Environmental engineers use basic engineering principles to ensure certain projects and processes are safe and environmentally sound. They might work in water or air pollution control, public health, waste disposal, and mining. Environmental engineering degrees with specialty tracks and subsequent professional certification offer targeted training in one’s area of interest.
Water and wastewater engineers manage major water projects like potable water provisioning, flood damage prevention, and sewage disposal. Their work can be highly technical as they might be tasked with designing pumping stations or water treatment plants; overseeing environmental documentation; and ensuring regulatory compliance. Water and wastewater engineers also perform hydraulic modeling, conduct feasibility studies, complete field work, and analyze data. In some cases, environmental engineers create plans to prevent erosion, build bridges, or stabilize earth surrounding waterways.
Environmental scientists use natural and engineering science to protect human health and the environment. In practical terms, these professionals lead efforts to clean up pollution; work to reduce waste and its effect on the environment; and inform industry and policymakers. Though some environmental scientists conduct regular fieldwork, most environmental scientists stick to laboratories and offices.
Mining or geological engineers guide mining and other resource-extraction efforts to ensure safety and reduce waste. One might design or oversee the construction and inspection of mine shafts and tunnels, for instance. Mining engineers also conduct statistical analyses and create computer-aided design plans. Again, those with an environmental engineering background typically focus on the environmental impacts of these initiatives.
Hydrologists study water in all forms, including its movement in and across the earth and its impact on the environment, waterways, and groundwater stores. They may measure water levels; research or prevent water erosion and pollution; forecast water supplies; or design hydroelectric plants, water treatment facilities, and irrigation systems. Some hydrologists specialize in ground or surface water or focus more broadly on the conservation of waterways.
Geoscientists study physical aspects of the Earth, including its internal composition, magnetic fields, gravitational forces, atmospheres, and oceans. While some specialize in areas like seismology or paleontology, many geoscientists focus on pollution, waste disposal, mining pollution, and other environmental threats.
Environmental engineering professors are tasked with preparing the next generation of professionals—a job that demands thorough and up-to-date knowledge of the field’s principles, technologies, and best practices. Instructors may work in classroom, laboratory, or research settings, depending on the subjects they teach. Experienced, full-time professors may eventually earn special job protections (i.e., tenure).
Meet 20 professors who teach their students to protect us from environmental threats, and ultimately reduce or eliminate them.
While it may be the oldest field of engineering, civil engineering is a field embracing modern approaches and applying them to major problems like urban traffic congestion, water harvesting and purification, and infrastructure deterioration. These 20 professors are helping to lead the way.