An Environmental Engineer is known for using several important principles (e.g. Engineering, Soil Science, Biology, and Chemistry) to come up with new solutions, or reinforce existing ones, to environmental problems. They are in charge of researching, developing, designing, and producing solutions to issues ranging from air pollution and water contamination, to fuel consumption and recycling. Environmental Engineering also addresses global issues, such as climate change and environmental sustainability.
Environmental Engineering is a very broad term that actually incorporates various Engineering disciplines in its pursuit to make the world a more environmentally-friendly place, including Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Automotive Engineering, and even Aeronautical Engineering.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Environmental Engineers are required to complete.
- Studying, evaluating, and managing the harmful effects of human activity on the environment:
- Using mathematical techniques and computer-aided design (CAD) software to assess or forecast past, present, and future environmental problems;
- developing ways to minimize the effects of acid rain, global warming, gas emissions, and ozone depletion;
- developing and using programs related to conservation and management of natural resources;
- conducting hazardous-waste management studies to evaluate the degree of the hazard and be able to advise on its treatment and containment;
- improving processes such as recycling, waste disposal, public health, industrial hygiene, and water and air pollution control;
- designing systems for municipal and industrial water supplies, as well as industrial wastewater treatment;
- analyzing water and soil samples;
- looking for new sustainable energy sources; and
- writing reports and recommendations on their investigations.
- Coordinating and managing different environmental projects:
- Liaising with clients to understand and assess the environmental problem that needs to be solved in order to actively reduce their negative impact on the environment;
- conducting meticulous research and developing a technical solution to the environmental problem;
- researching the environmental impact of clients’ construction projects, if any;
- carrying out site assessments;
- presenting the project to the client in order to get approval;
- designing the solution, whether it’s mechanical or structural, using CAD software; in case the solution is chemical, using advanced chemistry and scientific principles in order to develop it;
- testing and troubleshooting the solution before it goes into production; and
- installing the solution and maintaining it during its operational lifecycle.
- Liaising and collaborating with environmental specialists (e.g. Scientists, Planners, Hazardous Waste Technicians, and other Engineers), as well as specialists from other fields, such as Lawyers and business experts, in order to address environmental problems and environmental sustainability.
- Conducting technical audits and evaluating the environmental impact of a company’s industrial and commercial operations:
- Recommending essential clean-ups, reclamation processes, and waste management activities;
- assessing how a site complies with environmental regulations;
- training others in topics such as compliance standards and in quality assurance documentation maintenance; and
- providing expert assistance in database development, network, and regulatory analysis.
- Offering consultancy services to clients looking to make amendments to existing products:
- Altering existing products to fit the clients’ current environmental needs;
- developing more environmentally-friendly fuels;
- designing new turbines for hydroelectric dams; and
- manufacturing new types of electric cars.
- Procuring, keeping up-to-date, and maintaining the different plans, permits, and standard operating procedures.
- Knowing and complying with any relevant municipal, provincial, and federal environmental legislation and policies.
- Researching, developing, designing, and producing solutions to environmental issues by designing projects that lead to environmental protection.
- Drafting and studying environmental investigation reports.
- Carrying out quality control checks and analyzing the collected data.
- Supervising the overall progress of environmental programs put in place.
- Making sure the different programs comply with environmental regulations.
- Acting as environmental advisors for companies and government entities in order to recommend procedures to clean contaminated locations.
The average Environmental Engineer salary is $71,319 per year or $37 per hour. This is around 2.2 times more than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $50,000 while most experienced workers make up to $100,000. These results are based on 19 salaries extracted from job descriptions.
- Outstanding imagination to be able to design systems that will be part of larger ones.
- Ability to support or direct field staff undertaking complex investigations.
- Excellent interpersonal and communication skills:
- Communicating clearly, both verbally and in writing, in order to create a clear and communicative environment with coworkers and clients, and provide a high-quality service;
- being able to work alongside a team of Technicians, Mechanics, and other Engineers towards achieving a common goal; and
- being able to read, understand, and write technical reports and other documents.
- Mathematical skills:
- Applying basic Engineering concepts and other processes to their designs and projects.
- Analytical, problem-solving, and critical-thinking skills:
- Identifying issues and resolving problems, from workers’ safety to environmental protection, in a timely manner using critical thinking and good judgment;
- anticipating problems in order to prevent losses and alleviate environmental damage; and
- being precise and accurate in their calculations and analyses.
- Organizational and time management skills and great attention to detail:
- Being able to work independently and as part of a multidisciplinary team in a fast-paced environment while managing a busy workload; and
- being able to prioritize tasks and responsibilities accordingly.
- Enthusiastic, versatile, and willing to take on responsibility.
Environmental Engineers are required to have a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering or a related field, such as Civil, Chemical, or Mechanical Engineering. Candidates with relevant postgraduate degrees, such as masters (MEng) or Ph.D.’s, tend to have the advantage over other candidates when applying for a job in the area. These professionals may specialize in a specific area of their field (e.g. urban renewal, land reclamation, or pollution control) in order to get more job opportunities. Employers usually ask for 5 to 10 years of related Engineering experience.
With environmental concerns growing on a daily basis across the world, the work of Environmental Engineers is becoming more important and prevalent. Therefore, more and more companies are joining the green movement and hiring Environmental Engineers to help them become more eco-friendly.
All candidates applying for an Environmental Engineer job must be proficient in MS Office Suite, specialized CAD software, especially AutoCAD, and database management, as well as being a registered professional in their corresponding province. Only licensed Engineers can practice this career in Canada. The provincial and territorial regulatory bodies for all Engineering careers in this country are the ones associated to Engineers Canada and they are in charge of regulating the profession and licensing professional Engineers in Canada.
Environmental Engineers work typical 9-to-5 schedules in industrial plants, offices, or labs. However, they can also be found working on-site near water sources, energy systems, and construction projects. Working extra hours while directing a project is usually a must for these professionals. They must ensure that the design meets the client’s requirements and that the deadlines are met. Environmental Engineers also need to have a valid driver’s license and a good driving record, as well as a reliable mean of transportation, in order to get themselves to job sites within their designated area.