10 Fields Relevant to Environmental Engineering

CareerField
5 min readAug 19, 2022

Environmental engineering is an interdisciplinary field of study that encompasses elements from biology, chemistry, ecology, and geology as well as engineering principles from hydraulic, hydrology, and process operation. It overlaps with civil and chemical engineering thus making it a subdiscipline of both fields. Environmental engineers employ engineering methods to look after the wellness of living organisms as well as their surrounding. Below are different environmental engineering-based specialties that work toward such common goals:

  1. Water engineering

Water resource engineers dive into the hydrology and the cyclic flow of water and earth and even other planets. Water resource engineer along with other engineering and non-engineering specialists focus their effort on solving any issues related to water and our planet, regardless of their scope. Water resource and the study of where, why, and how water moves on earth is covered by hydrologists and hydrology engineers. From hydrologic findings, hydraulic engineers can study the flow and conveyance of water through man-made channels such as pipes or naturally occurring ones such as streams, creeks, brooks, rivers, lakes, seas, and oceans.

Sanitary engineering deals with implementing engineering methods for public health. It involves providing clean water, and properly disposing of wastes and harmful elements. For this reason, sanitary engineering is also referred to as wastewater engineering or public health engineering. Wastewater engineering deals with the different stages involved in treating wastewater and rendering it usable and drinkable in ways that minimize environmental harm (e.g. reducing the use of chemicals) and process waste effectively.

2. Geological engineer

Geological engineers apply engineering principles in the context of geology. Geology is concerned with the earth and its physical structure and composition. Rocks are commonly studied in geology and aside from geological engineers, there also exists geoenvironmental engineering, geophysical engineers, geochemical engineer, and environmental mining engineer.

3. Ecological engineering

Ecological engineers use their knowledge of ecology and engineering to build sustainable ecosystems or reinforce the sustainability of naturally occurring ecosystems. This enables healthy between living organisms and the natural habitats in which interact.

4. Municipal or urban engineering

Urban engineers work on municipal infrastructures. This include but is not limited to applying engineering principles to water systems, municipal waste, and various public areas such as the streets or parks.

5. Fire protection engineering

Fire protection engineering is concerned with public and environmental safety from fire and smoke-related incidents. Fire protection engineers are involved in risk analysis, human behavior, and fire management whether they occur in buildings or in the wilderness. They are responsible for engineering robust systems or structures that either resist and mitigate fire or provide alarms or escapes.

6. Green and Green building engineering

Green engineering refers to the implementation of eco-friendly engineering practices that benefit human health and keep the environment clean and sustainable. Green building engineering essentially specifically focuses on built environments and their constructions. Implementing environmentally friendly systems such as solar power, radiant floors, gray water recycling, and geothermal tools in homes exemplifies green building engineering practices.

7. Energy (system) engineering

Energy engineering is a broad term. Sustainable engineering, for instance, refers to engineering or engineered operating systems that serve us well and use energy resourcefully. That implies using energy economically and is harmful to the environment and society. Renewable energy, on the other hand, engineering refers to designing and operating systems that harness naturally occurring energy from the environment. Geothermal, solar, wind, hydropower, tidal, and biomass energies are examples of renewable energies. There are many overlaps between these two concepts as they both pertain to energy engineering.

8. Climate engineering or geoengineering

Climate engineering provides engineering solutions to problems related to the climate of our earth. Greenhouse gas emissions and global warming are popular issues addressed by climate engineers. Efforts toward solar engineering (solar radiation management) have been used to remediate climate change. Geoengineering is another term used when referring to climate engineering.

9. Agricultural engineering

Agricultural engineering is another engineering field that incorporates elements from environmental engineering although it commonly stands as a field of its own compared to other disciplines mentioned. Agricultural engineering focuses on agriculture or farming and aims at implementing optimal and environmentally friendly practices and systems that render all farming processes sustainable and highly efficient.

10. Environmental engineering law

Environmental engineering law requires having expertise in both engineering and law in the field of environmental studies. They deal with issues that require legal appeals to ensure that engineers abide by proper engineering conduct. They are responsible for holding engineers accountable for their actions from an ethical standpoint.

Lastly, the independent or business route is a viable option in engineering and that is true for environmental engineering. This can come as an entrepreneurial environmental engineer offering a valuable product or service, an environmental engineer with a managerial position, or an experienced environmental engineer consultant or independent contractor.

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