Environmental engineers
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Overview
Environmental engineers use the principles of engineering, soil science, biology, and chemistry to develop solutions to environmental problems. They work to improve recycling, waste disposal, public health, and water and air pollution control.
Predicted employment growth
Over the next decade, jobs for environmental engineers are expected to grow by 8%, and should have about 4,100 job openings a year.
Safety from automation
Environmental engineers are less likely to be automated than 87% of other careers.
Workforce size
Environmental engineers, with 53,800 workers, are near the middle of all careers in the number employed.
Education
About 88% of environmental engineers have at least a bachelor's degree.
Education attained by environmental engineers
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Context: workers with bachelor's degrees
More environmental engineers have bachelor's degrees than 91% of other careeers.
Salaries
The median (middle) salary for environmental engineers is higher than 88% of all other jobs' middle salaries. The graph shows inflation-adjusted salaries for most environmental engineers.
This job's median $88KAll jobs' median $39K$89K$38K20142015201620172018$0$50K$100K$150K
Context: Median Salary
Gender
Women account for 27% of environmental engineers -- that's a smaller percentage than 56% of other jobs.
Gender of environmental engineers
Men
Women
Context: Salary inequity
For each career, we compared the median (middle) men's salary to the median women's salary. For environmental engineers, the median men's salary was 17% more the median woman's salary.
Race/Origin
About 18% of environmental engineers are minority, and 13% are foreign-born.
Race/origin of environmental engineers
White
Black
Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Asian
American Indian
Multiracial
Other
Context: Foreign-born workers (13%)
Where are the most jobs?
We ranked the number of jobs in Environmental Engineers per thousand workers in each state, DC, and Puerto Rico. The darker the blue, the higher the job density.
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
Job benefits
Employer or union-sponsored pension plans are offered to 55% of environmental engineers, and 69% have company-sponsored health insurance (15% have dependents enrolled in their employer's health plan).
Employer-provided health coverage for environmental engineers
100% premiums covered
Partial premiums covered
Plan with no cost sharing
No health insurance
Top college degrees
Here are the top college degrees held by the 87% of people in this job who have at least a bachelor's degree. Some of degrees may link to multiple programs due to the way Census classifies college majors. Click on a program to learn more about career opportunities for people who major in that field.
The downside
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of environmental engineers who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Time Pressure (71%)
  • Responsible for Others' Health and Safety (59%)
  • Consequence of Error (40%)
SOURCES:24.0 O*NET
Salary and diversity
Salary overview
What do environmental engineers earn?

In this section, we want to give you a clear idea of what you can expect to earn in this career. We use two sources of data here: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which asks employers to classify their workforce and to report salaries using the SOC-specialty level of reporting, and the American Community Survey (ACS), which asks people to classify their jobs using the broad classifications that ididio uses for career profiles, and to self-report their salaries. For some jobs, the differences in survey approaches between BLS and ACS can paint a very different end-picture. Whenever possible, we provide data from both sources.

