Before deciding on an online program, it is important to consider a number of factors to determine whether or not it is the best option.
Most importantly, anyone considering enrolling in an online environmental engineering degree program must understand its campus visitation requirements. Some schools ask that you attend an on-campus orientation. Others ask that you attend an on-campus intensive at a regular interval, like once per semester, or once per year. Others may ask that you present your capstone project on-campus. So be sure to inquire about specific campus visitation requirements.
Certainly, primarily or totally online programs can be a highly attractive option for those who do not have the time to attend scheduled lectures, or who do not live close enough to the campus to make travel practical. Others, however, may find it difficult to excel in such a program, particularly students who do not perform well without in-person support from professors or their peers inside the classroom, or outside the classroom in group study sessions.
Furthermore, while a number of students may find it beneficial to have a more flexible schedule as compared to a traditional program, many others may have issues with this lack of structure and struggle to meet deadlines without constant supervision. Ultimately, there is a host of factors to consider before making the decision to enroll in an online program. For independent learners and doers who require flexibility, online programs can work exceptionally well.
Aspiring students who wish to enroll in an online environmental engineering program must first meet a number of admissions requirements before being accepted. While there is not a universal set of guidelines used by all online programs, in general, each of these institutions will employ a relatively similar set of admissions criteria to determine who is offered acceptance for an upcoming cycle. Because of this, anyone wishing to enroll in an online program should fully understand these admissions criteria, as well as the steps they can take to enhance their chances of being offered acceptance.
For virtually all undergraduate programs, students will be required to show proof of SAT scores in combination with a copy of a high school diploma or GED. In addition to this proof, prospective students will often be asked to submit a personal essay about themselves and their aspirations as environmental engineers, as well as letters of recommendation from current teachers or employers who can attest to their capabilities as a student. In some cases, students will also be asked to offer additional information regarding their academic experience, or why they would like to enroll in this specific program.
Aspiring graduate students will likely encounter an application process that is similar to that of their undergraduate peers. Of course, instead of showing proof of SAT scores, they may be asked to submit the scores they received on the GRE (or on a separate graduate school entrance examination). These students will likely also be asked to offer copies of their undergraduate transcripts and diplomas, in addition to letters of recommendation from past professors or lecturers under whom they studied. Finally, because aspiring graduate students may have spent time in the workforce, they may be asked to submit letters of recommendation from previous employers or supervisors, as well as a personal essay on how their experience in work and school will aid them in their future studies.
For all online programs, both undergraduate and graduate students will be required to submit their application packages on or before a specific deadline. And while the specific date may vary based on the institution, the deadline for a spring-start program may be in late fall, while the deadline for a fall-start program will likely be in the later months of winter. That said, this shouldn’t serve as definitive information; instead, individuals who are interested in enrolling in an online program should speak to that program’s administration to learn more about relevant dates and deadlines.
In the process of choosing an online program, aspiring students may wish to use program accreditation as an additional criterion when making a final decision. Environmental engineering programs may receive accreditation through the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET), which serves as the national accreditation agency for programs focusing on technology and engineering. ABET acts as an umbrella organization with a number of member groups; the American Academy of Environmental Engineers & Scientists (AAEES) exists as the sub-agency for environmental engineering professionals.
Here, it is important to realize that a degree from an accredited institution is not a prerequisite to obtaining future employment as an environmental engineer. A degree from an accredited institution and at least four years of work experience as an engineer are necessary in order to qualify for the exam to receive a Professional Engineer license through the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE). A PE license allows the holder to take on a greater degree of responsibility in his or her work and may be a requirement for certain types of advanced positions as well.
Furthermore, a Professional Engineering license is also one required criteria for becoming Board Certified in Environmental Engineering through AAEES, considered “premium credentials that are awarded to experienced professionals who have demonstrated expertise in one or more areas of specialization.”
In general, students in online environmental engineering programs will generally take or have taken courses on physics, mechanics, materials, organic chemistry, heat transfer, microbiology, thermodynamics, calculus, and others related to engineering principles.
In some cases, particularly in master’s degree programs, environmental engineering students may also have the opportunity to specialize in water resources engineering, transportation engineering, geotechnical and geophysical engineering, hydrology and hydraulic engineering, and environmental nanotechnology, among other areas.
Some of the topics can expect to study include:
The Civil, Environmental, and Construction Engineering Department of the University of Central Florida offers an online environmental engineering degree program with two options: an MS and an MSVE. These programs can be completed entirely online providing convenience and flexibility to working professionals. The programs help students learn about air and water pollution control, recycling, public health, and waste disposal.
