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What can I do with a degree in environmental engineering?

During our brief existence on Earth, we humans haven't exactly been the best house guests. Our agricultural missteps have created a summertime dead zone the size of Connecticut along the Gulf of Mexico, practically turned Kazakhstan's Aral Sea into a kiddie pool, and played a part in the U.S.'s "The Dust Bowl." And that's without touching catastrophes like oil spills.

Yet not all of our handiwork causes the planet harm. There are those who dedicate their professional lives to protecting it, and among them, environmental engineers may be some of the most fascinating. They devise manmade solutions that actually benefit the environment, whether they help contain major oil spills, design more efficient recycling methods, manufacture the next best electric car, or even create bridges that help animals safely cross highways.

The good news is that many schools across the country offer an online environmental engineering degree. Typically, these degree programs can be completed fully online and are usually preferred by students who want to balance work, life, family and other interests.

What to Look for in an Online Environmental Engineering Degree

If you've got a mind for logic and a soft spot for Mother Nature, earning a degree in environmental engineering could be your calling. Based on your professional interests, you can find an online environmental engineering degree from the associate to doctoral level.

Look for schools offering environmental engineering degree programs that are accredited and on par with traditional on-campus programs in terms of academic rigor. Accreditation is important when choosing any degree program. Not only does an accredited degree program open up the chance for you to receive federal funds, if you qualify but accredited programs can make you more competitive in the employment market since employers generally prefer students who have graduated from an accredited program. The most common accreditation for an environmental engineering degree is Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Graduating with an ABET-accredited degree in environmental engineering can also qualify you to take the Fundamentals of Engineering examination, one of the prerequisites to becoming a licensed Professional Engineer (PE).

Careers in Environmental Engineering

Depending on your major, careers in environmental engineering can range from being an environmental engineering technician to top management positions in this field. Typical responsibilities can include collecting and evaluating water and air samples, designing systems and projects to help protect the environment, conducting environmental research and directing environmental engineering projects.

Best Industries for Environmental Engineers (annual mean wages, BLS 2016)

  • Nonresidential Building Construction, $113,990
  • Basic Chemical Manufacturing, $111,110
  • Resin, Synthetic Rubber, and Artificial Synthetic Fibers and Filaments Manufacturing, $109,410
  • Legal Services, $107,880
  • Natural Gas Distribution, $107,290

Best States for Environmental Engineers (annual mean wages, BLS 2016)

  • Alaska, $123,900
  • California, $105,160
  • District of Columbia, $98,530
  • Ohio, $97,970
  • Virginia, $97,770

It's interesting to note that compared to other engineering degree programs, environmental engineering has the highest number of enrollments by women.

Learn more about environmental engineering degrees, schools and the careers they could lead to in our infographic below.

Please consult the visual for a full list of sources.

Online Environmental Engineering Degree
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