Conservation engineers research and develop methods and systems to alleviate environmental issues and protect natural resources. In addition to engineering technology, individuals in this field must have a deep understanding of biological and environmental science. Areas of specialization include water and air pollution; soil and water conservation; waste disposal; recycling; and public health.
Most conservation engineers work as consultants, advising their clients on environmental policies and regulations. They help minimize environmentally harmful practices and assist in clean-up efforts.
At a minimum, entry-level engineering jobs require a bachelor’s degree in engineering. While the most common undergraduate degree programs are in electrical, mechanical or civil engineering, some universities do offer programs in agricultural or environmental engineering.
In addition to formal education, engineers who work directly for their clients are required to pass a State exam to be licensed as a professional engineer. Conservation engineers should also attend conferences and take courses to familiarize themselves with current theories and practices.
Conservation engineers are integral to finding solutions for many wide-spread environmental problems. They assist in hazardous waste management, design water treatment systems, perform environmental impact assessments at construction sites and aid in efforts to improve industry and automobile emissions.
A career in conservation engineering may require performance of the following specialized tasks:
Conservation engineers spend some of their time indoors, running tests and analyzing data in laboratories, offices and industrial plants. However, the nature of their work may also require them to spend significant time outdoors as they perform environmental impact assessments. The position may require some travel and involve deadlines, but it does not usually require significant overtime.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of conservation engineering will continue to grow as companies strive to comply with increased environmental regulations. Overall, conservation engineers should experience a 31 percent growth rate by the year 2018.
A May 2008 government report cites the average salary for a conservation engineer as $75,000, with the median salary ranging from $57,000 to $94,000.