The BLS-compiled salary data is reported by companies for their employees. This data excludes self-employed workers. We first show the distribution of salaries for environmental engineers, and then we show how the middle (median) salary for environmental engineers compares to the BLS-computed median salaries of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for environmental engineers (BLS Salary Data)
$88K$0$50K$100K$150K
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
$88K$0$50K$100K$150K
We compiled household data from the ACS to determine the salaries that people working at least 35 hours a week report themselves to earn. Unlike the BLS estimates, this data includes self-employed wages. We first show the full salary distribution for all environmental engineers, and then we show how the median (middle) salary for environmental engineers compares to the median ACS-reported salary of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for environmental engineers (ACS Salary Data)
$78K$0$50K$100K$150K
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
$78K$0$50K$100K$150K
Employers and salary
A look at employers and corresponding salaries
The donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, and following we show the salary distributions for these workers based on those employer types. For some careers, the salaries can be vastly different between private, government, and self-employment. As with our salary overview, we view the both the BLS economists' salary profiles and the household-reported salaries from ACS to get a thorough understanding of where environmental engineers work and for what salary. We have the great faith in the accuracy of economist-vetted BLS data; however, the BLS restrictions on which employers are surveyed skews the data a bit (read more in the sources), and the ACS responses provide different and useful categorizations of employers and salaries.
Employers of Environmental engineers (ACS)
Private for-profit (57.7%)
Private not-for-profit (1.1%)
Local government (16.0%)
State government (14.5%)
Federal government (8.6%)
Self-employed incorporated (1.3%)
Self-employed not incorporated (0.9%)
Working without pay (0.0%)
Distribution: Salaries of environmental engineers by type of employer (ACS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type calculated by aggregating individual household survey responses.
$78K$95K$78K$79K$70K$0$50,000$100,000$150,000Federal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivate for-profitAll
Distribution: Salaries of environmental engineers by type of employer (BLS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type as reported by BLS based on large employer-focused surveys. We note that smaller employer categories are not included by BLS.
$88K$105K$88K$87K$80K$0$50,000$100,000$150,000Federal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivateAll
Age and career advancement
Salary growth for environmental engineers

The biggest take-away from the following two charts is the relationship between salary and experience that we can infer from age. Does this job seem to attract especially younger or older workers? Does it reward experience?

Take a minute a look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working in this career changes. We only provide this data when there are enough consistent ACS survey responses to allow a reasonable margin of error, so for some careers you will see gaps in our reporting of salary by age.

$87K$95K$89K$56K$67K$98K$82K$104K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KSalary distribution20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
01K2K3K4KNumber employed20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Gender and Equity
Environmental engineers and gender

With 27% women, this occupation has a lower percentage of women than 56% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
27%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Gender of Environmental engineers
Men (73%)
Women (27%)
Distribution: Salaries by gender

As we'll illustrate at the bottom of this section, the median salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 20%. The situation is a little better for environmental engineers, with the median salary for men 17% higher than the median salary for women. This chart shows you the salary range for most workers by gender.

$70K$82K$0$50K$100K$150KWomenMen
Context: Salary Inequity

Nationwide there are twenty careers for which men do not have a higher median (middle) salary than women. The chart below shows the salary inequity, the percentage by which the median men's salary is higher than the median women's salary, for most jobs. Environmental engineers have one of the middle percentage increases for men's salary, with the increase for the men's median salary over the women's median salary in this job higher than that for 50% of other jobs.

17%0%20%40%60%80%100%

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Race/Origin
Race and origin of environmental engineers

The representation of minority and foreign-born workers is quite different between careers, and the relative pay of those workers also varies significantly between careers. The percentage of minority environmental engineers falls in about the middle of all careers' percentages. The percentage of foreign-born workers in this career is near the middle of all careers.

Race/origin of environmental engineers
White (81% )
Asian (9% )
Black (7% )
Multiracial (2% )
Other (1% )
American Indian (0% )
Hispanic (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
18%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Context: Representation of foreign-born workers
13%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Distribution: Salaries for environmental engineers by race/origin

For some careers, there is a pay disparity depending on race or origin, though this is not prevalent. We calculate standard errors for all of our calculations, and when the error is high we do not show results. Therefore, for some jobs will have omitted race/origin categories.

$57K$61K$80K$84K$0$50K$100K$150KOtherBlackWhiteAsian
Distribution: Salaries for environmental engineers by nativity
$78K$79K$0$50K$100K$150KAll foreign-bornAll native citizens

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Pathways to this career
Education requirements and salary
Education attained by environmental engineers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), environmental engineers typically hold a bachelor's degree.

Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as environmental engineers as reported in responses to the American Community Survey. Following, we investigate whether education level influences salary for environmental engineers.

Education attained by environmental engineers
None
High School
Some College
Associate's Degree
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Deg/Doct
Doctorate
Details: Education and training recommended for environmental engineers

Entry-level environmental engineering jobs require a bachelor’s degree. Programs include classroom, laboratory, and field studies. Some colleges and universities offer cooperative programs in which students gain practical experience while completing their education.

