15 Best Colleges for Environmental Engineering

If you’re passionate about protecting the environment and harnessing technology for good, pursuing a degree in environmental engineering is the key to unlocking your potential. 

With so many universities offering programs in this field, choosing the right one can feel overwhelming. 

This guide will help you with environmental engineering education, highlighting the top institutions and equipping you with the knowledge to make an informed decision.

We’ll explore the benefits of this field, the requirements for admission, and a list of the top colleges worldwide that excel in environmental engineering education. 

Whether you’re starting your academic path or considering a career shift, this article will help you choose the right path for yourself.

Benefits of Having a Degree in Environmental Engineering

Pursuing a degree in environmental engineering nurtures students’ passion for the environment while equipping them with a set of skills. 

Here are some benefits of earning a degree in environmental engineering:

1. Solving Real-World Problems:

Environmental engineering graduates address real-world environmental issues. 

Whether it’s designing sustainable water treatment systems, developing renewable energy sources, or mitigating the effects of climate change, your work will have a direct and positive impact on people’s lives and the health of our planet.

2. Multidisciplinary Knowledge:

Environmental engineering is inherently interdisciplinary, drawing from fields like chemistry, biology, geology, and civil engineering. 

Graduates emerge with an understanding of various scientific domains, enhancing their adaptability and problem-solving capabilities.

3. Global Relevance:

The environmental challenges faced by societies today are global. With a degree in environmental engineering, graduates possess skills and knowledge applicable worldwide. 

This global relevance opens up opportunities for impactful work on an international scale.

4. Career Opportunities:

The demand for environmental engineers is on the rise, driven by a growing awareness of environmental issues. 

Graduates find diverse career opportunities in government agencies, private industries, consulting firms, and research institutions, offering a spectrum of choices to align with personal interests.

5. Continual Learning and Adaptation:

The environmental engineering field evolves with technological advancements and emerging environmental concerns. 

Graduates are inherently lifelong learners, staying abreast of new developments to apply the latest technologies and methodologies in their work.

6. Global Environmental Advocacy:

Armed with a degree in environmental engineering, graduates become advocates for sustainable practices. 

They contribute to shaping policies, educating communities, and fostering a collective responsibility towards environmental stewardship.

The benefits of pursuing this degree extend far beyond personal advantages. Graduates emerge with tools to effect positive change, making a lasting impact on the environment.

Requirements for an Environmental Engineering Degree

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Earning a degree in environmental engineering requires a solid foundation in both scientific principles and engineering applications. 

Here is a breakdown of the key requirements for pursuing an environmental engineering degree:

1. Educational Background:

A basic need for entering environmental engineering is a high school diploma or equivalent. 

Prospects are typically expected to have completed coursework in mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology, providing the foundational knowledge for advanced studies in environmental engineering.

2. Relevant Coursework:

Environmental engineering programs have diverse coursework, including environmental science, fluid mechanics, environmental chemistry, and geotechnical engineering. 

Students delve into subjects like air and water quality, environmental impact assessment, and sustainable design to gain a comprehensive understanding of the field.

3. Laboratory and Field Experience:

Practical experience is important for environmental engineering education. 

Programs often incorporate laboratory sessions, fieldwork, or internships to expose students to hands-on scenarios. 

Through these experiences, students develop crucial analytical and problem-solving skills that are essential in real-world environmental engineering challenges.

4. Computer Proficiency:

Environmental engineers rely on various software tools for data analysis, modeling, and simulation. Thus, students are needed to have proficiency in relevant computer programs. 

Familiarity with tools such as GIS (Geographic Information System) and CAD (Computer-Aided Design) is particularly beneficial for executing environmental engineering tasks.

5. Capstone Projects or Theses:

Many environmental engineering programs culminate in capstone projects or theses. 

These projects serve as an application of acquired knowledge to address specific environmental challenges. 

Students engage in in-depth research, showcasing their ability to synthesize information and propose innovative solutions.

6 . Communication and Collaboration Skills:

Environmental engineers often work within teams and interact with diverse stakeholders. Therefore, programs emphasize the development of strong communication skills, both written and verbal. 

Graduates must be adept at conveying complex technical information clearly to collaborators, clients, and the public.

By meeting these requirements, aspiring environmental engineers gain technical expertise while developing the skills and ethical mindset for addressing global environmental challenges.

Let’s now explore the world’s top colleges for environmental engineering degrees.

