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Environmental engineer

Environmental engineering focuses on protecting the environment by reducing waste and pollution. Environmental engineers optimise the use of natural resources, help to develop renewable energy resources and maximise the use of existing materials. They design technologies and processes that control pollution and clean up contamination.

Average salary*




Typical hours per week


How to become an environmental engineer

There are several routes to becoming an environmental engineer. You can gain the qualifications you need by doing a university or college course or you could apply for an apprenticeship. If you have the relevant skills or experience you may be able to apply directly to an employer and train on-the-job. It’s also possible to move into environmental engineering from other related occupations, such as environmental consultancy or sustainability.

You should explore these routes to become an environmental engineer to find out which is the right one for you.

You may need a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card to work on a construction site.

University/graduate training scheme

You can become an environmental engineer by completing an undergraduate degree in a relevant subject such as:

  • Civil engineering
  • Environmental engineering
  • Marine engineering
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Chemical engineering
  • Process engineering.

You can also study for a relevant postgraduate programme, in areas such as environmental monitoring, contaminated land or environmental engineering, which may make you more attractive to an employer. However, you can enter this area without a postgraduate qualification through a graduate scheme, which many employers offer in this field.

Find out what the entry requirements are where you live.


An apprenticeship with an environmental company or local authority is a good way into the industry.

You could complete a degree apprenticeship as an environmental practitioner to help you become an environmental engineer.

Apprenticeships are open to anyone over the age of 16. As an apprentice, you will be fully employed by your company and expected to work a minimum of 30 hours a week. Your time will be split between on-the-job experience and a college or training provider.

Find out what the entry requirements are where you live.


If you have some previous knowledge or qualifications, you could apply directly to an environmental company or local authority to gain experience as an environmental engineer. You might start out as an assistant to a more experienced environmental engineer and progress as your abilities improve.

Work experience

Work experience is essential to gaining employment within the construction industry. You could gain this at school, or by working weekends and holidays with a company or relative who works as an environmental engineer. Potential employers will always be pleased to see work experience listed on your CV.


Additional skills which may benefit anyone considering a job as an environmental engineer include:

  • Technically inquisitive
  • Aptitude for collecting and analysing scientific data
  • Excellent communicator
  • Good organisational skills
  • Able to work under pressure and meet strict project deadlines.


To become an environmental engineer, you could complete a:

  • Level 3 NVQ in Engineering Maintenance
  • Level 2 Building Services Engineering Installer apprenticeship

To become an environmental engineer, you could complete a:

  • SVQ at SCQF Level 4 in Construction and Civil Engineering Operations
  • Modern apprenticeship at SCQF Level 6 in Engineering

To become an environmental engineer, you could complete a:

  • Level 4 NVQ in Engineering Maintenance
  • Level 3 Mechanical Maintenance Technician apprenticeship

What does an environmental engineer do?

As an environmental engineer you will be responsible for a variety of tasks relating to reporting on the environmental impacts of construction work. You could be visiting sites and taking reading, developing solutions around problems, or obtaining legal documentation.

The job role of an environmental engineer involves the following duties:

  • Carrying out site assessments
  • Conducting technical audits
  • Evaluating environmental impact
  • Making recommendations on clean-up, reclamation and waste management activities
  • Assessing how a site complies with environmental regulations
  • Using mathematical techniques and computer modelling to assess or forecast past, present and future environmental problems
  • Designing, developing, testing and implementing technical solutions which will help organisations actively reduce their negative impact on the environment
  • Interpreting data
  • Keeping abreast of legislative changes in environmental law
  • Identification and consideration of potential contaminant sources
  • Obtaining and maintaining plans, permits and standard operating procedures

How much could you earn as an environmental engineer?

The expected salary for an environmental engineer varies as you become more experienced.

  • Newly trained environmental engineers can earn £17,000 - £30,000
  • Trained environmental engineers with some experience can earn £30,000 - £55,000
  • Senior, chartered or master environmental engineers can earn up to £90,000.*

Hours and salary depend on location, employer and any overtime you may do. Salaries and career options improve with chartered status.

* Salaries have been collected from multiple industry sources


Check out the latest environmental engineer vacancies:

As these are external websites, the number of vacancies related to your preferred role may vary. New opportunities will be posted as they come up.

Career path and progression

As you gain experience on a wide range of projects, you may choose to specialise in a particular field of environmental engineering such as land reclamation, waste disposal or water and air pollution control.

Or, you could choose to go down a management route and supervise other engineers or technicians, or manage entire projects. If leadership appeals to you, you could aim for an executive position within an organisation.

With considerable experience you may be able to work in a freelance capacity, offering your technical skills and knowledge to a range of clients, or start up your own environmental engineering consultancy.

Progression Opportunities

Explore the progression opportunities below

  • Current role Environmental engineer Help to protect the environment during construction projects by reducing polluti...
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  • Current role Environmental advisor Addressing issues like air quality, land & water pollution, environmental adviso...
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  • Current role Remediation specialist Prevent sites from becoming polluted by designing & implementing remedial action...
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