Why Choose Environmental Engineering?
Environmental Engineers use fundamental knowledge in engineering, math, chemistry, biology, and geology to address critical environmental challenges in the areas of sustainable water and energy resources, water and wastewater treatment, and environmental protection in both developed and developing countries. In the past, Environmental Engineers were tasked mostly with designing water and wastewater treatment plants, managing solid wastes, developing and overseeing regulations, monitoring air quality, and remediating contaminated soil and water areas like Superfund sites. While these problems are still relevant, Environmental Engineers are now shifting focus to preventing problems rather than continually solving existing problems. This will require new graduates to have an understanding of sustainability, population growth, and food, water, and energy demands.
Environmental Engineering at Notre Dame
The Environmental Engineering undergraduate program at the University of Notre Dame provides a unique curriculum that combines Environmental Engineering and Earth Science courses that are relevant to solving future environmental problems (UG curriculum). Additionally, for students interested in obtaining additional knowledge on sustainability, Notre Dame offers a Sustainability Minor (Sustainability Minor program).
Job Outlook and Pay
Environmental Engineering jobs have consistently been ranked high with regards to availability and pay-scale. The Bureau of Labor Statistics1 listed the mean annual salary of Environmental Engineers at $80,890 (2012). This is reasonable compared to similar disciplines such as Civil Engineering ($79,340) and Mechanical Engineering ($80,580). Environmental Engineering is one of the fastest growing engineering disciplines with an expected 15% growth rate through 2022 or 820 jobs per year1. It is a young discipline (994 BS graduates in 2012-2013)2 that is growing exponentially (Figure below). Consequently, there will be a large demand for Environmental Engineers over the next decade. Comparatively, the largest engineering discipline, Mechanical Engineering, had 21,707 graduates (2012-2013)2, but only expects 1,160 jobs per year through 20221.
Environmental Engineering research at Notre Dame focuses on education and research from the nano-scale to the global scale, provided via integration of laboratory experimentation, mathematical modeling, and field investigations. The Environmental Engineering core and affiliated faculty at Notre Dame include”
Physical-chemical drinking water treatment; sustainable water treatment technologies; photoelectrochemistry; photocatalysis; solar conversion of waste to energy; nanomaterial metrology; fate and transport of nanomaterials in the environment; human health and societal implications of nanotechnology
Environmental molecular biology; Metabolic engineering; Synthetic and systems biology; Overarching research theme is to understand and manipulate microbial processes at the molecular level for environmental engineering applications, with a focus on 1) waste-to-energy and value-added transformation, 2) biocatalysis for water treatment and reuse, 3) biological/ecological effects of emerging and persistent pollutants.
1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Chemical Engineers, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/chemical-engineers.htm (visited May 25, 2015).
2 Yoder BL. 2014. Engineering by the Numbers. Washington: American Society for Engineering Education. Available online at www.asee.org/colleges.