Environmental engineers use scientific and engineering principles to assess the effect of pollution and waste on the environment. They design systems or processes that will solve the problem in the most effective way. This might include designing and building water treatment plants and drainage systems or monitoring land contamination.
Environmental engineers work on many different types of projects from assessing the environmental impact of building new motorways to testing and monitoring air quality in city centres.
You could be:
- identifying, developing or improving environmental processes
- using computer modelling software to assess a wide range of environmental processes
- carrying out onsite tests, such as water and air quality, soil contamination and gas monitoring
- carrying out tests to see the effects of things like weather and vibration on different structures
- gathering and analysing technical data from different sources
- making sure that projects meet environmental requirements
- writing reports or preparing and submitting planning applications
- liaising with and explaining information to regulators, contractors, clients and the general public
- getting approval for proposed structure or repair projects.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary, depending on:
- where you work
- the size of the company or organisation you work for
- the demand for the job.
The starting salary for environmental engineers is around £22,000 to £28,000 a year. With experience this can rise to between £30,000 to £45,000 per year, and in some cases more. Many employers offer additional benefits such as pension scheme and company car.
- Engineers normally work a 40-hour week, although some overtime and weekend work may be necessary.
- You will work from an office but will regularly visit sites, sometimes on rough muddy ground in all weathers.
- You will have to wear protective clothing such as hard hat, safety boots, overalls and high-visibility clothing.
- You will sometimes have to travel to different locations and live away from home.
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- You need a degree in engineering, preferably one that includes environmental aspects.
- A number of institutions in Scotland offer degree courses with environmental engineering subjects. These include the universities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh Napier and Strathclyde. Edinburgh College also works in conjunction with Edinburgh Napier to offer the first two years of their Energy and Environmental Engineering degree.
- Entry requirements for a degree are usually 4-5 Highers including English, Maths, Physics and/or Chemistry, plus English and Maths at National 5 for some courses.
- You can study for a Higher National Certificate or Diploma (HNC or HND) in an engineering subject, and then progress to a relevant degree course. Entry requirements are normally 1-2 Highers.
- You should take a degree course approved by a professional organisation such as the Engineering Council, Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) or Institution of Engineering and Technology to work towards chartered membership status.
- You can get some of the necessary experience through a sandwich course or through sponsorship from your employer.
- If you have a good Honours degree, you can go on to study a postgraduate qualification relating to environmental engineering offered by many Scottish universities. You can study part time when you are working.
- Most employers will expect you to have a driving licence.
Environmental engineers work for both private and government organisations, whose clients include developers, local authorities or research organisations. You can look for jobs in the national press or on the internet, such as the Guardian or New Scientist websites, and through specialist agencies.
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Job Outlook Scotland
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What Does it Take?
You need to be:
- well organised and logical
- good at maths and science
- able to use specialist software and have good IT skills
- able to analyse complex data and produce solutions
- responsible and aware of health and safety issues
- good at communicating verbally and in writing
- able to manage projects, meet deadlines and work to budget
- a good team worker
- well-informed about environmental legislation and planning regulations.
- To register with the Engineering Council as an Incorporated Engineer, (IEng) you need a bachelor’s degree or equivalent qualification.
- For a chartered engineer (CEng) you need a master's degree or appropriate further learning at master’s level.
- As a chartered engineer you also qualify as a European engineer (EurIng), which allows you to work in Europe.
- You can register with the Society of the Environment of Engineers (SocEnv) to become a Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv), also awarded by ICE. Look up their websites for details.
- If you have a civil engineering job but not the necessary academic qualifications for membership, you can take the Technical Report Route, which involves various stages including an application procedure, interview and a written assessment. Contact the ICE for details.
- You must keep up to date with new developments in technology and engineering practices.
- Your promotion prospects rise with further professional development and increasing experience. You can progress from being a project team member to a project leader.
- Some engineers move on to teaching and academic research in universities and colleges.
- The opportunities to work abroad are very good.
- Some highly qualified engineers are partners in firms of consultants offering specialist engineering services.
Environmental engineering brings together aspects of mechanical, electrical, electronic, aeronautical, civil, energy and chemical engineering. It also draws from the fields of physics, acoustics, metallurgy, microbiology, pharmacy and many other technical and scientific disciplines.
The Engineering Council sets and maintains the standards of the engineering profession in the UK.
The Tomorrow’s Engineers website has more information on careers in engineering.
The following organisations may be able to provide further information.
Energy and Utility Skills
Tel: 0845 077 9922
Energy and Utility Skills is the Sector Skills Council for the electricity, gas, waste management and water sectors. Their website Talent Source Network provides information on careers in the energy and utilities sector.
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