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. Still 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 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 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 different 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.
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Aspiring students who wish to enroll in an online environmental engineering program must first meet a number of admissions requirements before being accepted. And 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, aspiring 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). Furthermore, aspiring graduate 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 being 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. That being said, a degree from an accredited institution (in addition to several years’ work experience as an engineer) is necessary in order to qualify to receive a Professional Engineer license through the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), which 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.”
Finally, aspiring students should also understand that a number of respected programs are not accredited through ABET, and, as such, this should not be the final determining factor when selecting a program.
Aspiring environmental engineers have a growing number of online programs from which to choose, but might give serious consideration to these five outstanding programs.
Students may obtain a masters of science in environmental engineering at the University of Central Florida. This degree is available with both thesis and non-thesis options, and fellowships are available to those who qualify.
David Cooper is a professor of environmental engineering at the University of Central Florida, where he also serves as the director of the Air Quality Lab. He teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses on topics such as air pollution, atmospheric dispersion modeling, and hazardous waste incineration.
At Columbia University students can obtain a masters or doctorate degree in earth and environmental engineering. Those interested in additional specialties can pursue a certification in multiple fields, such as low carbon and efficiency technology and carbon management policy and economics.
Peter Schlosser is the Maurice Ewing and J. Lamar Worzel Professor of Geophysics and chair of the department of earth and environmental engineering at Columbia University. He currently retains membership with a number of professional organizations, including the Oceanography Society, the Arctic Institute of North America, and the American Geophysical Union.
The University of Florida offers graduate degree programs in environmental engineering sciences. Furthermore, students here have the opportunity to specialize in water resources planning and management, systems ecology & ecological engineering, and water, wastewater, and stormwater engineering.
Eliot P. Douglas is an associate professor of environmental engineering at the University of Florida. He also serves as the program director for the National Science Foundation, and currently focuses one of his projects on the role of ambiguity during problem-solving.
At the University of North Dakota, students have the option of pursuing a graduate certificate in as little as one year. This online graduate certificate combines the aspects of chemical, civil, and geological engineering as they relate to the environment.
Frank Bowman is an associate professor within the department of chemical engineering at the University of North Dakota, as well as the associate chair for education and outreach. His areas of expertise include air quality modeling and atmospheric aerosols, among others.
At the Worcester Polytechnic Institute students have the choice between pursuing a master’s degree or graduate certificate in environmental engineering. Here, students also have the choice between pursuing a thesis or a non-thesis track, as well.
Frederick L. Hart is a professor of environmental engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he has taught for over 30 years. He also serves as the director of the Stantec Project Center, and his research interests include water quality modeling.
Jeff Kuo is a professor of civil and environmental engineering at California State University – Fullerton, where his areas of research include dechlorination of halogenated aromatics by ultrasound, fines/bacteria migration through porous media, biodegradability of bitumen, and more. He has also patented a process for separation of heavy crude oil from tar sands by using ultrasound irradiation.
Sankar Arumugam is a university faculty scholar and professor in the department of civil, construction, and environmental engineering at North Carolina State University at Raleigh. His primary research interest is at the interface of climate and water management focusing on large-scale hydroclimatology.
William P. Ball is a professor of environmental engineering at Johns Hopkins University, where his research interests include physical and chemical processes and water quality. He has received a host of awards over the past 40 years, including the Diversity Recognition Award in 2009, the Excellence in Review Award in 2004, the Abel Wolman Doctoral Fellowship, and many more.
Khaled Abdelghany is a professor and chair of the department of civil and environmental engineering at Southern Methodist University. He is the co-author of one book, as well as the author and co-author of a wide array of peer-reviewed publications and refereed conference proceedings.
Chris Cox is the Robert M. Condra Professor within the department of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville, where he also serves as the department head. He also works as a faculty member in the Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment, the Center for Environmental Biotechnology, and the Institute for Biomedical Engineering.
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