California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

   Environmental Engineers in San Diego County

May also be called: Civil Engineers; Hazardous Substances Engineers; Pollution Control Engineers; Public Health Engineers; Soil Engineers

Specialties within this occupation include: Air Pollution Control Engineers; Environmental Remediation Specialists; Water and Wastewater Engineers; Waste Management Engineers

What Would I Do?

Environmental Engineers* design, plan, and perform engineering duties in the prevention, control, and mitigation of hazards impacting public health and the environment. They use the principles of mathematics, biology, chemistry, and other scientific disciplines to perform these duties. Environmental Engineers are concerned with local and worldwide environmental issues, such as safe drinking water, treatment and proper disposal of waste, air quality, water pollution, and the remediation of sites contaminated by hazardous substances. They design, build, and operate systems that protect the environment and human health. Environmental Engineers may also study and direct efforts to minimize the effects of climate change; acid rain; ozone depletion; and automobile, industrial, and other emissions.

An Environmental Engineer's job description has two main areas of focus: the remediation of existing environmental threats and the development of new approaches to prevent and control future environmental health hazards. Their job description may include providing network and regulatory analysis, performing quality control checks, and updating permits. Engineers also work closely with industry, business, and government agencies to ensure that they are in compliance with federal, State, and local environmental laws. Additional responsibilities could include technical advising, managing projects, and developing systems of review. Environmental Engineers may have to develop site cleanup plans, supervise processes, and make sure that the cleanup is done according to environmental laws. They also may communicate with business and government agencies to coordinate services to minimize the risk or impact of environmental accidents.

Environmental Engineers frequently work as part of a team. Engineers often attend meetings with staff, government officials, and other interested parties, providing technical advice and the interpretation of environmental law.

Air Pollution Control Engineers conduct evaluations, including design, installation, and operation of air pollution control equipment. They examine industrial and commercial practices, equipment, emission control devices, records, and instrumentation to ensure compliance with air pollution control laws. Engineers calculate and compare data involving air pollution control measures for industrial and commercial procedures. They also review plans and permit applications.

Environmental Remediation Specialists identify and clean up the damage caused by environmental contaminants. They design, implement, and manage remediation systems. Specialists also offer technical assistance to project stakeholders and various agencies.

Water and Wastewater Engineers design or oversee projects involving provision of fresh water, disposal of wastewater and sewage, or prevention of flood-related damage. They prepare environmental documentation for water resources, regulatory program compliance, data management and analysis, and field work. Engineers perform hydraulic modeling and pipeline design. They also inspect new well and pump installations, review construction reports for code conformity, and may be involved with eliminating existing groundwater pollution problems.

Waste Management Engineers evaluate data and information for landfill sites and construction conformity. Activities may include meeting with staff, consultants, site owners, and other interested parties. Engineers develop and review plans and compare environmental protection agency criteria with site information. Hazardous waste transportation, storage, treatment, and disposal practices are evaluated for compliance. In order to implement, enforce, and determine legal conformity, Engineers must understand environmental laws and regulations. Other duties may include conducting facility inspections, developing technical guidelines, and providing technical assistance.

Tools and Technology

Environmental Engineers use a variety of tools, including air quality monitoring and water quality testing instruments, computers, groundwater monitoring equipment, oil-in-water monitors, radiation detectors, volatile organic compound analyzers, and industrial equipment.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

*This product was partially funded by a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration. The information contained in this product was created by a grantee organization and does not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Labor. All references to non-governmental companies or organizations, their services, products, or resources are offered for informational purposes and should not be construed as an endorsement by the Department of Labor. This product is copyrighted by the institution that created it and is intended for individual organizational, non-commercial use only.

