Environmental engineer

An environmental engineer assesses and manages the impact that human and other activity has on the natural environment.

Climate change, global warming and the urgent need for sustainable living and development at all levels have underpinned the rapid need for skilled and specialist environmental engineers.

Environmental engineers focus on projects related to natural resources rather than man-made projects and prioritise environmental protection and conservation in design and development projects. Specialisations include power generation and energy supply, relating to the design, development and implementation of new energy systems, such as wave/tidal energy or wind power, and utilities.

Environmental engineering is a wide discipline. It essentially has three main activity areas: waste and water management, industrial waste management and renewable energy/sustainable development. Some graduates can find work with environmental consultancies, most of which are small scale and owner-managed. The recent Irish government initiative to provide grants to households converting to more environmentally friendly sources of energy has cemented the establishment of alternative sources of energy as an essential and viable development. This initiative is set to further develop and widen the career opportunities in the research, design, installation and maintenance of alternative sources of energy, including geothermal, solar, wind, wave and biomass. More research opportunities are beginning to arise in the area of sustainable development in general.

Graduates from a range of disciplines can be employed in this field. Civil and structural engineering is possibly the closest-linked engineering discipline, along with building services, mechanical, electrical and chemical engineering.

Work activities

  • Designing and supervising the development of renewable energy/energy saving systems.
  • Providing environmental consultancy to government agencies and companies.
  • Reviewing environmental reports.
  • Conducting site assessments and technical audits.
  • Advising on reclamation processes and activities.

Work conditions

Travel: could be a feature with multinational companies. Work is generally based in an office or on site. Working hours: usually regular; some longer hours may be necessary around deadlines.
Location:across cities and rural areas of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Typical employers

  • Engineering and environmental consultancies
  • Local authorities
  • Environmental Protection Agencies
  • Research organisations

Entry requirements

Most environmental engineering entry positions are open to a variety of engineering areas, although in-depth knowledge of environmental engineering is necessary. Postgraduate degrees in environmental engineering are offered at colleges and universities across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Specific degree subjects required

Civil engineering
Environmental engineering.