Environmental Technologies

Environmental technologies are used to improve environmental and conservation efforts. Learn about the career options in this field in addition to degree programs available, employment outlook and salary prospects.

Is Environmental Technology for Me?

Career Overview

Environmental technology is the application of environmental science tools and practices to conserve our environment and natural resources while working toward sustainable living and development. Wind energy, Energy Star-rated appliances, programmable thermostats, hydropower and recycling are examples of technologies that help the environment. Studies in environmental technology cover various topics, including renewable energy, environmental management, waste management, environmental policy and regulations, pollution prevention and environmental chemistry.

There are several environmental degrees available at the associate's through doctoral levels. If you're pursuing advanced studies in this field, you'll find that programs generally focus on specific areas, such as environmental management. Upon graduation, you're prepared to work for private, public and non-profit organizations in a number of fields, including manufacturing, research, construction, transportation, consulting and development.

Salaries and Employment Outlook

Environmental technology has numerous employment paths ranging from scientific research to design and development. You should have excellent communication, problem-solving and analytical skills. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for environmental engineering technicians and environmental engineers are projected to increase at a faster-than-average rate - 18% and 15%, respectively - from 2012-2022. The BLS reported a mean salary of $49,380 for environmental engineering technicians in 2012, while environmental engineers earned a mean annual income of $85,140 in the same year.

Another environmental science career is that of an environmental scientist or specialist. These professionals made a mean salary of $68,970 in 2012, according to the BLS, and jobs in these fields are projected by the BLS to grow by 15% from 2012-2022. Demand in these fields is linked to the government's need to clean up environmental hazards and improve efficiency, as well as the desire of businesses to develop and implement environmental programs that limit harm to natural resources.

How Can I Work in Environmental Technology?

Education Requirements

Any career in environmental technology usually needs formal education due to the complexity of the field. To become an environmental engineer or environmental scientist, a bachelor's degree is standard for entry-level work. For advanced positions in teaching or research, a master's degree is necessary. An environmental technician usually has an associate's degree in engineering technology or a related field; a bachelor's degree would be needed to become an environmental engineer.

Specializations and Course Topics

Some schools are beginning to offer degree programs with environmental specializations, such as smart grid technology, renewable energy and ecological technology. Many programs contain internships and house modern facilities to help you gain a comprehensive education and prepare you for the job market. While courses vary by program, some degree programs contain classes that explore ecological design, environmental sociology, technical drawing, geographic information systems, sustainable agriculture, natural resource measurements and conservation principles.

Licensing and Certification

Environmental engineers typically obtain a professional engineer (PE) license after graduating from a program approved by ABET, passing the initial Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, and after gaining field experience, passing the Professional Engineering (PE) exam. Information from the BLS states that certification through the American Academy of Environmental Engineers isn't mandatory, but is recommended.

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