89,308 $110,803
United States Hourly $25.57 $32.02 $42.13 $53.95 $65.91
Monthly $4,431 $5,549 $7,301 $9,350 $11,422
Yearly $53,180 $66,590 $87,620 $112,230 $137,090

Earnings vary based on the engineer's level of education. Those with advanced degrees usually earn higher wages. Wages also vary by area of the country.

Benefits vary by employer. Most full-time engineers receive benefits such as paid vacation, sick leave, and health insurance. Government employees usually also receive a retirement plan.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook


The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Environmental Engineers (SOC 17-2081)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 1,982 7.0% 16.1% 159
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 27 7.4% 13.4% 2
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 73 12.3% 8.6% 7
    Benton and Franklin Counties 484 3.5% 15.0% 34
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 88 2.3% 11.9% 6
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 77 18.2% 15.2% 8
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 164 6.7% 14.1% 13
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 40 0.0% 14.6% 2
    King County 747 7.1% 19.6% 60
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 33 15.2% 13.8% 3
    Pierce County 59 5.1% 15.2% 4
    Snohomish County 142 2.8% 12.4% 10
    Spokane County 64 6.3% 13.9% 5
United States 55,400 5.2% 5.2% 4,600

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand will be good for environmental engineers as more efforts are put into conserving water resources and wastewater treatment. Demand also increases as more funding is put into cleaning up sites that are contaminated.

New concerns about chemicals put into the water as a result of shale gas drilling will create more jobs for environmental engineers. Job prospects are best for people with advanced degrees. Job openings will also occur as people retire.

Other resources

Air and Waste Management Association (external link)
Koppers Building
436 Seventh Avenue, Suite 2100
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists (external link)
147 Old Solomons Island Road, Suite 303
Annapolis, MD 21401
American Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) (external link)
(This website provides a list of engineering-related programs accredited by ABET)
415 North Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (external link)
1800 M Street, NW Suite 900 North
Washington, DC 20036
Discover Engineering (external link)
eGFI - Dream Up the Future (external link)
Engineer Girl! (external link)
National Academy of Engineering
Environmental & Engineering Geophysical Society (external link)
1391 Speer Blvd., Ste 450
Denver, CO 80204
Environmental Career Center (external link)
P.O. Box 3387
Hampton, Virginia 23663
Environmental Council of the States (external link)
1250 H Street NW, Suite 850
Washington, DC 20005
Environmental Protection Agency (external link)
Park Place Building
1200 - 6th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101
Environmental Technology Council (external link)
1112 - 16th Street, Suite 420
Washington, DC 20036
National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (external link)
National Association of Environmental Professionals (external link)
2150 N 107th St, Suite 205
Seattle WA 98133
National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (external link)
280 Seneca Creek Road
Seneca, SC 29678
National Ground Water Association (external link)
601 Dempsey Road
Westerville, OH 43081
National Society of Professional Engineers (external link)
1420 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Profiles in Ocean Careers (external link)
Society for Ecological Restoration (external link)
1133 15th St. NW, Suite 300
Washington, D.C. 20005
Society of Women Engineers (external link)
130 East Randolph Street, Suite 3500
Chicago, IL 60601
SWANA-Solid Waste Association of North America (external link)
1100 Wayne Avenue, Suite 650
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Technology Student Association (external link)
1904 Association Drive
Reston, VA 20191-1540
United States Environmental Protection Agency (external link)
Washington Business Week (external link)
PO Box 1170
Renton, WA 98057
Washington State Science & Engineering Fair (external link)
Water Environment Federation (external link)
601 Wythe Street
Alexandria, VA 22314


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Strong Interest Inventory

Holland occupational cluster