If you’re just starting out as a civil engineer there’s a great career path waiting for you. With the spotlight on climate change and building more sustainable infrastructure, candidates for jobs in environmental engineering are in high demand. As environmental crises continue, civil and environmental engineers will be the professionals who find solutions and ultimately bring us back to a greener, more sustainable earth.
Environmental engineering jobs stretch across many different sectors – renewable energy, construction, land development, infrastructure and government work. For an entry-level civil engineer, it’s a promising and interesting career. For example, environmental engineers apply their skills in these areas:
Green energy – designing renewable energy sources like solar panels, wind turbines, facilities for geothermal energy, hydropower, and biomass conversion.
Construction and architecture in buildings – creating more efficient systems that use less energy overall, take advantage of renewable energy sources, and improve water and waste management.
Engineering materials – designing products that support green and clean infrastructure.
Imagine turning a landfill into a park. That’s what civil engineers working for New York State did with the Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island, which was the largest landfill in the world before closing in 2001. Since then, the landscape has been engineered with layers of soil and infrastructure, and the area has become a place for wildlife, recreation, science, education and art.
Your Career Path in Environmental Engineering
Environmental engineering is a subset of civil engineering and a more specialized path. Most environmental roles require either a civil or environmental engineering bachelors or master’s degree.
Environmental engineers work in a variety of settings both in office and onsite. There are two starting points for an entry-level engineer – doing design or working in the field. In design, for instance, you learn the how things are built, using software and working with stakeholders. Construction work usually requires being out in the field, working with construction managers and project managers. As a field engineer, or any sort of field technician, you’re also learning how the foundations are physically built.
The next step on the career ladder is becoming more involved in project development and research, as well as mentoring younger engineers a step or two below you. This leads to project management and working more closely with stakeholders and contractors to discuss next steps, budgeting and scheduling.
If you are still in school, look for internships or cooperative engineering programs because this kind of practical experience always looks good on a resume. In terms of licensure, civil engineers must first get an EIT, or engineer-in-training certificate. This requires passing the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, and / or meeting other requirements. EITs work under the direct supervision of a licensed Professional Engineer (PE). To become eligible to take the PE exam, the EIT must accumulate a certain number of years in engineering experience (which differs by state but is typically four years). Once the PE exam is passed, the EIT becomes a licensed Professional Engineer. At this level, engineers are able to work on high level projects, work more with stakeholders and do project management, all resulting in a higher pay scale. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for environmental engineers was $96,820 in May 2021.
There will always be demand for engineers but even more so when it impacts infrastructure and the environment. Environmental engineering is a growing and exciting career path for entry-level engineers, one that promises long-term employment and good income.
by Dominick Delia, National Recruiter at Planet Forward
Photo Credit: Canva