Environmental engineering is a field that involves problem-solving and innovation. Professionals in the field, work to prepare investigative reports, design projects, analyze scientific data, provide technical support for projects involving remediation of the environment, develop solutions for disposal of hazardous waste, converting trash to useful things etc.
Sometimes, in the process of tracking projects, the environmental engineers may work over forty hours a week. For most professionals in the field, the work involved is a blend of challenge and stability.
Some environmental engineers may also travel to various locations for projects, and work with other engineers, scientists, businessmen, lawyers, public administrators, hazardous waste technicians, architects etc.
All these specific requirements of jobs in the field mean that companies hiring environmental engineers look for specific traits in their candidates.
A bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering is the basic qualification you need to apply to obtain a position in this field. However, a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or chemical engineering may also allow you to enter into specific jobs. There are several engineering courses that focus on environmental concerns as a core concentration.
A bachelor’s degree is enough for applying to entry-level jobs. As long as you have the necessary soft skills and some job experience, you can apply for getting a job in companies where you will initially work under a supervisor. Practical job experience is valued by employers. It is a good idea to prepare for getting selected by earning credits for structured job experience in cooperative engineering programs.
For greater independence and jobs with a higher level of leadership, a license is required. Your chances of hiring will be higher if you have received your degree from an ABET-accredited program. Completing this program with its four years of study and an exam based on your chosen discipline will earn you a license as a professional engineer or PE.
Besides educational qualifications, hiring managers will also look at the soft skills that candidates bring with them. The nature of environmental engineering jobs require the following soft skills.
It is natural that in jobs involving the designing of processes, plans, and facilities, you will need to think critically. You will need to think about several things at once, such as environmental protection, the safety of workers, compliance and so on. While a part of environmental engineering is finding solutions to existing problems of human impact, another part involves preventing further problems.
In this field, you need to be able to anticipate potential problems. If you work with businesses, you will be asked to find solutions that will not only mitigate environmental problems but also ensure your client suffers no losses and workers’ safety is ensured.
These demands on environmental engineers mean that strong critical skills and problem-solving skills are essential. Hirers give high priority to candidates who surpass other candidates in this regard.
Closely tied to problem-solving skills is imagination. You need imagination and creativity in order to anticipate potential problems and foresee them before they can occur. Environmental engineers also often need to develop processes and innovations that are often a part of a larger whole. They need the imagination to envision how their design will fit in with the whole and all the other parts of the system.
Since environmental engineering involves working with other professionals, public administrators, lawyers, mechanics and technicians to see projects to their completion, good communication skills are essential. It is evident why interpersonal skills are essential for environmental engineers.
Reading & Comprehension Skills
In the course of your work as an environmental engineer, you’re likely to find yourself having to read documents on subjects that you may be unfamiliar with. This can include legal documents, scientific papers in areas outside your immediate discipline, business documents that go beyond your training etc. In order to read and comprehend these documents, you need good reading and comprehension skills.
Of course, writing skills are just as important as reading, comprehension, and communication. As an environmental engineer, you will need to draw up documents and reports, proposals, plans etc.
Before you decide on your career path in this field, figure out whether it is a field that matches your personality. For example, if you prefer to work alone rather than in a team, you may find an alternative career as an environmental research scientist more suitable.
If you are unable to obtain a bachelor’s degree, you can still work in the field as an environmental engineering technician with an associate’s degree.