Best Colleges for Environmental Engineering Degrees Worldwide

Pursuing an environmental engineering degree involves choosing the right institution. 

Here’s a list of 15 world-renowned colleges that stand out for their excellence in environmental engineering education:

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is an exceptional choice for a degree in environmental engineering. 

Established in 1861, MIT has a rich history of groundbreaking contributions to science, engineering, and technology. 

Garnering the top spot among 2,217 colleges nationwide, MIT has earned its reputation as an outstanding educational institution. 

The institution’s overall excellence extends across various disciplines, including the field of environmental engineering.

MIT produced approximately 20 graduates in the environmental engineering program each year. 

This small class size allows personalized attention and a collaborative atmosphere among students and faculty.

MIT’s infrastructure reflects its commitment to innovation and sustainability. 

The LEED-certified Ray and Maria Stata Center boasts a green roof, rainwater harvesting systems, and natural ventilation, showcasing sustainable design solutions. 

The OpenCourseWare initiative of MIT allows students worldwide to access course materials online for free. 

2. Stanford University

Stanford University’s School of Engineering, with its renowned Terman Center for Environmental Sustainability, offers a ground to cultivate your passion and launch a career as an environmental engineer.

Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences program sums up its commitment to address global challenges. 

Students of this program are encouraged to creative problem-solving, interdisciplinary collaboration, and an understanding of the societal impact of their work.

The institution’s strong ties to industry leaders in Silicon Valley provide students with opportunities for collaboration and exposure to cutting-edge technologies. 

With a faculty renowned for groundbreaking research and a curriculum that integrates engineering, science, and policy, students are equipped to be leaders in sustainable development. 

3. ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

ETH Zurich, a global leader in science and technology, was founded in 1855 and boasts 22 Nobel laureates, including Albert Einstein, among its alumni.

With 16 departments spanning an array of disciplines, ETH Zurich excels in Environmental Engineering, integrating theory and practical application to address global challenges.

ETH Zurich offers a dynamic education with a focus on strong mathematical foundations. German is the main language for undergraduates, while master’s programs and doctoral studies are in English.

Situated in Zurich, the university’s campuses downtown and on the outskirts provide a unique blend of urban vibrancy and serene landscapes.

Students experience intensive academic pursuits balanced with cultural and leisure activities, from symposia to iconic events like the SOLA relay race and the Polyball.

4. University of California, Berkeley

University of California, Berkeley (UCB), is a renowned public research university and the flagship institution of the University of California system. 

It boasts a history that includes 99 Nobel laureates and groundbreaking discoveries.

Berkeley’s Environmental Engineering program shines as a leader in innovation and addressing environmental challenges. 

The program combines theory with hands-on experiences, preparing students to make meaningful contributions to sustainable development.

Berkeley boasts alumni, faculty, and researchers who have earned 23 Turing Award winners, and 14 Pulitzer Prize winners. 

The university has contributed to innovative discoveries, including the cyclotron by Nobel laureate Ernest Lawrence.

Berkeley’s 1,232-acre campus with Beaux-Arts-style buildings is recognized as California Historical Landmarks.

With over 40,000 students, Berkeley offers a youthful and vibrant campus life, emphasizing academic enrichment and community-building.

5. Purdue University

Purdue University is a prominent public research institution, renowned for its campus and academic prowess, it holds the 2nd rank out of 42 colleges for overall quality in the state of Indiana.

In Purdue’s Environmental Engineering program, approximately 66 students graduated with this degree in recent years. 

This program equips students with an understanding of environmental challenges and skills them to develop innovative solutions.

Recent data indicates that Purdue graduates earn $5,638 more than standard college graduates in the field shortly after completing their degree.

Purdue University’s commitment to research is reflected in its facilities and research centers. 

Students have the opportunity to engage in impactful research projects that contribute to the broader scientific community.

Purdue’s focus on career development ensures students are well-prepared for the professional landscape. 

6. University of Florida

University of Florida (UF) is a distinguished public university with a sizable student population. 

The university ranks 1st out of 77 colleges for overall quality in Florida, proving the university’s commitment to academic excellence, innovation, and student development.

UF’s Environmental Engineering program has produced approximately 103 graduates with this degree. 

The curriculum blends theory with practical applications, preparing students to address environmental challenges with ingenuity and expertise.

UF’s Environmental Engineering program graduates get a significant boost in earnings, surpassing the typical earnings of environmental engineering majors by $5,812. 

