We only have one Earth that we call home. And it’s more crucial than ever to confront our planet’s environmental issues. You may have seen the massive “islands” of waste floating in the far reaches of the Pacific Ocean. How long until that becomes the norm? How can we stand a chance in purifying our drinking water and ensuring our air quality?
Through environmental engineering, we have a better chance of turning the tide against ecological destruction. Pollution control, waste management, and water purification are all ways to ensure our species lasts on this planet. But what is environmental engineering exactly? Well, it’s a bit more involved than becoming a park ranger.
What Is Environmental Engineering?
Environmental engineering is a subfield in engineering that primarily aims to improve the environment. For example, environmental engineers find ways to cut air pollution and provide clean drinking water.
Environmental engineering is older than you might think. Civilizations, nations, cities, and societies have all engaged in massive efforts to ensure things like clean water and clean air for centuries. It was a matter of life and death. The environment, one of humanity’s greatest assets, can prove to be a challenging foe.
Environmental engineers work in nearly every type of surrounding. They can find themselves behind desks, overseeing regulations at a construction site, or in nature.
What Is Environmental Engineering Used For?
Overall, the main goal of an environmental engineer is to solve environmental problems using various technical methods. Let’s explore some of the specific work that an environmental engineer might do.
- Pollution control. If you have ever seen the oppressive smog blanketing cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Los Angeles, then you will understand this issue’s scale. Environmental engineers find the best way to cut carbon emissions, lower the output of harmful gas, and more. Pollution control is arguably one of the most important jobs these engineers work on. After all, without good air quality, sustaining life is very difficult.
- Waste management. Managing hazardous waste can prevent catastrophe. Engineers use their knowledge to best prepare for and avoid chemical spills, soil erosion, and more. By engaging in effective waste disposal, our cities, towns, and rural communities can remain safe.
- Improving public health. This is also a significant responsibility for an environmental engineer. By protecting the environment, these engineers are also protecting society. Environmental engineers focused on this issue take the population’s health and well-being into the highest account.
- Clean water. Water is the essence of life. So it should be no surprise there are engineers hard at work guaranteeing clean water. Treating water for harmful chemicals or materials is what allows people to bathe and drink without worry.
Types of Environmental Engineering
This subset of engineering is extremely varied. Some environmental engineers dedicate themselves to water treatment, while others use chemistry to improve soil conditions. Let’s look at the different types of environmental engineering.
Water engineering is about how water interacts with nearly every aspect of nature and man-made structures. It covers a few crucial areas: clean water supplies, impacts on farming, and water’s overall role in relation to the natural world.
There are, of course, varying degrees of clean water. Water isn’t merely clean or dirty. There are degrees of cleanliness that detail-oriented environmental engineers can recognize.
Humans traveling around the world can be a costly endeavor, both financially and environmentally. Environmental engineers partake in studies, data collection, and analysis to cut the ecological cost of mass transit.
Whether it’s a mass of cars on the Pacific Coast Highway or a small town clogged because of inefficient traffic lights, environmental engineers specializing in transport engineering find ways to clear the road. Ultimately, they are controlling pollution through effective urban planning and land-use forecasting.
Air Pollution Control
Clean air is also essential to a functioning society. This type of environmental engineering aims to cut emissions and let everyone breathe easier. These engineers focus on flue gas from industry and vehicle exhaust, both incredibly detrimental to the environment.
Learning Environmental Engineering
We all know what the environment is, but how much do you know about it? Sure, there’s thunderstorms, tornadoes, and pollution. But do you know the best way to create a cleaner, more promising Earth?
Learning environmental engineering takes your pre-existing knowledge of the environment and enhances it with science and engineering to help you create a better world.
Let’s explore how long it takes to learn environmental engineering, where to access some great courses, and other material to assist you on your educational journey.
How Long Does It Take to Learn Environmental Engineering?
It generally takes four to five years to learn environmental engineering.
Environmental engineering follows a more conventional path than other fields. For example, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in environmental science is usually the first step.
While many environmental agencies and companies look for job candidates with a degree, you can grow your chances of landing a job through practical experience in engineering programs. Consider these as apprenticeships for environmental science and engineering.
How to Learn Environmental Engineering: Step-by-Step
It only makes sense that a field consisting of various jobs and duties would have many ways to go about learning. While everyone’s journey towards a lucrative environmental engineering career is different, here are some ways to fast-track your way to the top.
- Learn engineering principles. Engineering is a vast field containing areas such as civil engineering, software engineering, and chemical engineering. If you are already pursuing one of the many subfields of engineering, consider learning about the environment to make a difference.
- Earn a bachelor’s degree in environmental science. Earning an environmental engineering degree is optional but can pave the way for your future success in this field. Earning a bachelor’s in environmental science not only opens new career avenues but also exposes you to valuable science and engineering knowledge.
- Join an engineering program. Gaining practical experience is always positive. This is especially true for environmental engineers. Many learning institutions offer various work programs to immerse students in the work of an environmental engineer. These engineering programs can help instill a sense of purpose, duty, and expertise. And many ecological agencies welcome those with practical experience.
- Pursue a career in professional engineering. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, environmental engineers only require a bachelor’s degree or practical experience to enjoy a median salary of nearly $90,000. Many states need environmental engineers. But those with the highest number of hires are Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, and Oklahoma.
The Best Environmental Engineering Courses and Trainings
Now that you know more about the significance of this career let’s explore some options for online environmental engineering courses.
