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Undergraduate Research Experiences That Promote Recruitment Into The Field Of Environmental Engineering

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Intersdisciplinary Courses and Environmental Undergraduate Research

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1510.1 - 12.1510.14



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Paper Authors

author page

Charles Bott Virginia Military Institute

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Undergraduate Research Experiences that Promote Recruitment into the Field of Environmental Engineering


There is a tremendous and rapidly growing demand for mid- and entry-level Environmental Engineers at consulting/engineering firms and utilities in many regions of the United States, and what seems to be a considerable increase in starting salaries offered by engineering consulting firms in the last two to three years is apparent. Furthermore, a Masters degree has become almost a necessity for entry-level engineers practicing in the areas of water and wastewater treatment and industrial waste management, particularly as more complex systems are evaluated and designed. The Environmental Engineering field seems to be moving to a point where a Masters degree is required to be proficient in the workforce, and the Ph.D. is the defining degree for technical work. At the undergraduate level, the objective should be to integrate realistic, useful, and externally-funded research experiences into undergraduate engineering education in a well-equipped laboratory, while at the same time providing a valuable service to regional industries, utilities, and consulting firms. These experiences bolster interest among students in the technical and scientific aspects of Environmental Engineering, thereby enticing and better preparing students to pursue these topics in graduate school and in future careers. These projects also expose undergraduates to both the environmental engineering profession (collaboration with practicing engineers) and larger research universities.

1. Introduction

1.1 Motivation - Shortfall In The Environmental Engineering Pipeline

A joint survey conducted by the Water Environment Federation (WEF) and the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and presented at the 2003 AWWA/WEF Joint Management Conference determined that within the next 10 years almost 80% of the professional workforce associated with public water and wastewater utilities (somewhat vaguely defined) will be eligible to retire. This statistic is readily apparent by observation of the attendees at national and state- level technical conferences hosted by these professional societies. As shown in Figure 1, the age distribution of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employees is likely representative of the profession as a whole. In the March 21, 2005 issue of Fortune magazine, an article entitled “Hot Careers for the Next 10 Years” suggested that there will be a 54.3% increase in the number of environmental engineering jobs over the next 10 years, the highest of all the listed professions and well above that predicted for careers such as network systems and datacom analysts, software engineers, and biomedical engineers. Other publications have indicated similar trends.

Bott, C. (2007, June), Undergraduate Research Experiences That Promote Recruitment Into The Field Of Environmental Engineering Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1746

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