Admission requirements for the program include a baccalaureate or higher degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or from a recognized foreign institution (the MS option is for students who have a bachelor’s degree in science or math, while the MSVE option is for those with a bachelor’s degree in engineering), one official transcript, a current resume, goal statement, three letters of recommendation, and a course-by-course credential evaluation with GPA calculation is required for students who have attended a college or university outside the United States.
Made up of 30 credit-hours, the program includes courses such as physical/chemical treatment systems in environmental engineering, biological treatment systems in environmental engineering, industrial waste treatment, and water treatment, among others.
Both programs prepare students for environmental engineering careers in state, local, and federal governments, consulting, industry, and higher education. They can take up roles such as air pollution control engineers, environmental analysts, environmental engineers, hazardous substances engineers, regulatory environmental compliance managers, and environmental remediation specialists.
At Columbia University, students can earn a master's in earth and environmental engineering. The program is ideal for scientists and engineers who are interested in pursuing a career in environmental management and development. The program focuses on environmentally sound practices including the processing of minerals, water, and energy, as well as proper disposal or recycling of used materials.
For gaining admission, students must have an undergraduate degree in science, engineering, computer science, mathematics, or a related field from an accredited institution, a minimum grade point average of 3.0, a GRE score, three letters of recommendation, transcripts, a current resume, personal statement, and TOEFL or IELTS scores for students whose first language is not English.
Comprising 30 credit-hours, the program includes courses such as introduction to aquatic chemistry, introduction to surface and colloid chemistry, production of inorganic materials, catalysis for emissions control, combustion chemistry and processes, environmental microbiology, and management and development of water systems.
Graduates of the program are qualified to work for financial, and engineering companies engaged in mineral processing. They can find employment in the environmental industry, as well as local, state, and federal organizations concerned with environment and resource conservation. Apart from a master’s, the university also offers a doctorate in earth and environmental engineering, a certificate in earth and environmental engineering, and a certificate in low carbon and efficiency technology.
The University of Florida offers an online master’s degree (MS or ME) in environmental engineering sciences (EES), delivered through the University of Florida’s electronic delivery of gator engineering (EDGE). An online degree from the University of Florida is similar to the one awarded to on-campus students. That means it also demands the same rigorous admissions standards, world-class faculty, and tradition of academic excellence.
For the master of engineering (ME) program, students must have earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from an ABET-accredited college or they must complete articulation work for equivalence. If this is not the case, the master of science (MS) degree should be earned. Apart from an undergraduate degree, additional admission requirements include a statement of purpose, three letters of recommendation, a grade point average of 3.0, official transcripts, official test scores, a current resume, background courses, and TOEFL scores for international students.
Consisting of 30 credit-hours, the program includes courses such as surface hydrology, advanced surface hydrology, environmental biochemistry of trace metals, stochastic subsurface hydrology, and contaminant subsurface hydrology, among others.
Students through the program will be able to identify and solve environmental problems using engineering and scientific tools and methods, critically evaluate and read engineering or science literature, communicate effectively, and develop an understanding of ethical and professional responsibility.
At the University of North Dakota, students have the option of pursuing a master's degree (MS or MEng), a doctoral degree, or a certificate in environmental engineering. All these programs can be completed entirely online. Students in these programs will work closely with businesses, communities, and industries for developing new technologies and solving infrastructure-related problems.
The major admission requirements include a BS degree in an engineering discipline from an ABET-accredited program, a minimum grade point average of 3.0, GRE general test for those with undergraduate degrees from non-ABET accredited programs, and English language proficiency for international students.
A total of nine credit-hours must be completed for the certificate, 30 credit-hours for the master’s, and 90 credit-hours for the doctorate. Courses include instruction in hazardous waste management; air pollution control; water sampling and analysis; hydrogeology; and energy, resources and policy, among others.
Graduates of these programs will be prepared for careers in academia, industries, or government, including positions waste disposal, recycling, water and air pollution control, data science, pipeline operations, and consulting.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute offers an online master of science in environmental engineering, allowing students to focus on interests such as industrial waste treatment, stormwater quality control, and physicochemical treatment processes. Students engage in practical projects and research, gaining an overall understanding of the professional and technical aspects of preserving the environment and public health.
