- What do environmental engineers do?
- Environmental engineer career path
- Environmental engineer salaries
- Qualifications and training
- Environmental engineer skills
- Pros and cons of being an environmental engineer
- Environmental engineer work-life balance
- Typical employers hiring environmental engineers
- Related jobs to environment engineer
Are you passionate about the environment? Do you love making designs? If you want to combine your interest in renewable energy with your excellent engineering skills, a career as an environmental engineer could be perfect for you.
Are you interested in a career as an environmental engineer? Explore the engineering sector jobs available right now.
What do environmental engineers do?
Environmental engineers use their experience of engineering to help make more efficient forms of renewable energy or improve the systems we already have. This job requires innovation and a passion for finding the next big source of renewable energy. Here are the tasks and responsibilities that you have as an environmental engineer:
- Meet with clients to understand their requirements for a project
- Design new machinery to make energy or design repairs for existing equipment
- View sites to assess the conditions and conclude whether you have to make any additions to the designs
- Look for any issues that you might come across in the site, for example any environmental regulations that the build might violate
- Test the designs to make sure they work well and are efficient in producing energy
- Discuss your designs with clients to see if you need to make any changes based on their requirements and suggestions
- Oversee the construction aspect, both in the factory and onsite
- Write up your projects and present your work to colleagues
To learn more about the energy sector, you can complete this sector 101 module on energy.
Environmental engineer career path
You have the opportunity to progress as an environmental engineer. If you enjoy the design side but want to branch out into other areas of engineering, you could explore other engineering roles whether in energy or with other constructions.
If you like the environmental side but want to move away from the technical aspect, you could become an environmental consultant, helping companies stick within environmental regulations and act in a more sustainable way.
If you enjoy seeing construction through but don’t like the engineering side, you could look into project management roles. Here is the traditional career path associated with environmental engineers:
You begin your working life as a junior environmental engineer. This role includes many of the same tasks as more senior positions but with more supervision. You’re combining your theoretical understanding which you got from your education with practical experience, meaning the junior role is mostly about learning the practical, on-the-job skills that you need to do the work. Any designs that you make are signed off by your supervisor or manager, and you might assist them in their larger projects too.
With experience, you become a mid-level environmental engineer. In this role, you’re given the freedom to start working on your own projects without the same level of supervision that entry-level environmental engineers have. You make designs, go to construction sites and speak with clients.
You become a senior environmental engineer when you have years of experience and have gained the necessary skills. In a senior role, you oversee your junior colleagues’ work, making sure it's up to standard, doesn’t have any problems and doesn’t violate any environmental regulations. You have your own projects which you work on, sometimes bringing in junior colleagues to assist you.
If you want to move into a higher position within a firm, you can take on a senior management position. As senior management, you’re responsible for making sure the department you’re working with makes all the relevant designs. You liaise with clients, either persuading new clients to conduct business with you or making sure current clients are happy and their projects are successful.
Environmental engineer salaries
The salary that you earn as an environmental engineer depends on the firm you work for, the geographic location and the seniority of your position. Here are the salary levels that you might expect when working as an environmental engineer:
- In an entry-level position like junior environmental engineer, you could earn between £20,000 and £30,000 per year
- In a mid-level environmental engineer role, you could earn between £25,000 and £50,000 per year
- In a senior environmental engineer role, you could earn between £40,000 and £65,000 per year.
Qualifications and training
To impress any hiring manager, having the right experience and education is important. This helps you immediately communicate to them that you’re qualified for the job and would be great at it. Here are the qualifications that you need to be an environmental engineer:
As with many other engineer roles, having an undergraduate degree is the most prevalent way into the position. You could explore general engineering degrees and specialise at master’s level, or you could do a specific environmental engineering undergraduate degree. Having a master’s degree isn’t necessary for the role but it might help you have a more in-depth understanding of the theoretical side of engineering which will help you with the job.
Another option is to look into apprenticeships with engineering firms. In an apprenticeship, you learn how to do the job by working with industry experts on the projects they’re doing. Some apprenticeships include a university element where you work towards a degree whilst completing work for the firm. In these apprenticeships, your tuition is usually paid for and you earn a moderate salary for the work you do. If you’re interested in exploring apprenticeships, you can use this government apprenticeship search tool.
Having some relevant work experience helps set you apart from other candidates. Some engineering degrees include time in industry which means you work at an engineering firm on current projects in environmental engineering. Doing an internship alongside this shows your dedication to the sector and gives you the relevant skills that you need in work. You can explore the current internship opportunities and complete this module on converting an internship into your dream job.
Environmental engineer skills
Combining your great experience and education with the right skills positions you really well to get any environmental engineer role. Here are the ideal skills for environmental engineering that you need to succeed:
- Environmental policy. In order to not violate any regulations, you need an awareness of environmental policy to work well as an environmental engineer.
- Renewable energy. You need to understand how different types of renewable energy sources work, how to build and maintain them and how to improve on them so you can do your job well.
- Research. Being able to research innovations in the sector and existing work means you can implement the best work in the field into your own designs. This helps you keep up with the cutting-edge and make the work you’re doing as relevant and efficient as possible.
- Problem-solving. You need to think about creative and innovative ways of producing energy which surpass the current systems. You also need to think of ways of improving existing systems. Being good at problem solving and thinking your way out of an issue is a real asset to this side of environmental engineering.
If you want to improve on your problem-solving skills, you can complete this module on creative problem-solving.
Pros and cons of being an environmental engineer
Having a full understanding of a job means knowing the positives and negatives about it. This helps you know whether it’s the right career path for you or if you should keep looking at your options. Here are the pros and cons of working in environmental engineering:
- The job offers a high salary
- You get to work with new and existing forms of renewable energy meaning you’re at the forefront of innovation and actively making a difference
- Once you’ve secured an environmental engineering job, it’s a pretty stable role with much future requirement for the engineering and designs making it a safe job to have
- Some of your job involves travel which can make maintaining a good work-life balance difficult if you have long commutes
- It can be tricky to get into the environmental engineer career path because of the competition with other graduates and the educational requirements
- Part of the job is designing repairs for existing mechanisms. This can be less interesting than designing new ways of producing energy
Environmental engineer work-life balance
Your working life as an environmental engineer is split between working in an office where you discuss your work and make designs, a factory and testing facility to make sure the designs work and the construction site where your designs will go. This can increase your working day if the area that you’re working in is far away from your home.
Environmental engineers have a pretty long working week, especially around big deadlines. This may be advertised as standard office hours of 9am to 5pm on Monday to Friday but you may find yourself working a fair amount of overtime to get all your tasks done to the required standard.
Typical employers hiring environmental engineers
Knowing the typical employers in the engineering sector means you can explore the options available to you so you can tailor your job search to companies you’re actually interested in.