At some colleges and universities, a student can enroll in a 5-year program that leads to both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. A graduate degree allows an engineer to work as an instructor at some colleges and universities or to do research and development, and employers may prefer candidates to have a master’s degree.

Students interested in becoming an environmental engineer should take high school courses in chemistry, biology, physics, and math, including algebra, trigonometry, and calculus.

Engineering programs are accredited by ABET, and employers may prefer to hire candidates who have graduated from an accredited program. A degree from an ABET-accredited program is usually necessary for a person to become a licensed professional engineer.

Details: Licensing and certification recommended for environmental engineers

Licensure is not required for entry-level positions as an environmental engineer. A Professional Engineering (PE) license, which allows for higher levels of leadership and independence, can be acquired later in one’s career. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs). A PE can oversee the work of other engineers, sign off on projects, and provide services directly to the public. State licensure generally requires

  • A degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program
  • A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
  • Relevant work experience, typically at least 4 years
  • A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam

The initial FE exam can be taken after one earns a bachelor’s degree. Engineers who pass this exam are commonly called engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs). After meeting work experience requirements, EITs and EIs can take the second exam, called the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE).

Each state issues its own licenses. Most states recognize licensure from other states, as long as the licensing state’s requirements meet or exceed their own licensure requirements. Several states require engineers to take continuing education to keep their licenses.

After licensing, environmental engineers can earn board certification from the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists. This certification shows that an environmental engineer has expertise in one or more areas of specialization.

Distribution: Salary by education level

What level of education is truly needed for environmental engineers? Below we see the distribution of environmental engineers salaries based on the education attained. These comparisons are based on all survey responses by those who identified themselves as environmental engineers, and are not intended as a statistical analysis of salary differences that would correct for non-educational factors that could contribute to high or low earnings.

$53K$59K$77K$91K$104K$0$50K$100K$150KHigh School (4%)Some College (5%)Bachelor's Degree (53%)Master's Degree (31%)Professional Deg/Doct (1%)
Bachelor's degree pathways
College majors held by environmental engineers

This table shows the college majors held by people working as environmental engineers. Select any degree to see detailed information. We are able to connect careers to degrees using the American Community Survey (ACS), and their degrees are defined a little differently from our programs, which are based on standard CIP classifications. Therefore, selecting some degrees will lead to a selection of CIP-level programs from which to choose.

If you see "**" before the name of a degree/program, that means this field is one that the Department of Education believes is preparatory for this career. However, you can see from this list that those recommendations are far from your only path to this job!

Degree
Select any title to learn more about that degree
Percentage of Environmental engineers with this degree
Salary for all majors
Salary distribution (across jobs). Showing 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
Final education level of all people with this major
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Gender of people this bachelor's degree
Men
Women
20.5%
$0$200K$83K
11.7%
$0$200K$92K
6.4%
$0$200K$80K
4.1%
$0$200K$56K
3.5%
$0$200K$89K
2.9%
$0$200K$63K
2.6%
$0$200K$97K
1.9%
$0$200K$73K
1.1%
$0$200K$56K
0.9%
$0$200K$94K
0.9%
$0$200K$76K
0.8%
$0$200K$86K
0.8%
$0$200K$66K
The link between degrees and careers
The link between degrees and careers

With the following "sankey" diagram, you can follow the top ten bachelor's degrees held by people working as environmental engineers, and then, in turn, you can see the 10 occupations that hire the most of each degree's graduates. This visualization links fields of studies and careers, suggesting both similar careers and options for degrees. The full list of bachelor's degrees held by environmental engineers given in the previous section reminds us that there are many paths to these careers beyond what we can summarize here.

