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Want a sustainable world? Become an environmental engineer

Despite the fears, protests and demands of environmental groups all over Australia, the mining industry is still a growing force within our country. With controversial projects being approved in defiance of experts’ warnings of their impending impact, it’s easy to lose hope for ever healing our tortured environment.

But, you shouldn’t give up on wanting a sustainable future – in fact, as you prepare to embark on your career journey, you can think about how you could help create one.

Within the engineering profession, environmental engineers are driven by a desire to make big, impactful changes – not only on people’s lives, but on our wider world. These are the people who help big corporations – like mining companies – cut down their negative environmental impacts.

Environmental engineering is a field deeply concerned with the effects of climate change and human impact on our resources and environment. These engineers dedicate their careers to developing innovative solutions for the biggest environmental threats in our world.

As these threats grow, so does the demand for professionals in this field: between 2016 and 2026, the field of environmental engineering is projected to grow 8.3%.

With a career in environmental engineering, you could fulfil your passion to change the world. Dr Ellen Moon, Course Director for the Bachelor of Environmental Engineering at Deakin University, explains how working in this field can put you at the forefront of the battle against climate change.

What are the biggest issues that someone with a career in environmental engineering can help address?

‘Climate change (and its local impacts) is always going to be the big one, but environmental engineers also work to develop solutions to other global challenges, including waste management and recycling; pollution and contamination; water quality and supply; and public health.’

How are environmental engineering professionals working to address these issues?

‘Environmental engineers work to protect the environment by assessing the impacts projects have on air, water and soil, and designing strategies to minimise adverse effects.

‘They undoubtedly have a huge role to play in addressing climate change; for example by developing carbon capture technologies, and tackling water scarcity through integrated water management.

‘Environmental engineers are also integral in helping major industries like mining, oil and gas to reduce their impact on the environment and clean up after their past activities.’

'Environmental engineers work to protect the environment by assessing the impacts projects have on air, water and soil, and designing strategies to minimise adverse effects.'

Dr Ellen Moon,
School of Engineering, Deakin University

What kind of activities are involved in a career in environmental engineering?

‘Environmental engineering is a broad field, and graduates have the ability to shape their role based on their interests and expertise.

‘If you like working outdoors, collecting soil, water and air samples, and assessing sites, there are roles for you. If you enjoy working indoors, testing samples or creating computer models to predict the outcome of future scenarios, there are roles for you.

‘There are also opportunities all over the world – my work has even taken me to Antarctica!’

What kind of people do you think careers in this field are best suited to?

‘The people best suited to this career are first and foremost people who care about the environment, and are looking for a career that enables them to make a positive difference.

‘Secondly, my field is suited to people who may not consider themselves to be a ‘typical’ engineer. Engineering is all about designing innovative solutions to problems – this makes having a different background, or a different point of view, extremely advantageous.’

What steps would you recommend people take when seeking a career as an environmental engineer?

‘My general advice would be to stick with science and maths at school. Environmental engineers need a good (note I didn’t say excellent!) grasp of maths, physics and chemistry. Also reach out to local companies to see if they can offer you some work experience.

‘Environmental engineers work in many places – engineering firms, land developers, local councils, government agencies, and the resources sector – so there are plenty of opportunities out there.’

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Dr Ellen Moon
Dr Ellen Moon

Senior Lecturer,

Faculty of Sci & Built Eng,

Deakin University

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