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Direct installation or operation of environmental monitoring devices or supervise related data collection programs.Systems Analysis
Inspect industrial or municipal facilities or programs to evaluate operational effectiveness or ensure compliance with environmental regulations.Systems Evaluation
Collaborate with environmental scientists, planners, hazardous waste technicians, engineers, and experts in law or business to address environmental problems.Engineering and Technology
Develop plans for new water resources or water efficiency programs.Judgment and Decision Making
Prepare, review, or update environmental investigation or recommendation reports.Writing
Gather and analyze water use data to forecast water demand.Mathematics
Design or supervise the design of systems processes, or equipment for control, management, or remediation of water, air, or soil quality.Design
Provide technical support for environmental remediation or litigation projects, including remediation system design or determination of regulatory applicability.Critical Thinking
Advise corporations or government agencies of procedures to follow in cleaning up contaminated sites to protect people and the environment.Complex Problem Solving
Inform company employees or other interested parties of environmental issues.Customer and Personal Service
Develop proposed project objectives and targets, and report to management on progress in attaining them.Inductive Reasoning
Advise industries or government agencies about environmental policies and standards.Law and Government
Assess the existing or potential environmental impact of land use projects on air, water, or land.Problem Sensitivity
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Environmental Engineers work in office buildings, laboratories, or industrial plants. They frequently spend time outdoors at construction sites, facilities, businesses, and other locations to oversee project implementation or verify compliance with environmental laws. Environmental Engineers may travel extensively to plants or worksites. When working in hazardous conditions, Environmental Engineers must be trained in health and safety procedures, and they must wear personal protective equipment. Most Engineers work a standard 40-hour workweek, but can expect occasional evening, weekend, and holiday work to meet pressing needs.

Unionization is not common in this occupation. However, government Engineers may belong to a union.

Will This Job Fit Me?

Environmental Engineers frequently work with ideas, which translate to designs that others implement under engineering oversight. Engineers search for facts using a variety of sources in order to solve problems. Environmental Engineers are also skilled in analysis and design. This requires a type of intelligence that is logical, detail-oriented, inquisitive, and creative.

Communication skills are essential since Engineers almost always work with teams in various departments to accomplish mutual goals. Effective oral and written communication skills are critical. Engineers usually convey information to interested parties, including business, industry, and agencies on a wide range of technical topics ranging from specific design reviews, and health and safety protocols to environmental policies.

Environmental Engineers can benefit from patience, a willingness to deal with unidentified challenges, and the ability to communicate with a variety of people. This occupation is a good choice for an individual who wants to protect and enhance public health and the environment. Environmental Engineers have an opportunity to make a significant difference that can be a long-term benefit to our children and to future generations.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Wages

The median wage in 2015 for Environmental Engineers in California was $99,815 annually, or $47.99 hourly. The median wage for Environmental Engineers in San Diego County was $89,361 annually, or $42.96 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2015Low
(25th percentile)
Median
(50th percentile)
High
(75th percentile)
California$80,651$99,815$118,503
San Diego County$69,102$89,361$106,345
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2015 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas

Benefits

Environmental Engineers generally receive excellent benefits, including health and life insurance, vacation, sick leave, and pension plans.

What is the Job Outlook?

With the increased focus on environmentally sustainable business practices, it is expected that there would be increased opportunities for Environmental Engineers as more companies worldwide are "going green." California leads the nation in terms of its promotion of "green" environmental practices, thus creating a strong market for Environmental Engineers.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Environmental Engineers is expected to grow much faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Environmental Engineers are expected to increase by 24.7 percent, or 1,800 jobs between 2012 and 2022.

In San Diego County, the number of Environmental Engineers is expected to grow much faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Environmental Engineers are expected to increase by 35.9 percent, or 230 jobs between 2012 and 2022.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Environmental Engineers
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Estimated
Employment
Projected
Employment
Numeric
Change
Percent
Change
Additional Openings
Due to Net
Replacements
California
(2012-2022)
7,3009,1001,80024.71,800
San Diego County
(2012-2022)
64087023035.9160
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

Annual Job Openings

In California, an average of 180 new job openings per year is expected for Environmental Engineers, plus an additional 180 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 360 job openings.

In San Diego County, an average of 23 new job openings per year is expected for Environmental Engineers, plus an additional 16 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 39 job openings.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Environmental Engineers
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
California
(2012-2022)
180180360
San Diego County
(2012-2022)
231639
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Data for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

A bachelor's degree in engineering is generally the minimum educational level that employers will consider for a position as an Environmental Engineer. Most engineering programs involve a concentration of study in an engineering specialty, along with courses in design, mathematics, physical and life sciences, and hands-on laboratory classes. In addition to the core classes which often reflect civil, chemical, or mechanical engineering basics, coursework may also include a focus on air pollution control, water and wastewater management, and public health. Environmental engineering programs in some universities may be located within the Department of Civil Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, or the school of Public Health.

