Engineers come from a diverse range of academic and professional backgrounds, which means that engineers are required in each and every industry. So, what exactly defines an environmental engineer? Is it a separate field of engineering altogether, or is the classification more of a job title?
The answer is, it can be both, simultaneously and separately at that. Although correct, that is a somewhat confusing answer, which requires some explanation in order to be more intelligible.
Environmental Engineering as a Field of Education
There are specialized environmental engineering degrees which focus on:
- Environmental protection
- Ecological preservation
- Reduction of pollutants released during industrial/military processes
- Decreasing waste production
- Waste management planning
- Biological and/or chemical hazard management and cleaning contaminated regions
Environmental engineers utilize modern technological innovations with their acute knowledge, experience and education regarding the problem, to devise specific plans and implement them with the maximum chances of solving them.
Environmental Engineering as a Job Title
Any engineer who has experience in sustainable environmental practices and actively works towards ensuring it in any industry is also working as an environmentally conscious and proactive engineer. While they may not have a degree in environmental engineering, their job titles expect them to carry out similar roles.
It should be noted that if the engineer in charge does not have sufficient experience or even a closely related engineering management degree, they may find the job of environmental engineering to be too much for them. In order for companies to profit from hiring engineers who can carry out that role, they must have a clear understanding, proper education and at least some degree of experience about the environmental issues which they are likely to face.
The Impacts of Environmental Engineers
What the environmental engineers can do is irreplaceable and so far, they have had tremendous success in reducing environmental hazards and boosting profits at the same time. Some of their principle impacts can be highlighted as:
- Decreasing loss of forest cover and eco-diversity in the US, which is an ongoing issue with the lumber industry
- Decreasing air pollution caused by factories via the implementation of adequate filtering technology
- Decreasing landfill (solid waste) and boosting profits by accurate assessment of needs
- Chemical contaminant filtration to ensure nearby wildlife/human life is not affected
These are just a few examples though, and if you do decide to pursue environmental engineering, you will learn more about how it is actively and passively helping the world become a less polluted place.
Which Other Engineering Degrees Are Best Suited to Become an Environmental Engineer?
Environmental engineering is ideally the best degree to pursue if that is your ultimate goal. However, there are some practical considerations to be made here first. One needs to ask the question whether being an environmental engineer is the only option that they want to keep open in terms of career choices?
It’s true that onaverage, an environmental engineer gets paid roughly $87,620/year and that’s way above the national average of $56,500 approximately, as well as the average salary of engineers in general ($70,000 approx.). However, there are other engineering courses such as Systems Engineering and Engineering Management, which offer the following advantages over an environmental engineering degree:
- Engineering managers getpaid significantly higher with much better growth opportunities
- Employment rates are a lot higher due to the diverse applicability of systems engineers and engineering managers
- Both engineering managers and systems engineers with experience in the field can take up the role of environmental engineers
- It is possible to pursue environmental engineering as an additional online course later to augment your resume
Systems Engineering Vs. Engineering Management: Which is Better?
Engineering managersearn a whopping $117,238 per year on an average, with tremendous growth opportunities in multiple segments. They are also highly qualified, in-demand professionals who can easily augment themselves with additional education and training, if and when required. A combination of detailed knowledge, honed soft skills and applicable training will often turn them into valuable assets for the employing company.
Systems engineers in the US earn an average salary of roughly $80,000 per year, which is below the median yearly income of a dedicated environmental engineer. Nevertheless, they do enjoy a higher rate of employment because these are crucial engineers who are required in a variety of industries, irrespective of their environmental concerns.
A systems engineering manager is paid and valued on a much higher level, though, making them more comparable to the general engineering manager.Kettering University Online has defined both engineering management courses and systems engineering management programs in detail, alongside comparing the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing both engineering degrees. Check it out if you are trying to decide between these two courses.
Whichever one you choose to go with, keep in mind that as far as joining the sustainability industry as an environmental engineer is concerned, you will need to either complete an additional course in sustainable industrial practices or gain sufficient experience in the segment as a junior/senior engineer (any field) first.
Do You Need an Environmental Engineering Degree to Assist with Sustainable Practices?
An engineer does not need the degree to be a part of the sustainability industry, but it is certainly the most comprehensive way to assist in environmental engineering for sure. However, by becoming a part of a sustainability-oriented company, you will already be assisting in eco-friendly endeavors.
For example, a software development team that comes out with eco-friendly apps for their clients or the industry as a whole is already helping the environment. The software engineers who are developing those applications have already become a part of the green movement, without getting an environmental engineering degree.
It’s still true that what the environmental engineers can do is unique and more specific in their effectiveness in industrial segments such as manufacturing, packaging, waste treatment, etc. However, one does not have to pursue it as the only option. The bottomline is unless you have specific career goals set already, there is always the possibility to help the environment as an engineer, even without becoming a dedicated environmental engineer. Consciousness is key here, which enables intelligent action in favor of the planet’s future.