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Environmental engineer

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Summary of occupation

Environmental engineers identify, implement and manage measures to protect and restore the natural environment from the effects of human activity. They evaluate the potential environmental impact that new engineering or construction projects may have, and suggest ways in which the impact can be minimised and/or rehabilitated at the end of the project. Where there has been significant environmental damage, environmental engineers assess the site, and determine the best method to remove any pollution and rehabilitate the area. Some environmental engineers design and operate waste management systems, such as water treatment plants.

ANZSCO description: Assesses the impact on air, water, soil and noise levels in the vicinity of engineering projects, plans and designs equipment and processes for the treatment and safe disposal of waste material, and assesses what may cause problems for the environment in the long-term. Registration or licensing is required.
Alternative names:
Specialisations:
Job prospects: Average
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

An environmental engineer needs:

  • to enjoy technical and engineering activities
  • good communication skills
  • the ability to identify, analyse and solve problems
  • an interest in the environment and conservation
  • good planning and organisation skills.
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Working conditions

Environmental engineers spend time working in offices, laboratories and in the field, at locations such as construction sites, mines, waste treatment facilities and in polluted environments. In Western Australia, many environmental engineers find work in the mining industry, managing pollution control systems and rehabilitating used mine sites. When working in the field they work in most weather conditions. To minimise their risk of exposure to harmful chemicals and other pollutants, environmental engineers must wear protective clothing, which may include overalls, masks, gloves and safety glasses.

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Salary details

Graduate environmental engineers can expert to earn approximately $1 058 per week ($55 000 per year), depending on the organisation they work for. With experience their earning potential may increase substantially.

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Tools and technologies

Environmental engineers use a wide range of equipment, depending on the particular needs of each site they work on. When conducting field assessments they use scientific and laboratory equipment to collect air, water and soil samples, testing them for the presence and concentration of pollutants. A varied and ever increasing range of tools and technologies are used for rehabilitation, ranging from planting specially selected tree species, to more advanced technologies, such as ultrasound, which is used to breakdown pollutants into less harmful compounds. In an office environment, they use computers to process and analyse data and produce reports.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become an environmental engineer you usually need to complete a degree in engineering with a major in environmental engineering or a related field. 

​Most universities in Western Australia offer relevant courses. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.​

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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