In order to get accepted into the program, applicants must have a relevant bachelor’s degree from an accredited university (preferably ABET-accredited), transcripts for all post-secondary colleges or universities, three letters of recommendation, and TOEFL scores for international students, among other requirements.
Coursework provides a strong foundation in both the theoretical and practical aspects of the environmental engineering discipline. Topics covered in classes include hydraulics and hydrology; physical, chemical, and biological treatment systems for water; wastewater; hazardous waste and industrial waste; modeling of contaminant transport and transformations; and water quality and water resources.
Graduates of these programs can find employment in industries like pharmaceutical production, industrial manufacturing, sustainable energy, and facilities planning.
North Carolina State University offers an online master of environmental engineering program. This online program is identical to the on-campus program, allowing students the flexibility to study and learn at their own pace.
Applicants to the program must have an undergraduate degree in environmental or civil engineering from an accredited institution (or its equivalent) with a minimum grade point average of 3.0. TOEFL or IELTS scores are required for international students, but these can be waived for students with at least one year of full-time study at a U.S. university. The GRE is automatically waived for students who have an undergraduate engineering degree from a U.S. institution.
The program consists of 30 credit-hours involving courses such as the physical principles of environmental engineering, biological principles of environmental engineering, chemical principles of environmental engineering, engineering principles of air pollution control, hydraulics of groundwater, engineering hydrology, and water resources engineering.
California State University at Fullerton offers an online master of science in environmental engineering program, which educates and prepares the future leaders of environment-related fields. This MS program provides working professionals with technical knowledge and practical information on contemporary environmental issues and topics including wastewater treatment and disposal, potable water treatment, air pollution control engineering, landfill design, global warming issues, and other topics. Students are required to complete a virtual orientation session prior to the program as well as a virtual symposium half-way through the program to gauge their progress.
For admission to the program, students must have a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution of higher education, a minimum cumulative grade point average 2.5 for students with an engineering bachelor's degree and 3.0 for students with a non-engineering bachelor's degree, and TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE scores for students who have a bachelor's degree from a country in which English is not the majority language.
The program comprises 30 credit-hours, including courses such as transport of chemicals in the environment, hydraulics and hydrology for environmental engineers, water supply, treatment, and system design, environmental engineering practices and project management, air pollution control engineering, and surface water pollution and control, among others.
Upon completion, students will be prepared for professional engineering exams and will be able to explore a range of environmental engineering careers and roles.
Old Dominion University offers an online master’s degree in environmental engineering, providing students with comprehensive knowledge for advancing their careers. For completing this program, students are required to complete original research in an area of interest. They have the option of using the resources available at the university's state-of-the-art facilities to complete their research. The program is taught by experienced engineering faculty members who are experts in their fields.
In order to get accepted into the program, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree (preferably in civil or environmental engineering, with a strong background in mathematics and physical sciences), an essay of 500 words or less, two letters of recommendation, an undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 or higher, TOEFL or IELTS is required for all applicants whose native language is not English, and GRE scores are required only for applicants who do not have an ABET-accredited engineering degree from an institution in the USA.
The program consists of 30 credit-hours. The curriculum delves into topics such as ordinary differential equations, environmental pollution and control, hydraulics and water resources, hydromechanics, civil and environmental computations, and calculus, to name a few.
Graduates of the program can take up roles such as biofuels production managers, architectural and engineering managers, water resource specialists, wind energy operations managers, environmental compliance inspectors, environmental engineers, environmental restoration planners, water/wastewater engineers, and biomass power plant managers.
The University of New Haven offers a fully online master of science degree program in environmental engineering. The program provides ample opportunities for students to collaborate with faculty and fellow classmates while advancing their education. The faculty members for the program are the same as that of the on-campus program, and they use leading-edge instructional methods and the same curriculum as that on campus.
This 10-course degree program is made up of 30 credit-hours. Some of the courses include biological treatment of aqueous wastes, containment fate and transport in the environment, solid waste management, environmental law and legislation, hazardous waste treatment, open channel hydraulics, and surface water quality management, among others.
Applicants to the program must submit a completed application form, official transcripts from all undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools attended, a brief statement of purpose, a current resume, two letters of recommendation, and TOEFL or IELTS scores for all non-native English language speakers.
Students learn how to develop sustainable solutions to complex environmental problems, and explore the myriad areas of environmental engineering such as water quality, environmental protection, water purification, solid waste management systems, wastewater treatment, emission control measures, and site remediation.