Experience

Many employers will hire only those with a master's degree or at least four years of successful experience in this field, and a Professional Engineers (PE) license. However, larger companies may offer entry-level engineering positions for college graduates and provide them with formal classroom or seminar-type training. These entry-level Engineers, while under the direction of a licensed Engineer, gain knowledge and experience and are assigned more difficult projects with greater independence to develop designs, solve problems, and make decisions. Licensed Engineers no longer require the approval of a professional overseer and can approve documents directly.

Early Career Planning

High school students planning to become an Environmental Engineer should take courses in English, mathematics, physical and life sciences, computer science, and mechanical drawing or computer aided design processes.

Work-Study Programs

Some colleges and universities help students find work-study programs or internships. These internships are frequently paid and are an opportunity for the sponsoring organization to recruit future employees.

Continuing Education

While continuing education is currently not a requirement for maintaining a PE license, most Environmental Engineers not only need to continue their education through workshops, seminars, and ongoing training, but they also need to keep current with constant changes to environmental codes and regulations.

Licensing and Certification

While a PE license is not required for Environmental Engineers, some Engineers may possess a license in civil, chemical, geotechnical, or mechanical engineering. Those Engineers who approve engineering documents, or provide professional oversight to less experienced Engineers, must obtain a PE license. The PE license generally requires a degree from a college or university offering an engineering program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), four years of relevant work experience under the oversight of a licensed Engineer, and completion of an examination. The license must be renewed every two years.

Engineering specialty certification is voluntary for some Environmental Engineer positions; however there are many specialty certifications, such as Energy Manager, Green Building Engineer, and Hazardous Materials Manager. These certifications are offered by various professional organizations. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

  • Search by Field of Study to find what programs are available and what schools offer those programs. You may use keywords such as: Civil Engineer, Engineer, Environmental, and Environmental Engineer.
  • Search by Training Provider to find schools by name, type of school, or location.

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Environmental Engineers are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Management & Technical Consulting Svc 26.0%
Architectural and Engineering Services 25.3%
State Government 17.9%
Local Government 10.9%
Federal Government 5.7%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers is one of the most common and effective job search methods. Jobs may also be found through classified advertisements in newspapers, online job boards and professional engineering organizations. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Environmental Engineers.

  • Civil Engineers
  • Environmental Engineers
  • Professional Engineers

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

As Environmental Engineers gain experience they may become technical specialists, or supervise staff, or a team of engineers and technicians. Also, numerous professional special certifications exist for Environmental Engineers and may offer improved opportunity for advancement to senior technical or managerial positions. A master’s degree or doctor of philosophy degree may lead to teaching opportunities as an environmental engineering educator.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Environmental Engineers with links to more information.

OccupationOccupational
Guide
Industry
Report
Occupational
Profile
Civil EngineersGuide
Environmental Engineering TechniciansProfile
Environmental Science and Protection Technicians, Including HealthProfile
Environmental Scientists and Specialists, Including HealthGuide
Health and Safety Engineers, Except Mining Safety Engineers and InspectorsProfile
Mining and Geological Engineers, Including Mining Safety EngineersProfile

Other Sources

  • California Board for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors
         www.pels.ca.gov
  • California Department of Consumer Affairs
         www.dca.ca.gov
  • The Academy of Board Certified Environmental Professionals
         www.abcep.org
  • Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology
         www.abet.org
  • American Society for Engineering Education
         www.asee.org
  • The Council of Engineering & Scientific Specialty Boards
         www.cesb.org
  • Junior Engineering Technical Society
         www.jets.org
  • National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying
         www.ncees.org
  • National Society of Professional Engineers
         www.nspe.org
  • American Academy of Environmental Engineers
         www.aaee.net

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SystemCode
SOC - Standard Occupational Classification17-2081
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Environmental Engineers17-2081.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)IRC
   Water/Wastewater Engineers17-2081.01
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)IRE