This job
Top 10 majors
Each major's top ten jobs
Civil engineersManagers (specialized areas)Engineers (specialized areas)Construction managersChief executives and legislatorsArchitectural and engineering managersPostsecondary teachersApplications and systems software developersFirst-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workersDesignersChemical engineersIndustrial engineersPhysicians and surgeonsPhysical scientists (specialized areas)Environmental engineersManagement analystsEnvironmental scientists and geoscientistsMechanical engineersElectrical and electronics engineersAerospace engineersElementary and middle school teachersCompliance officersLawyers, judges, and magistratesFirst-line supervisors of office and administrative support workersFirst-line supervisors of retail sales workersSecondary school teachersDentistsRegistered nursesEpidemiologists and Medical/Life ScientistsClinical laboratory technologists and techniciansPharmacistsComputer and information systems managersComputer programmersChemists and materials scientistsCivil EngineeringChemical EngineeringEnvironmental EngineeringGeneral EngineeringEnvironmental ScienceGeology and Earth ScienceMechanical EngineeringBiologyElectrical EngineeringChemistryAll other degrees
Switching Careers
Most common new jobs
The most common next careers for environmental engineers

What jobs will most environmental engineers hold next year?

The data in this chart comes from person interviews for the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The survey interviews households eight times over a two-year period, allowing us a glimpse into how people move from job to job. You can see more details from the results of the survey in our last tab in this section, and you can read about our methodology in our source descriptions.

Here we see all of the jobs that at least 1% of environmental engineers reported holding in their second year's survey. Is your future job on this list?

Environmental engineersEngineers (specialized areas)Managers (specialized areas)Environmental scientists and geoscientistsChief executives and legislatorsPostsecondary teachersRefuse and recyclable material collectorsCivil engineersMusicians, singers, and related workersComputer occupations (specialized areas)Business operations specialistsService sales representativesMechanical engineersHealthcare practitioners and technical occupations (specialized areas)Electrical and electronics engineersPhysical scientists (specialized areas)Driver/sales workers and truck driversSailors and marine oilers, and ship engineersManagement analysts
Lateral career moves
Lateral job transitions for environmental engineers

A lateral career transition is a move to a job with similar pay and responsibilities. A move to such a job can offer a change of pace without an increase in stress or a decrease in pay. The following table simply identifies all 9 jobs which were held by at least 1% of survey respondents before working as environmental engineers as well as 1% of respondents after working as environmental engineers. Select a row to investigate the job's full description and determine if it truly offers an opportunity for a lateral transition.

Full prior and next career listings
Prior and next careers for environmental engineers: full listings

What do people typically do before and after they work as environmental engineers? Here are the full lists of all jobs that at least 1% of environmental engineers surveyed reported as holding a year earlier or later.

Choose which type of transition to view
Prior jobs
Next jobs
Read about environmental engineers
Responsibilities and activities
Responsibilities and activities

Environmental engineers typically do the following:

  • Prepare, review, and update environmental investigation reports
  • Design projects that lead to environmental protection, such as water reclamation facilities or air pollution control systems
  • Obtain, update, and maintain plans, permits, and standard operating procedures
  • Provide technical support for environmental remediation projects and for legal actions
  • Analyze scientific data and do quality-control checks
  • Monitor the progress of environmental improvement programs
  • Inspect industrial and municipal facilities and programs in order to ensure compliance with environmental regulations
  • Advise corporations and government agencies about procedures for cleaning up contaminated sites

Environmental engineers conduct hazardous-waste management studies in which they evaluate the significance of a hazard and advise on treating and containing it. They also design systems for municipal and industrial water supplies and industrial wastewater treatment, and research the environmental impact of proposed construction projects. Environmental engineers in government develop regulations to prevent mishaps.

Some environmental engineers study ways to minimize the effects of acid rain, climate change, automobile emissions, and ozone depletion. They also collaborate with environmental scientists, urban and regional planners, hazardous-waste technicians, and other engineers, as well as with specialists such as experts in law and business, to address environmental problems and environmental sustainability. For more information, see the job profiles on environmental scientists and specialists, hazardous materials removal workers, lawyers, and urban and regional planners.

Personality and skills
Personality and skills

Can you see yourself in the ranks of environmental engineers? Here are the skills and traits that could lead to success.

