Environmental engineering programs prepare people to use math and science to design systems that help solve problems in the environment. Students learn ways to monitor and control pollution in the air, on land, and in the water system. They also learn about health and safety protection.
Have you ever wondered what happens to all the plastic bottles that get recycled? Somebody had to design a system that collects them and sorts out the different varieties. There has to be a way to remove the paper labels and product residue. Then, they have to be shredded into small bits so that they can be shipped efficiently to a plant that will melt them down for new uses.
As an environmental engineer, you might work on problems such as this. You might be employed by an industry directly related to the environment, such as sewage treatment. Or you might deal with environmental aspects of another industry; for example, you might devise a way to reduce air pollution resulting from the smoke coming out of a smokestack. You might be a consultant who helps companies clean up chemical spills.
The political will to reduce pollution is not always strong. Yet over the long run, the demand for a healthy environment keeps increasing, so the need for environmental engineers is expected to increase.
Your education begins with a lot of science and math. All engineering students take chemistry and physics, but you take biology as well. You learn how to apply scientific methods to solve environmental problems. Sometimes you use a computer to simulate a solution. This allows you to try out several scenarios and find the one that works best. You try to achieve not only high efficiency but also low costs.
A bachelor's degree is often good preparation for entering the work force in this field. You can earn this degree in four or five years of full-time study beyond high school. About 100 colleges in the U.S. offer this degree.
In addition, master's and doctorate degrees are offered in this field. Today, many employers look for candidates with advanced degrees. In general, master's degrees take two years to complete, and doctorate degrees take another three to five