The university’s commitment to creating a supportive environment is evident in its student organizations, cultural events, and recreational facilities. 

The university boasts futuristic research facilities, where students contribute to groundbreaking discoveries. 

UF’s commitment to sustainability is evident in its initiatives, aligning with the ethos of the Environmental Engineering program.

7. National University of Singapore (NUS)

The National University of Singapore (NUS) provides students with a distinctively Asian and global educational experience, committed to maximizing students’ potential and future readiness.

NUS boasts a faculty of scholars and researchers, and alumni include individuals with significant contributions to various fields, further solidifying the university’s impact on society.

NUS’s Environmental Engineering program has a curriculum designed to develop critical thinking and creativity, students learn the complexities of environmental challenges and solutions. 

NUS’s global programs expose students to different economic realities and challenges. 

These expeditions, varying in length, provide firsthand experiences of diverse cultures, enhancing students’ understanding of how others live, work, and play.

The university’s unique features, such as the iconic School of Design & Environment building, showcase NUS’s commitment to architectural excellence and sustainability.

8. University of California – Irvine

University of California – Irvine (UCI) was established as a public university, which has now evolved into a hub for innovation, research, and an array of academic disciplines.

UCI’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) program prioritizes environmental responsibility, making it a pioneer in environmental impact assessment and water quality engineering. 

UCI ranks 15th out of 168 colleges for overall quality in California. 

Almost 30 students graduated with an environmental engineering degree in the most recent year, contributing to the program’s growing impact. 

These graduates have reported an average early career income of $52,400 annually, reflecting the program’s success in preparing students for rewarding careers.

UCI’s CEE department has the Center for Advanced Water Technologies and the Sustainable Water and Environmental Research Center (SWERC). 

Students analyze water quality, and alternative energy sources, and design sustainable infrastructure solutions in these labs.

9. Michigan Technological University

Michigan Technological University ranks 3rd out of 57 schools for overall quality in Michigan. The university’s commitment to academic excellence shows in its diverse programs and learning community.

Alumni like Dr. Arno Rosemarin, wastewater treatment a pioneer, and Dr. David Keefe, known for his work on Great Lakes water quality, share their practical experience with students. 

Michigan Tech’s infrastructure is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, research labs, and specialized equipment to provide students with an environment for exploration and experimentation. 

Surrounded by the pristine beauty of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the university integrates the local environment into its programs. 

Students at Michigan Tech have opportunities to engage in fieldwork and research amidst the landscapes.

10. University of Cambridge

University of Cambridge’s famous colleges and buildings, steeped in history, draw visitors from around the globe. As one of the oldest universities globally and the largest in the United Kingdom, Cambridge is ranked #8 in Best Global Universities.

Comprising 31 colleges, Cambridge’s collegiate system has three colleges that are exclusively for women, two for graduates, and the rest cater to students across various courses. 

Professor David Read, a leading figure in bioremediation, and Professor John Banks, renowned for his work on sustainable waste management, are some of the notable alumni of the Environmental engineering program. 

Cambridge boasts facilities like the Engineering Design Centre, a hub of innovation where you’ll access prototyping tools and collaborate with engineers from diverse disciplines. 

Within the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, labs buzz with research on topics like environmental biotechnology, sustainable chemical processes, and carbon capture and storage.

11. Harvard University

Established in 1636, Harvard University is the oldest higher education institution in the United States. 

Harvard’s Environmental Science and Engineering (ESE) program is driven by a passion for protecting our planet and offers an experience unlike any other.

Harvard boasts the Center for Engineering Sciences and Applied Sciences (CEAS), where students access labs for atmospheric research, biogeochemical analysis, and environmental data modeling. 

Harvard’s alumni include eight U.S. presidents, numerous foreign heads of state, 62 billionaires, 359 Rhodes Scholars, and 242 Marshall Scholars. 

The list extends to Pulitzer Prizes, Nobel Prizes, Academy Awards, and 108 Olympic medals won by Harvard graduates.

Harvard’s campus contains 10-degree schools, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, theaters, and museums, showing its commitment to different academic pursuits. 

The campus has the world’s largest academic library system, boasting 18 million volumes, 180,000 serial titles, 400 million manuscript items, and 10 million photographs. 

12. University of British Columbia

University of British Columbia (UBC) is internationally recognized for its contributions to teaching and research, and its commitment to shaping a better world has resonated globally. 

