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Environmental Engineer

Mataaro Taiao

Alternative titles for this job

Environmental engineers assess and reduce the impact of engineering projects on water, soil and air. They also plan and design systems to treat and remove waste.

Pay

New environmental engineers usually earn

$45K-$75K per year

Senior and principal environmental engineers usually earn

$95K-$160K per year

Source: Engineering NZ, Hays and Michael Page, 2020.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as an environmental engineer are good due to a shortage of workers.

Pay

Pay for environmental engineers varies depending on skills and experience.

  • Graduate environmental engineers usually earn $45,000 to $75,000 a year.
  • Mid-level environmental engineers can earn between $75,000 and $95,000.
  • Senior environmental engineers who work as managers can earn between $95,000 and $130,000.
  • Principal environmental engineers responsible for overseeing projects can earn between $130,000 and $160,000. 

Sources: Engineering New Zealand, 'Remuneration Survey 2019', 2020; Hays, 'FY 2019/20 Salary Guide’, 2020; and Michael Page, '2019 Salary Benchmark Guide', 2020. 

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Environmental engineers may do some or all of the following:

  • report on environmental impacts of construction, infrastructure, farming and engineering projects
  • advise how to minimise environmental impacts of projects 
  • prepare reports, sketches, technical drawings and specifications for projects
  • plan and manage projects, and visit and check sites
  • design waste-management systems
  • take air, water and land samples, and get them tested for pollution
  • advise on pollution treatment methods
  • prepare environmental assessments for resource consent applications
  • supervise contractors carrying out work.

Skills and knowledge

Environmental engineers need to have knowledge of:

  • civil engineering
  • air, water and land pollution control methods
  • public health issues
  • relevant legislation such as the Resource Management Act and New Zealand Building Code
  • analysis and interpretation skills to meet client requirements
  • computer modelling software.

Working conditions

Environmental engineers:

  • usually work regular business hours, but may work evenings and weekends to meet deadlines
  • work in offices, and at outdoor work sites
  • may travel to work and to attend conferences and seminars.

What's the job really like?

Environmental Engineer

Kayla Fairbairn talks about life as an environmental engineer - 2.14 mins.

Our building is Green Star-rated 6 stars,
so even better than 5 stars. Who knew?
So we really do a lot of things to be sustainable around here.
My name is Kayla and I'm an environmental engineer at an engineering
consultancy. As an environmental engineer,
we just make sure that all of our clients are meeting their
environmental requirements.
That could mean doing water monitoring to make sure that no one is polluting our
waterways,
air quality monitoring to ensure that we are keeping New Zealand clean and
green. I'm working on some air quality monitoring.
We are looking at the pollutant NO2 gas,
which is typically produced from vehicle emissions.
Cool to know that what I'm working on could help with traffic emission modelling
in the future. At university,
I studied chemical engineering and finance conjoint,
which was a really cool degree. I always knew that I wanted to be an engineer,
but studying chemical engineering can lead you to oil and gas
and personally I didn't want to go down that career pathway,
so I looked out for other opportunities. Yeah,
and found environmental engineering. We receive data from monitoring sites all
around New Zealand and then do analysis on how the trends in
those contaminants have increased or decreased over years.
What could be causing those increases or decreases,
yet providing recommendations for how they can improve emissions
across New Zealand. When we are analysing air contaminants for clients,
we typically draw up the data in different types of graphics to clearly
show and explain how air contaminants are going to affect nearby
residents.
If there were high NO2 concentrations in a wide radius around
the industrial emitter,
that could mean that residents nearby are really negatively affected. Choosing
this career, coming into this career,
it still surprises me that there are people that care about the environment and
it is happening in this space. So that's really cool.

Entry requirements

To become an environmental engineer you usually need to have a Bachelor's degree in engineering.

You can complete a four-year Bachelor of Engineering or Bachelor of Engineering with Honours, specialising in environmental, civil or natural resources engineering. 

Secondary education

A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further training. Useful subjects include physics, chemistry, maths, geography, and construction and mechanical technologies.

Personal requirements

Environmental engineers need to be:

  • practical and logical, with good problem-solving skills
  • accurate, with an eye for detail
  • good at planning and organising
  • good communicators
  • able to work well as part of a team
  • able to work well under pressure and meet deadlines.

Useful experience

Useful experience for environmental engineers includes:

  • drafting
  • surveying
  • engineering
  • environmental or outdoors work.

Registration

Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) graduates may apply to gain registration as a Chartered Professional Engineer (CPEng) with Engineering New Zealand.

Engineering technologists who meet set requirements may apply to Engineering New Zealand to be registered as an engineering technologist (CMEngNZ).

Find out more about training

Engineering New Zealand
(04) 473 9444 - hello@engineeringnz.org - www.engineeringnz.org
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Shortage of environmental engineers

Opportunities for environmental engineers are good due to a shortage of skilled workers.

Environmental engineer appears on Immigration New Zealand's long-term skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled environmental engineers from overseas to work in New Zealand.

According to the Census, 357 environmental engineers worked in New Zealand in 2018.

Best job chances in the North Island

Job opportunities for environmental engineers are increasing as the Government invests in infrastructure in the North Island.

Auckland and Wellington in particular require civil infrastructure engineers with experience in stormwater systems.

Changing environmental rules mean increasing demand for engineers

New environmental standards mean local authorities are upgrading their stormwater infrastructure. Environmental engineers are needed to help design and supervise this work. 

Demand for environmental engineers to work on stormwater systems is likely to grow as more frequent, severe weather events cause increased flooding. 

Environmental engineers are also needed to help monitor the environmental impact of construction and infrastructure projects.

Types of employers varied

Environmental engineers may 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.

Sources

  • Engineering New Zealand, 'Remuneration For Engineers', accessed January 2020, (www.engineeringnz.org).
  • Engineering New Zealand, ‘Remuneration Survey 2019’, accessed January 2020, (www.engineeringnz.org).
  • Envivo, 'Environmental Engineering', accessed February 2020, (www.envivo.co.nz).
  • Hays, ‘FY 2019/20 Salary Guide’, accessed January 2020, (www.hays.net).
  • Immigration New Zealand, 'Long Term Skill Shortage List', 27 May 2019, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
  • Michael Page, '2019 Salary Benchmark Guide: Engineering & Manufacturing: Industrial/Manufacturing', accessed January 2020, (www.michaelpage.co.nz).
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, ‘Engineering Professionals Occupation Outlook’, accessed January 2020, (www.mbie.govt.nz).
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'National Construction Pipeline Projections to 2024', August 2019, (www.mbie.govt.nz).
  • Rob Law Max, 'Environmental Engineer Jobs', accessed January 2020, (www.roblawmax.co.nz).
  • Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
  • Watercare website, accessed January 2020, (www.watercare.co.nz).

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Environmental engineers may progress to set up their own business and work as self-employed contractors, or move into managerial roles or become partners in an engineering firm.

Environmental engineers may specialise in:

  • wastewater
  • stormwater
  • overland flow and flooding
  • erosion and sediment control
  • contaminated land management
  • earthworks management
  • industrial trade activities. 
A man wearing a hard hat tests water quality at a waste water treatment plant

Environmental engineers measure water quality

Last updated 16 January 2023