Environmental Control Engineer Careers: Salary & Job Description

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An environmental control engineer's median annual salary is about $83,360. Is it worth the education requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming an environmental control engineer is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming an Environmental Control Engineer

Environmental control engineers, also known as environmental engineers, are responsible for developing systems and plans to control air, soil and water pollution. Read on for a detailed description of this career.

Pros of Becoming an Environmental Control Engineer
Faster than average growth (15% increase predicted between 2012 and 2022)*
Most entry-level positions only require a bachelor's degree*
Highest-paid workers made over $125,000 in 2014*
Advancement opportunities with work experience*

Cons of Becoming an Environmental Control Engineer
Potential for long hours*
High stress and responsibility**
Strict deadlines*
Licensing and continuing education is usually required*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net Online

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Environmental control engineers usually work in an office, but some projects require them to travel to a site to supervise projects. They work in a variety of industries and use science, biology, chemistry and engineering techniques to solve environmental issues. Your job duties can include preparing and reviewing environmental reports as well as planning environmental protection projects. You could also be responsible for performing quality control inspections at municipal and industrial facilities and advising organizations on contaminant cleanup.

Job Growth and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), environmental control engineers working for the petroleum extraction industry earned the highest average annual salary (approximately $118,460 in 2014). The lowest paying of the top five industries that employ environmental engineers was state government (average annual salary was approximately $74,800 in 2014). Consulting services, local government and architectural or engineering services averaged $86,340 annually, according to the BLS.

What Are the Requirements?

Education and Skill Requirements

Many environmental control engineering jobs require candidates to have a bachelor's degree in environmental engineering from an ABET-accredited school for entry-level positions. If you're interested in teaching or research development in the field of environmental control, you might need to have a master's degree. Skills that are required to work as an environmental control engineer include the following:

  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Ability to work well with others
  • Excellent problem-solving skills
  • Strong skill set in math, physics, chemistry and biology

Licensing Info

Employers usually require candidates to become licensed professional engineers. To become licensed, graduates of an ABET-accredited degree program can take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam to become an engineer in-training. They must gain experience through an internship and then take the Professional Engineering (PE) exam to earn a PE license.

What Employers Are Looking For

Employers typically look for candidates with a bachelor's degree and some level of experience in the field. Most employers require travel for meetings and projects, and some listed specialization requirements, but this doesn't represent all positions. Take a look at the following job postings that were open in March 2012:

  • An engineering company in New Hampshire advertised for an environmental engineer with at least 5 years of experience and a bachelor's degree to manage waste water, groundwater and air pollution projects. Some other requirements included inspection experience, report experience and environmental procedure development experience.
  • A Minneapolis, MN, environmental energy company looked for an environmental engineer specializing in air quality with 5 years of experience and a bachelor's degree to manage air quality projects. Requirements included excellent communications skills, MS Office Suite proficiency, extensive knowledge and experience with federal and state air quality and environmental regulations. This was a full-time position with benefits and flexible scheduling.
  • A Minnesota industrial manufacturer advertised for an environmental engineer with 2 years' experience and a bachelor's degree to implement and maintain projects involving waste water, air pollution and storm water. Some requirements included knowledge of MS Office and federal and state environmental regulations. This was a full-time contract-to-hire position.

How to Maximize Your Skills

Education and experience are two key factors when it comes to standing out in the environmental engineering field. In addition to earning a bachelor's degree and becoming licensed, environmental engineers can become certified through the American Academy of Environmental Engineers. They can earn the Board Certified Environmental Engineer (BCEE) or Board Certified Environmental Engineer Member (BCEEM) credential by working actively in the environmental engineering field, being licensed and passing both written and oral exams.

Alternative Career Options

Natural Science Manager

If you're interested in a scientific, research-based career in environmental control, a career as a natural science manager might be better for you than one in environmental control engineering. Natural science managers supervise teams of scientists performing research and development. They also develop environmental standards and policies and lead quality control activities. Most positions require at least a bachelor's degree and some experience as a scientist. The BLS reported that growth was expected to be slow in this career (8% increase between 2010 and 2020), but the median annual wage of a natural science manager was nearly $115,000 in 2011.

Environmental Engineering Technician

If you enjoy hands-on lab work and spending time outdoors, a career as an environmental engineer technician, which does not require you to earn a bachelor's degree or become a licensed engineer, might be a better fit for you. Environmental engineering technicians perform duties that environmental control engineers assign, such as testing samples, conducting surveys, scheduling activities and arranging disposal of hazardous materials. According to the BLS, most positions require an associate's degree, and the field is expected to grow faster than the average (24% between 2010 and 2020).

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