Environmental Engineering Associate’s Degrees

An associate’s degree in environmental engineering can open up the possibility to begin work as an environmental engineering technician. A typical associate’s degree curriculum takes two to three years to complete. An environmental engineering technician uses technical knowledge to apply their skills to real-world situations regarding environmental engineering solutions and efficiency. The degree title itself may vary from civil environmental engineering to applied technology engineering.

Environmental engineering associate’s degrees introduce students to the fundamental concepts of the field. Courses in multiple areas of environmental science, mathematics and engineering are included to help students develop skills they can use post-graduation. Typical courses in an environmental engineering associate’s program include upper-level mathematics such as calculus, earth-related sciences, computer-aided design (CAD) and environmental science topics such as global warming and pollution.

An advantage to an environmental engineering associate’s degree is that the credits can be applied toward a bachelor’s program later on, so students who wish to enter the workforce and gain experience while simultaneously advancing their education can do so easily.

School Spotlight

Northcentral Technical College in Wausau, WI, offers an associate’s degree in applied technology with a specialization in environmental technology both fully online and on campus. The program is designed for students who plan to apply for careers as applied or environmental engineering technicians in the manufacturing sector.

Courses are offered as independent study to help students meet the industry’s needs, and anyone who studies one of the specializations has the option to choose a certificate program in any of the available tracks, including environmental technology, and later apply the coursework to an associate’s degree.

Environmental technology specialization students take additional courses related to environmental science and engineering through an integrated curriculum that combines classroom work with real-world skill development that will allow them to graduate as environmental engineering techs capable of applying their knowledge to their work and crafting practical and sustainable solutions to problems.

Environmental Engineering Bachelor’s Degrees

A bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering is the gateway to an entry-level career as an environmental engineer. There are many other positions that a student who earns their environmental engineering bachelor’s can apply for. These include safety design administrator, field scientist, air quality specialist and director of waste management. Transferring into a bachelor’s degree program from an associate’s degree in environmental engineering will also double a graduate’s earning potential.

Environmental engineering bachelor’s degrees take four to five years to complete. Some universities offer accelerated programs that allow students to study toward their master’s while completing their undergraduate degree and graduate with both a BS and MS in less time. This path is very rigorous and will require exceptional dedication and commitment on the student’s behalf. Although it may cause time constraints during the course of the program, post-graduation job opportunities will be greatly enhanced and the student won’t have to return to school to earn a graduate degree in order to become eligible for promotions later on.

An environmental engineering curriculum is multidisciplinary, meaning students won’t just study environmental science and its core principles, but will also learn about the physical, biological and chemical sciences and how they relate to the field of environmental engineering. Given that the work done by environmental engineers will directly affect society, it’s important that students don’t just learn the how of their chosen field, but also the why. Many environmental engineering programs mandate students to take courses in global literacy to help them better understand the impact and higher objective of their work.

Engineering courses in areas such as thermodynamics and hydraulics are a basis in all environmental engineering curricula, in addition to courses in advanced mathematics like Calculus I and II, computer modelling and technical classes such as hydrology, fluid dynamics, statics and mechanics.

Most environmental engineering bachelor’s degree programs offer specializations for students to choose from. These specializations focus on a particular area within the field and help students prepare for work in that area after graduation. Some of the specializations found within environmental engineering include biological processes, air quality and sustainability.

School Spotlight

Michigan Tech offers a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering that aims to turn passionate students into competent and dedicated engineers. The degree is heavily grounded in the maths and sciences. During their first semester, freshmen are encouraged to take both Calculus I and Physics Lab I. They will also take several courses in university chemistry, modelling & design, statics and thermodynamics & fluids.

The curriculum spans across the field of environmental engineering to prepare students to work across a variety of areas. Some of the courses include Environmental Engineering Fundamentals, Geology, Water Resources Engineering, Surface Water Quality Engineering, Soil Mechanics and H20/Waste Water Treatment. The broad approach to the field of environmental science helps students develop a solid understanding of the multifaceted design of the environment and better grasp the many challenges that engineers and environmental professionals face today.

Michigan Tech also offers a master’s degree program for students who wish to continue their environmental engineering education.

Environmental Engineering Master’s Degrees

Many upper-level environmental engineering positions require a master’s degree. A graduate program in environmental engineering opens up the possibility for students to focus on a particular area within the field that they like, perhaps one that they didn’t have the knowledge to study during their undergraduate years or that they didn’t discover until they began working. This program usually lasts two years and is heavily grounded in environmental research and engineering execution.

The technical skills that an environmental engineering student learned will be honed and refined over the duration of the program as they work alongside skilled faculty and fellow graduate students. Students will learn new analytical, design, and management skills, as well as gain new insight on the approach to environmental monitoring, management and research.

Environmental Engineering Ph.D.

A doctorate of environmental engineering will give students the level of research experience and education needed to secure an uppermost environmental management or research position or begin teaching at a university. Most Ph.D. programs focus on an individualized course of study that the student creates, proposes to a board of faculty and conducts on their own under supervision. The outcome of a Ph.D. is to acquire a new set of skills and knowledge through a concentration on a certain area of environmental engineering while simultaneously demonstrating a mastery of previously learned information and skills.

There are many avenues that a Ph.D. student of environmental engineering can pursue. Most universities offer several different concentrations as part of their doctorate programs, as well as the opportunity for students to propose their own unique course of study. Some of the topics that students may choose to concentrate on include water systems, resource management, fluid mechanics and hydrology, geotechnical engineering, structural engineering and more.

Civil Engineering and the Environment

Many universities that offer degrees in environmental engineering use it as a concentration within a civil engineering program. While researching colleges, students should expect to see many Bachelor of Science in Applied Technology or Civil Engineering with concentrations on environmental engineering. These degrees tend to be more common that a bachelor’s that is strictly in environmental engineering.

The main difference between the two is that while a student who studies solely Environmental Engineering will take environmental science-related courses and engineering classes that pertain to environmental problem solving, a Civil Engineering student who concentrates their studies within environmental engineering will learn about the principals of civil engineering and develop skills that can be applied to other fields as well.

Both prepare students for careers in environmental engineering; though civil engineering degrees tend to be broader and focus on different areas across the realm of engineering rather than focusing on environmental solutions and technology alone.

School Spotlight

Cornell University is an Ivy League school with an acclaimed engineering school that offers both master’s and Ph.D. programs. For students who went to a large university or Cornell itself, the transition from bachelor’s to graduate will be easy. It’s also an opportunity for those who did not attend a large campus to experience higher education at one of the most respected universities in the world.

Both the master’s and Ph.D. programs at Cornell are based on individualized study that the student conducts under the guidance of a specialized committee. There are seven concentrations available for the master’s of environmental engineering program and eight for the Ph.D. They are as follows:

  • Environmental & Water Resources Systems Engineering
  • Environmental Fluid Mechanics & Hydrology
  • Environmental Processes
  • Geotechnical Engineering
  • Remote Sensing
  • Transportation Systems Engineering
  • Structural Engineering (Ph.D. Only)