stitute for Environmental engineers are concerned with maintaining and improving our natural resources for the benefit of everyone, and for the future well-being of the world. This might involve helping to clean polluted water sources, or working with industry to ensure that environmentally sensitive methods are employed. You may be solving environmental problems that have been caused in the past, or predicting the issues which are yet to arise and working to find solutions to protect our world for future generations. Tasks might include reducing air pollution, assessing issues of toxic waste, developing ecologically sound means of generating energy or cleaning the world’s oceans.
Given the ever increasing understanding we now have about the importance of our environment, jobs in environmental engineering are set to continue to increase over the next decades. If you’re a nature lover, with a passion for scientific or mathematical subjects, then this might be the career for you.
A degree is necessary to become an environmental engineer - with many colleges offering environmental engineering related courses as a supplementary programme alongside civil or mechanical engineering majors. You might find, for example, minor courses offered in air pollution engineering or the principles of environmental engineering. You will need to be detail orientated to succeed in this field, and numeric courses such as mathematics, or other science based subjects can also help.
Keep up to date
Education will not stop after graduating, if you want to become an environmental engineer. Continuous professional development is essential in all fields, but no more so that in the ever changing and developing world of environmental engineering. Keep up to date with new technology, changes in the law and scientific advances which might impact your specific field of work.
In many countries it is encouraged - or even necessary - to join a professional body of engineers, who will be able to help with your continuing development, form the basis of a powerful network, and ensure that you are fully qualified to work in your chosen area. Check out the requirements in your country before graduating - details of professional bodies in the UK can be found here, and include the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management. In the US there are many different professional bodies for different areas of the field - including the American Association of Environmental Engineers. For a full list click here. Requirements for licensure as a professional engineer vary from state to state but typically include graduation from an accredited university course, work experience and the successful completion of relevant professional-level exams.
A final consideration when looking to pursue a career in the field of environmental engineering, is to get experience before you have even graduated, through completing voluntary work or an internship. If you have an aspect of environmental science which particularly interests you, seek out technology and engineering companies working in that area and inquire about internships. Use your network to help you find places to volunteer - your university careers service may well be able to put you in touch with alumni who have similar career paths and can share adivce and play a mentoring role for you.
If you want proof of both the power of environmental engineering, and the scope of opportunity in this area, look no further than Boyan Slat - a 20 year old Dutch man who has recently hit the headlines because of his development of a device to help rid the oceans of discarded floating plastic that does so much harm to the marine environment. Having started out as a high school project, he developed his idea through university before getting $80000 through a crowd funding platform to continue to develop his ideas. If you have the same level of passion to change the world we live in for the better as Boyan, then environmental engineering might be just the career for you.
Image: Fort Murray by kris krüg via Flickr