Consider building on your passion for saving our environment by gaining the actual know-how to do something about alarming problems such as air and water pollution, toxic waste, and unsafe drinking water. Environmental engineers work on such issues as drinking water treatment, wastewater processing, solid and hazardous waste disposal, outdoor air pollution, indoor air pollution and transfer of infectious diseases, human health and ecological risk management, prevention of pollution through product or process design, and renewable and sustainable energy sources.
Whether you work for a government agency such as the EPA, for a private corporation, or a non-profit organization, as an environmental engineer you can make a real difference in the survival of our planet by finding ways to clean up oil spills in our oceans, deliver clean drinking water to people in developing communities worldwide, design more effective recycling systems, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from factories and vehicles.
Curious about the classes you'll take as an environmental engineering major? Have a look at the sample undergraduate curriculum.
CU-Boulder’s undergraduate environmental engineering program emphasizes sustainable, multidisciplinary approaches to managing the unique challenges and balancing the competing social, political, economic and technical goals of environmental problems and solutions. The degree provides mastery of principles and practices, inspires service for the global public good, and prepares students for graduate school, professional licensure and broad and dynamic careers.
Environmental engineering students enjoy extensive hands-on learning opportunities through laboratory courses, field work, and undergraduate research positions. Through service learning activities such as Engineers without Borders, students apply their knowledge to real-world projects that improve the quality of life for people in developing countries. Students can also gain professional exposure through the student chapter of the Society of Environmental Engineers.
Environmental engineers can find jobs in every state and internationally. Government agencies at the municipal, state, or federal level need environmental engineers. There are also many jobs in private corporations, including industrial manufacturers and engineering consulting businesses. Job choices for environmental engineers include research, private practice and consulting, construction, industry, and teaching.
Undergraduate students are encouraged to pursue research opportunities through independent study, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, the Discovery Learning Apprenticeship program, or research assistantships with faculty. Possible topics include developing improved cook stoves for remote villages and testing whether they improve indoor air quality for families in the Peruvian highlands; understanding what happened to oil and dispersants released into the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon disaster; developing small devices for monitoring air pollution and using them to study when and where individuals are exposed to unhealthy air; designing treatment systems for complete water recycling for space exploration applications; and investigating how mercury cycles through the environment and what controls its conversion to methyl-mercury, the most toxic form.
CU graduates in environmental engineering are employed at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, as well as such companies as Abengoa Solar, Chevron, LT Environmental, Richard Arber Associates, Trihydro Corp., and many others.
About 20 percent of CU-Boulder engineering bachelor’s graduates (college-wide) continue onto graduate school, gaining admittance to top schools such as MIT, Princeton, Harvard, Cornell, Stanford, University of California Berkeley, and the University of Texas at Austin.
Environmental engineers are expected to have a much faster than average growth rate with employment projected to increase 31 percent or more through 2018. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
The average salary nationally for environmental engineering graduates with a bachelor's degree in 2010 was $48,980. A comparable figure for CU-Boulder graduates is not available because the sampling size was too small to be statistically valid.