Best Online Environmental Engineering Courses
Everything is online now: classes in guitar, piano, or even architecture. The same goes for learning the essentials of environmental engineering. Here are some great options for you to explore.
- Provider: Coursera
- Time: Four months
- Prerequisites: None
Through the University of Buffalo, students learn all about energy, its production, and its various uses. Taught by a team of accomplished professors, this environmental engineering course will guide participants through four different courses:
- Electric power systems
- Natural gas
- Safety in the utility industry
- Energy: The enterprise
This course is perfect for the aspiring environmental engineer or technician and introduces various career opportunities for students. It also includes an applied-learning project for an optimal experience.
- Provider: edX
- Time: January 1, 2021 to February 28, 2021 (8 weeks)
- Prerequisites: none
- Price: $100
For those who have ever wanted to experience a class from Yale, here’s your chance. Taught by professor of epidemiology Robert Dubrow, this course delves deep into the dark implications of climate change and what happens when we don’t attend to Earth’s environmental needs.
As well as an educational tool, this online course doubles as a valuable call to arms for all world citizens. It explores what new and essential methods we need to tackle.
This is perfect for aspiring environmental engineers, as it posits different ways to improve upon previous environmental strategies and methods. It also gives you the communication tools needed to assist in different communities.
Best Free Environmental Engineering Courses
If you are tight on money but still interested in engineering and science, here are some professional environmental engineering courses that are entirely free.
- Provider: edX, DelftX
- Time: Seven weeks
- Prerequisites: none
- Price: Free
Offered by the Delft University of Technology, this informative and straightforward free course in water supplies will better equip you for a full-time job.
Specifically, students explore the intricacies of urban water supplies, clean water, and how to achieve optimal safety levels while overseeing different regulations of water treatment plants.
Students participate in four different modules: an introduction to clean water, various water qualities, groundwater treatment, and surface water treatment. By the end of the free course, students will have a better grasp of what constitutes clean water and how to engage in water pollution control, waste disposal, and more.
- Provider: edX
- Time: Eight weeks
- Prerequisites: none
- Price: Free
What better way to learn about the beneficial impacts of our sun? Through the Delft University of Technology, students will take an exciting and informative journey learning about solar energy.
Not only is this an environmental engineering course, but it also serves as a valuable resource in electrical engineering. Students will learn all about photovoltaic devices and how they conduct electricity through solar rays. They will also learn about why solar energy is a much preferable energy source than fossil fuels.
Through the eight-week course, students partake in various assignments and exams to test their knowledge about critical concepts: namely photovoltaic technologies, semiconductors, application and design, and overall science and engineering.
Best Environmental Engineering Books
Some people benefit best while learning from physical or digital books. If you’re taking an online environmental engineering course or simply want to brush up on the topic in general, there is an abundance of texts on the environment and, most importantly, what we can do about saving it.
Introduction to Environmental Engineering, Mackenzie Davis & David Cornwell
This definitive text on environmental engineering introduces the layman to ecological basics. Using science and engineering, the authors put forth all of the essential environmental knowledge you need to know. This includes painstakingly detailed readings on EPA regulations and violations as well as tons of practice problems to assist with learning.
If you want both a comprehensive textbook and resources to work out real-world problems, this is the perfect book.
This fascinating book examines what the future of our world might hold like in terms of our environmental impact. Specifically, Bakke examines the significance of something we mostly take for granted in our daily lives: the power grid.
She goes into the history of the fantastic engineering triumph that is America’s extensive power grid, but also how it impedes our progress. Society can’t move forward into a more efficient, clean future with this relic of the past. So how do environmental engineers overcome this bulky, environmentally hazardous artifact? You’ll need to read it to find out.
For any aspiring environmental engineers, this exciting look at American society, as well as the promise of a cleaner future, is a great way to introduce yourself to potential issues you’d face as a professional engineer.
Best Online Environmental Engineering Resources
If you need to look up things about environmental engineering or simply want to scan facts and figures, there are a few great online resources to choose from. These range from free coursework to studies.
Instead of ferreting out particular courses that line up with your science and engineering interests, why not explore free and open courses provided by some of the most unique learning institutions in the world?
You can learn about ecology at MIT, Purdue University Global, and the University of Pennsylvania. There is no shortage of different topics such as water treatment, environmental microbiology, and transport processes.
Launched by the famous author John Green, Crash Course is an ever-growing, popular series of videos that aim to inform. What started with Crash Course History has quickly evolved into other subjects like mathematics, science, and engineering.
This is a great introduction video on the topic and could be a significant first step in your journey towards professional engineering. Using the harrowing example of the Flint, Michigan water crisis, the narrator concisely and accurately lays down environmental engineering principles.
Most importantly, the video explores how ecological science and professional engineering have combined to combat one of the most dangerous crises we face. Filled with amusing animations and easy to understand concepts, we recommend starting with this Crash Course video from PBS.
Should You Study Environmental Engineering?
So what makes environmental engineering the right job for you? If you are passionate about public health, treating water supplies, waste disposal, science, and engineering, then learning environmental engineering is perfect for you.
Make sure you do your research about the field’s nuances to get a better grasp of what direction to take. Take a look at all of our resources to find great ways to start your journey as a professional engineer.
Through hard work, diligence, and dedication, anyone can make a difference in the face of climate change, polluted water, and a damaged planet.
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