We have been looking at job trends for environment, health, and safety (EHS) professionals? Where do they get paid the best and where are prospects dimming? With a new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) focus on Superfund sites, will the need for environmental engineers grow? Let’s look at trends and projections for this critical environmental career.
Note: Median salaries for this article have been compiled from BLR’s EHS Salary Guides.
Environmental engineers design, plan, or perform engineering duties in the prevention, control, and remediation of environmental health hazards utilizing various engineering disciplines. Work may include waste treatment, site remediation, or pollution control technology.
Environmental engineers conduct hazardous waste management studies in which they evaluate the significance of a hazard and advise on treating and containing it. They also design systems for municipal and industrial water supplies and industrial wastewater treatment, and research the environmental impact of proposed construction projects. Environmental engineers in government help develop regulations. They also collaborate with environmental scientists, urban and regional planners, hazardous waste technicians, and other engineers, as well as with specialists such as experts in law and business, to address environmental problems and environmental sustainability.
The Table below outlines median salaries for environmental engineers from 2015–2017, nationwide and for the states with the highest and lowest median salary.
Table: Median Salaries for Environmental Engineers, 2015–2017
Nationwide, the median salary for environmental engineers increased a mere 0.49% from 2016 to 2017. Although environmental engineers are paid the best in Alaska, South Dakota saw the biggest percentage jump in median income for this job. It went from $71,845 in 2016 to $91,535 in 2017—a jump of 27.41%. Georgia had the lowest median income for environmental engineers in 2017, but New Mexico took the biggest dive for this job—from $107,272 in 2016 to $89,426 in 2017, a 16.64% drop. As a matter of fact, the median salary for environmental engineers has continued to drop in New Mexico since 2015 when the median salary was $110,339.
Water Issues Fuel Job Growth Projections
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of environmental engineers is projected to grow 8 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. State and local governments’ concerns regarding water availability and quality should lead to efforts to increase the efficiency of water use.
This focus differs from that of wastewater treatment, a job for which environmental engineers are traditionally known.
Therefore, most of the projected employment growth for environmental engineers is in professional, scientific, and technical services, as governments at the state and local levels draw on the industry to help address water efficiency concerns. In addition, wastewater treatment is becoming a larger concern in areas of the country where drilling for shale gas requires the use and disposal of massive volumes of water.
EPA’s refocused priority to clean up contaminated sites is expected to help sustain demand for the services of environmental engineers.
The BLS expects that environmental engineers will continue to be needed to help utility companies and water treatment plants comply with federal or state environmental regulations. As state environmental regulations and enforcement take center stage, environmental engineers with a grasp of multi-state-specific regulations will have an edge in employment opportunities.