If you enjoy intermingling the sciences of biology and chemistry with the principles of engineering, a career in environmental engineering may be for you.Environmental engineers work in offices, at construction sites, and in the great outdoors. Over the next decade, employment for this occupation will increase at a faster than average rate compared to other occupations.
Between 2010 and 2020, employment opportunities for environmental engineers will increase by 22%. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the projected job growth is due to governmental concerns about the dwindling water supply, an increase in Shell gas drilling, and the ongoing efforts to clean up contaminated sites in order to comply with federal and state regulations. Environmental engineers must have a bachelor’s degree and be licensed, although most high-level positions require field experience and a master’s degree.
Environmental engineers are responsible for a broad range of job activities. Depending on the employing entity, they may design municipal water supply and wastewater treatment systems, conduct hazardous-waste management studies, preform water and air quality checks, perform research and analyze data. Environmental engineers are especially concerned with issues that affect public health, including ozone depletion, global warming, automobile emissions, and acid rain. In the consultant capacity, environmental engineers oversee hazardous waste cleanup and ensure compliance with local, state and federal laws.
Salary and Bonuses
The average annual salary for environmental engineers in 2012 was $85,140, according to statistics published by the BLS. In 2010, the average annual salary was $78,740. Environmental engineers in the top 10% earned $119,060 in 2010 and $122,290 in 2012. Those in the bottom 10% earned $48,980 in 2010; in 2012, the pay rate for this segment increased to $49,510. In 2012, engineers in the middle of the pay scale earned $38.89 per hour. According to the data collected by PayScale.com, on average, environmental engineers earn an annual bonus of $994 with one year of service and $3,250 with 20 years of service.
Environmental engineers work for local, state and federal branches of the government, private and public enterprises, and nonprofit organizations. The national average salary for engineers working for the federal executive branch (OES Designation) is $96,680. This salary is $19,850 more than the national average for engineers employed by local governments (OES Designation). On average, the oil and gas extraction industry pays the highest wages of $137,560 per year.
Annual salary rates and job opportunities differ by geographic location. California, Texas, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New York offer the greatest number of employment opportunities for environmental engineers. Civil engineers living in Alaska, Texas, the District of Columbia, California, and Tennessee earn higher salaries on average than those living in other states. The average pay rate in Alaska is $108,730. Overall, the highest paid environmental engineers live in Bakersfield-Delano, California and earn more than $58 per hour.
When it comes to a career path, environmental engineers have options. Whether working in an office or out in the field their primary concern is the protection of the environment and public health.