This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Environmental engineers assess the impact of engineering projects on water, soil, air and noise levels, and advise and design ways to minimise this impact. They also plan and design systems to treat and remove waste, such as waste water systems.
Graduate environmental engineers usually earn
$50K-$60K per year
Intermediate and senior environmental engineers with over five years' experience usually earn
$70K-$135K per year
Current job prospects
How many people are doing this job?
Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2012.
Pay for environmental engineers varies depending on skills and experience.
- Graduates usually start on about $50,000 to $60,000 a year.
- Mid-level environmental engineers usually earn between $70,000 and $115,000.
- Senior environmental engineers may earn up to $135,000 a year.
According to the Institute of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ) the average annual salary for an environmental engineer in 2013 was about $88,000.
What you will do
Environmental engineers may do some or all of the following:
- take air, water and land samples, and send them away to be tested for pollution
- advise on treatment methods if any pollution is found
- report on the environmental impact of proposed engineering and construction projects, and advise on how to minimise this impact
- prepare reports, sketches, working drawings and specifications based on the sites and the clients' needs
- design waste-management systems such as waste water treatment plants, stormwater and river-control works, and landfills
- prepare assessments of environmental effects to accompany resource consent applications
- manage projects from start to finish, including visiting sites to check construction is going to plan
- supervise contractors carrying out work.
Skills and knowledge
Environmental engineers need to have:
- knowledge of civil engineering
- knowledge of air, water and land pollution control methods
- knowledge of public health issues
- knowledge of relevant legislation such as the Resource Management Act, the New Zealand Building Code, local by-laws and town planning regulations
- the ability to analyse and interpret information such as client requirements, plans and designs
- the ability to use geographic information system (GIS) computer modelling software.
- usually work regular office hours, but may have to work weekends and evenings to meet deadlines. Some environmental engineers may also work on call
- work in offices and at worksites
- may travel locally and overseas to work and to attend conferences and seminars.
What's the job really like?
Kimberly Jupp - Environmental Engineer
With a Bachelor of Arts in geography and environmental science, Kimberly Jupp didn't take the normal route into engineering. But her background in environmental studies was just what civil engineering firm McConnell Dowell needed on its construction projects.
What does your job involve?
"I put together the Environmental Management Plan for the entire project, which looks at how we'll control things like noise, vibration, dust, and erosion. Once the project begins, we'll carry out environmental checks each week on each of our site areas to ensure we're complying with our environmental controls and work with people in the community to reduce any effects of the work on them."
What have been some of the highlights so far?
"The first project I worked on. We were building a tunnel and we had put down shafts – big holes in the ground – one in a park, one in some sand dunes. Once we'd done all the work and constructed what we needed to construct, I managed the restoration of the park and the dunes sites.
"That was a highlight for a couple of reasons. Firstly, we got really good feedback from the public saying they were happy with how we'd done it. But it was also a great challenge – I was managing and overseeing the work, from managing the subcontractors to working out a planting plan."
Professional environmental engineers work on large complex projects.
To become a professional environmental engineer you need a four-year degree in engineering. This may be:
- a Bachelor of Engineering - BE
- a Bachelor of Engineering Honours - BE(Hons).
Engineering technologists work in more specialised and narrower fields than professional engineers.
To become an engineering technologist you need a three-year degree in engineering, usually a Bachelor of Engineering Technology - BEngTech.
- Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ) website - information on becoming an engineer
- Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ) website - list of IPENZ accredited tertiary training institutes offering professional engineer degrees
- Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ) website - list of IPENZ accredited tertiary training institutes offering engineering technologist degrees
To enter tertiary training a university entrance qualification (Bursary or NCEA Level 3) is required. Useful subjects include English, maths with calculus, physics and chemistry.
- Futureintech website - recommended levels of achievement in NCEA to achieve success in different engineering qualifications
Environmental engineers need to be:
- practical and logical, with good problem-solving skills
- accurate, with an eye for detail
- organised, with good planning skills
- good communicators
- able to work well as part of a team
- able to work well under pressure and meet deadlines.
There’s a very precise way of doing things, like taking samples for example – it's got to be done a certain way. If you don’t do it that way, it costs a lot of money because you’ll have to redo it. At the same time you have to have a big-picture holistic view of the environment and how things interact.
Terre Maize - Environmental Engineer
Useful experience for environmental engineers includes:
- draughting experience
- surveying work
- engineering experience
- agriculture work
- work for district or regional councils.
Experience and interest in the outdoors and environment may also be useful.
Professional engineers who meet set requirements may apply to the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ) to become a chartered professional engineer (CPEng).
Engineering technologists who meet set requirements may apply to IPENZ to be registered as currently competent.
- Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ) website - information on becoming a chartered professional engineer or engineering technologist
Find out more about training
- (04) 473 2023 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.futureintech.org.nz/
What are the chances of getting a job?
Job opportunities are particularly good for experienced environmental engineers.
The job of environmental engineer is on Immigration New Zealand's long-term skill shortage list, which means the Government is actively encouraging skilled environmental engineers from overseas to work in New Zealand.
Spending on infrastructure creates steady demand for environmental engineers
New environmental standards mean that many local authorities are upgrading their water infrastructure. Between 2010 and 2020, $11.46 billion will be spent nationally on maintaining and upgrading water collection, treatment and waste water facilities. Environmental engineers are needed to help design and supervise this work.
Government spending on infrastructure is also contributing to demand for environmental engineers. The government's National Infrastructure Plan outlines plans to spend about $12.2 billion on upgrading New Zealand's state highway network by 2021. It has also allocated $7.6 billion for new public buildings such as schools, hospitals and prisons over the next 20 years.
Environmental engineers will be needed to help monitor and offset the environmental impact of these works.
Variety of employers
Environmental engineers work for a variety of employers, including:
- private engineering consultancies
- regional and local government authorities
- infrastructure and utility companies, such as roading and electricity companies
- government agencies, such as the Ministry for the Environment.
- Hays Recruitment, 'Hays Quarterly Report: Engineering: January - March 2014', March 2014, (www.hays.net.nz).
- Immigration New Zealand, Long-term Skill Shortage List, accessed March 2014, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2012.
- National Infrastructure Unit, '2013 National State of Infrustructure Report, accessed March 2014, (www.infrastructure.govt.nz).
Progression and specialisations
Environmental engineers may progress into managerial roles or become partners in an engineering firm. They may also set up their own business and work as self-employed contractors.
Environmental engineers can also specialise in areas such as:
- project management
- construction management
- health and safety
- environmental science.
Last updated 2 September 2016