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Careers Ahead

Our Professions

Civil Engineering, Environmental Engineering, and Environmental Earth Sciences are professions that develop and apply technologies that impact people’s health, well-being, and ability to thrive through our work on infrastructure (buildings, bridges, tunnels, waterways, ports, roads, dams, offshore energy platforms, wind farms), clean water supply (water resources, water distribution, and water treatment), sewage and waste disposal (wastewater treatment), protection from natural hazards (earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, riverine floods, winds, waves, hurricanes, and fire), energy systems (offshore oil extraction, wind farms, hydro-electric, nuclear fuel reprocessing), safe and sustainable environments (pollutants in the atmosphere, groundwater, surface water, reactive transport of pollutants within these systems, biological and geochemical processes, the interplay of natural processes such as mineral-water-rock-bacteria interactions, and anthropogenic issues such as transport of toxic heavy metals and safe disposal of nuclear waste), and the larger geophysical and geochemical earth system. They are truly professions that serve people and humanity.

These professions continue to see large demand as well as strong growth in demand. The employment statistics and projected job demand for Civil Engineers, Environmental Engineers, and Environmental Earth Scientists are detailed below and indicate a 20% growth in jobs and 185,000 job openings over the next decade. It is clear that our failing national infrastructure, our fragile environment pressured by increasing populations, our increasing exposure to natural and manmade hazards, and our increasing need for clean water as well as for energy provide both challenging and rewarding career opportunities.  

Career options exist in consulting, industry, local and federal governments, research laboratories, and academia. Possible career paths are well summarized in an American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) document (pdf). Careers can be focused locally, nationally, and internationally. Indeed our alumni profiles exemplify the possibilites that exist.


The role of Civil Engineers in our society

Civil Engineers design and build an infrastructure that ensures a high standard of living and is essential to a strong economy. This infrastructure must be safe, resiliant and usable and be able to resist the loadings and impacts imposed by our earth system (earthquakes, winds, floods, and waves). In addition these systems must be economical and sustainable having long service lives while minimizing the impact on our surounding environmnent. Civil Engineers work to:

  • Provide safe and reliable structures
  • Provide transportation systems
  • Safely dispose of our domestic and industrial wastes
  • Provide water for irrigation, homes, and industry
  • Build oil production and delivery systems
  • Build and design waterways, ports and harbors and ensure that rivers and coastal inlets remain navigable
  • Provide protection from riverine and coastal floods including hurricanes and tsunamis
  • Ensure balance of water resources for agriculture, fisheries, domestic usage and industry

The role of Environmental Engineers and Environmental Earth Scientists in our society

Clean water and clean air and a pristine environment are essential to our own health, longevity and quality of life as well as of the entire biological system around  us upon which we depend. In fact of all the water on Earth only 2.5% is fresh water; only 0.032% is available as surface water, 0.75% is stored as groundwater and 1.7% is in the form of glaciers and ice caps (http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/earthwherewater.html). Water is a precious resource and its availability and quality are the very essense of life. Environmental Engineers and Environmental Earth Scientists help understand, preserve, and mitigate damage to this fragile system by:

  • Understanding the distribution and availability of water resources and how this relates to weather and climate. Man can impact entire ecosystems locally (e.g. desertification) as well as globally (e.g. anthropogenic climate change).
  • Understanding the fate and impact of  mining, oil and gas extraction industrial and domestic wastes and how to safely process and handle these.
  • Providing water for irrigation, homes, and industry
  • Understanding the long term fate and impact of man-made chemicals and natural chemicals in the atmosphere, surface waters, and groundwaters.
  • Developing technologies to clean up sites impacted by hazardous wastes
  • Ensuring a  balance of water resources for agriculture, fisheries, domestic usage and industry

Employment Statistics

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the United States Department of Labor indicates strong growth as well as strong demand for Civil Engineers as well as for Environmental Engineers and Environmental Scientists and Geoscientists (http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_102.htm).

2010 National Employment Matrix title and code


Percent Growth

 Job openings due to growth and replacements 
 Number (Numbers in thousands) 
2010 Projected 2020


Civil Engineers 262.8 313.9 19.4 104.4
Environmental Scientists & Geoscientists 130.8 156.1 19.3 63.9
Environmental Engineers
51.4 62.7 21.9 22.6