Southern Methodist University offers an online master of science in environmental engineering program that emphasizes engineering design and analysis of management and technology-oriented solutions to environmental problems. The coursework is offered completely online to help professionals continue with their jobs, uninterrupted.
Admission requirements include a bachelor of science degree in one of the engineering disciplines or in a quantitative science closely related to environmental engineering, minimum of one year of college-level calculus and a year of college-level chemistry, and a solid background in the fundamental engineering sciences, including fluid mechanics and thermodynamics, is desirable.
Comprising 30 credit-hours, the program includes courses such as environmental chemistry, biological processes and treatment, air pollution management, environmental engineering principles and processes, and environmental regulations and compliance, among others. Students in this program will also have the option to take three elective courses (a total of nine credit-hours) in the following secondary concentrations: global and sustainable development, environmental health and compliance, and smart and resilient infrastructure.
Campus visitation requirements will vary based on the individual institution. Indeed, some online degree programs will require a student to visit the campus one or two times throughout the course of the year to take an examination or to meet with an instructor.
Many others, however, have no campus visitation requirements at all, and students within these programs may complete a degree without ever setting foot on the campus. The environmental engineering master’s degree program at Columbia University is a prime example; here, students are never required to visit the campus while in pursuit of their degree.
Francis de los Reyes PhD, North Carolina State University
Dr. Francis de los Reyes is a professor of civil, construction, and environmental engineering at North Carolina State University. He received his doctorate from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in environmental engineering in 2000. He teaches both undergraduate and graduate classes in wastewater treatment plant design, environmental biotechnology and microbiology, fundamentals of environmental engineering, and water and sanitation for developing countries. He is a sought-after expert in his field and has worked on sanitation issues in the Philippines, India, China, South Africa, Pakistan, Ghana, and Malawi.
Dr. de los Reyes is a TED Fellow, has worked on water/sanitation issues in developing nations, and was named an Outstanding Alumnus of the University of the Philippines. He researches and publishes frequently.
Dara Entekhabi PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Dr. Dara Entekhabi is a Bacardi and Stockholm Water Foundations Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT, as well as a professor of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences. His primary areas of interest include remote sensing, land-atmosphere interaction, and data assimilation. He teaches classes in hydrology and water resources, hydrologic modeling, the environmental fluid transport processes and hydrology laboratory, and land-atmosphere interactions.
Dr. Entekhabi puts his skills and research to practical use and is currently the Science Team Leader of the NASA Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite mission, and has received several awards and honors in hydrologic sciences. He is also a member of the National Academy of Engineering.
M.A. Karim PhD, Kennesaw State University
Dr. M.A. Karim is an associate professor for the Department of Civil and Construction Engineering. Dr. Karim has more than twenty-five journal and proceeding publications in the areas of soil and sediment remediation, environmental management, statistical hydrology, and engineering education. His most recent article titled “Management of Sewage Sludge Ash and Fly-Ash through the Improvement of Soil Engineering Properties,” was published in the Cosmos Journal Engineering & Technology.
While he does teach lecture and laboratory classes on campus, he teaches several online classes, including environmental engineering, solid waste engineering, and hazardous waste engineering. He also is a member of the department’s curriculum committee, where he helps chart the education of all students.
John Sansalone PhD, University of Florida
Dr. John Sansalone is a professor in the Department of Environmental Engineering Sciences at the University of Florida. Dr. Sansalone has taught and researched in the US and abroad and has contributed to over 50 peer-reviewed articles in the environmental engineering field. His research interests include unit operations and processes for stormwater and snowmelt, multi-purpose ecological infrastructure, and innovative use or reuse of wastewater.
The courses he teaches are primarily in his research areas and include wastewater system design, stormwater system design, and advanced physicochemical processes in soils. In addition to teaching and research, he mentors one post-doctoral and six doctoral students.
Sharon Walker PhD, University of California, Riverside
Dr. Sharon Walker is an adjunct professor of chemical and environmental engineering at the University of California, Riverside. She earned her doctorate in environmental engineering from Yale in 2004, and her master’s of science in chemical engineering in 2000, also from Yale. Courses she teaches to graduate students include physical and chemical separation processes in aquatic environments and special topics in microbial fate and transport in aquatic environments.
In addition to teaching at UCR, Dr. Walker served as associate dean of the graduate division at UCR, was an ELATE fellowship recipient, and received a Fulbright Scholarship at Ben Gurion University in Israel. She is a member of the American Chemical Society (ACS), Association for Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP), American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), Association of Women in Science (AWIS), and Society of Women Engineers (SWE).
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