Day in the Life
engineers develop ways to solve problems related to the environment.
They are involved in both local and global environmental protection
efforts such as air and water pollution control, recycling, and
Environmental engineers' job duties include collecting soil or
groundwater samples and testing them for contamination; designing
municipal sewage and industrial wastewater systems; analyzing
scientific data; researching controversial projects; and performing
quality control checks. They may be involved in legal or
financial consulting regarding environmental processes or issues.
They may study and attempt to minimize the effects of large-scale
problems such as acid rain, global warming, and ozone depletion.
engineers work as consultants, helping their clients comply with
regulations and the cleanup of hazardous waste sites. One
emphasis in environmental engineering consulting is on brownfields
-- land areas that are abandoned because of contamination by
hazardous substances. Environmental engineers help clients
clean up the brownfields for reuse in place of premium land,
minimizing the liabilities and the costs of infrastructure or
The type of job
environmental engineers have often determines whether they work
inside or outside. However, most work inside a majority of the
time. Environmental engineers whose tasks require site visits
-- for purposes such as collecting samples, checking quality
control, and investigating sites for possible contamination -- spend
at least part of their time away from the office. Site visits
are more likely to take environmental engineers to unpleasant
surroundings than to pristine ones, but they also give engineers a
chance to turn theory into reality. And, working outside the
office allows some environmental engineers to interact with people
their work affects.
Almost all jobs in engineering require some sort of interaction with
coworkers. Whether they are working in a team situation, or just asking
for advice, most engineers have to have the ability to communicate and
work with other people. Engineers should be creative, inquisitive,
analytical, and detail-oriented. They should be able to work as part of
a team and to communicate well, both orally and in writing.
Communication abilities are important because engineers often interact
with specialists in a wide range of fields outside engineering.
Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US Department
of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.