Imagination
Environmental engineers sometimes have to design systems that will be part of larger ones. They must foresee how the proposed designs will interact with components of the larger system, including the workers, machinery, and equipment, as well as with the environment.
Interpersonal skills
Environmental engineers must work with others toward a common goal. They usually work with engineers and scientists who design other systems and with the technicians and mechanics who put the designs into practice.
Problem-solving skills
When designing facilities and processes, environmental engineers strive to solve several issues at once, from workers’ safety to environmental protection. They must identify and anticipate problems in order to prevent losses for their employers, safeguard workers’ health, and mitigate environmental damage.
Reading skills
Environmental engineers often work with businesspeople, lawyers, and other professionals outside their field. They frequently are required to read and understand documents that deal with topics outside their scope of training.
Writing skills
Environmental engineers must write clearly so that others without their specific training can understand their documents, including plans, proposals, specifications, and findings, among others.
Trends in employment
Salary trends
Distribution and trends: Salaries for environmental engineers
Choose actual dollars or inflation-adjusted dollars to view
Adjusted for inflation
Historic dollars

In 2018, the median (middle) salary for environmental engineers was higher than 88% of all other jobs' middle salaries. This graphic shows how the salary distribution (adjusted for inflation) has changed for this job over recent years. The gray line, as a comparison, shows the median salary of all US workers.

This job's median $88KAll jobs' median $39K$88K$38K200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015201620172018$0$50K$100K$150K
Projected versus actual employment
Exploring actual employment trends versus projected trends

Currently, jobs for environmental engineers are anticipated to grow by 8% over the next decade, which is faster growth than is predicted for 49% of other jobs.

The projected employment for environmental engineers is the best guess created by talented economists and statisticians at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, as you look through several careers you'll notice that the projections are heavily influenced by past performance and may miss current trends. No one can tell the future, and as new information and better techniques are developed, actual counts and future projections may change. Here's a glimpse at the actual counts versus the projections over time.

2000201020202030020,00040,00060,00080,000
Employment counts
Actual measured employment
BLS 10-year predictions
Variation by state
Employment
State-by-state employment numbers

Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.

Job density versus job count

Which states hire the most environmental engineers? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as environmental engineers. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.

BLS vs ACS data

This map defaults to employment information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which provides job totals carefully compiled for accuracy and with a primary focus on how employers describe their workers. The BLS job totals do not count self-employed workers. We've also compiled totals using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) which are based on how workers describe themselves. Sometimes ACS results are quite a bit different from the employer-based BLS data.

Choose the metric to review
Jobs per 1000 working
Number of jobs
Use this data source
BLS
Number of Environmental Engineers per 1,000 workers (BLS)
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
0.00.51.01.5
Salary
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where environmental engineers earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio

We use two methods to compare salaries across states:

  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for environmental engineers compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for environmental engineers.

We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.

BLS vs ACS data

We have two sources for statewide salary information with important distinctions. The BLS data is created by surveying companies, missing individuals who are self-employed or work for smaller companies. The ACS data is compiled from multi-faceted household surveys and may reflect the inconsistencies that people may have in reporting information.

Choose the metric to review
In-state comparisions
Median salary
Use this data source
BLS
Median salary ratio: Environmental Engineers to all workers (BLS)
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which environmental engineers earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this ratio might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
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0.01.02.03.04.0
Compare to similar jobs

If this job interests you, then use the dots below to find other jobs you might like. The dots closer to the top represent jobs that are like Environmental engineers (shown with a blue star). Look for the dots to the right to find the best salaries! (We pulled salary data from BLS, and they give a top salary value of just over $200K to protect privacy, so our graph would go much higher if the salaries were not top coded.)

How should the career similarity be computed

There are a number of ways to measure the similarity of jobs, here are a few we provide:

  • Interests: Also known as a Holland Code - Are you a thinker? A helper? What fits your personality?
  • Environment: Are there hazards? Will you be comfortable? Will it be stressful?
  • Knowledge: What do you need to know the most about?
  • Physical Abilities: Do you need to especially strong or coordinated?
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