UBC attracts over 68,000 students from Canada and 140+ countries.

The university’s global alumni network boasts over 370,000 individuals from 148 countries, including eight Nobel laureates, 71 Rhodes Scholars, and three Canadian prime ministers. 

The university’s environmental programs build a new generation of leaders equipped to address pressing environmental challenges. 

With a human rights-based approach to its Indigenous framework, UBC integrates sustainability into its academic fabric.

The Faculty of Medicine extends its reach to 80+ training sites across British Columbia, providing students with diverse clinical education experiences.

The Clean Energy Research Laboratory, lets students research biofuel, water treatment technologies, and renewable energy systems. 

13. Imperial College London

Imperial College London is ranked 6th globally in the QS World University Rankings 2024. 

Its location offers academic richness and proximity to green spaces, with two royal parks, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, within a 10-minute walk.

Imperial’s research-led teaching exposes students to real-world challenges and interdisciplinary collaboration. 

Students become part of a community of world-class researchers, contributing to the globally influential research defining Imperial’s reputation. 

In the academic year 2021-22, 62% of the student body comprised non-UK citizens, representing over 140 countries. 

The diversity extends to the staff, creating a multicultural and multidimensional learning environment. 

The faculty consists of award winners, Nobel Prize holders, and prestigious Fellowship recipients reflecting the outstanding contributions they make to their respective fields.

The university leverages its research prowess to contribute innovative solutions for a sustainable future in its environmental engineering program. 

Its location in London provides students with opportunities to engage with and contribute to environmental initiatives.

14. The University of Queensland

The University of Queensland (UQ) has played a pivotal role in educating and collaborating with outstanding individuals dedicated to knowledge leadership for a better world. 

Its Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) with a Major in Environmental Engineering program offers a unique experience. 

The community of over 55,000 students, including international scholars from 137 countries, contributes to a rich and globally engaged learning environment.

UQ has an alumni network consisting of 311,000 graduates spread across 184 countries providing the university’s impact on a global scale. 

The university’s six faculties, eight globally recognized research institutes, over 100 research centers, and a community of 2500 scientists, social scientists, and engineers. 

UQ holds a place among the world’s top universities, and consistently secured its position as the leading recipient of Australian Research Council Fellowships and Awards, receiving 452 awards totaling over AUD 339 million.

15. University of Oxford

The University of Oxford is the oldest in the English-speaking world. The Environmental Change Institute (ECI) at Oxford offers a Master of Science (MSc) in Environmental Change and Management program, unlike any other. 

Oxford boasts a student population of 22,000, where approximately half of the students are undergraduates and 40 percent are from different corners of the globe. 

Oxford’s alumni network has 250,000 individuals with more than 120 Olympic medalists, 26 Nobel Prize winners, seven poets laureate, and over 30 modern world leaders. 

The university has a friendly rivalry with Cambridge for the title of the best university in the UK and consistently secures a place among the top three universities globally. 

Notable thinkers and scientists, including Tim Berners-Lee, Stephen Hawking, and Richard Dawkins, have left a mark on the intellectual legacy of Oxford.

Each university adds a unique thread to environmental engineering education. The next section delves into the core, unveiling the curriculum for an environmental engineering major. 

What is the Curriculum for an Environmental Engineering Major?

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The curriculum for an environmental engineering major can vary slightly depending on the specific university you choose, but some core elements are found in most programs. 

Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect to encounter:

1. Core Foundation:

The foundation begins with fundamental courses in mathematics, chemistry, and physics, establishing a base for engineering principles. 

Students grasp essential concepts in calculus, differential equations, and linear algebra, laying the groundwork for analytical problem-solving.

2. Engineering Fundamentals:

Fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, and environmental systems analysis provide a comprehensive understanding of the physical principles governing environmental processes. 

Students study the fundamentals of heat transfer, mass transfer, and reaction engineering.

3. Environmental Specializations:

The curriculum offers specializations to tailor the degree according to individual interests. 

Environmental chemistry explores the behavior of pollutants, while water and wastewater engineering focuses on sustainable water resource management. 

Air quality management and solid waste engineering delve into strategies for minimizing environmental impact.

4. Technological Proficiency:

Students undergo training in utilizing advanced tools and technologies such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), remote sensing, and environmental modeling. 

Laboratory work and field experiences enhance their ability to apply theoretical concepts to real-world scenarios.

5. Capstone Projects:

The culmination of the program often involves a capstone project, where students tackle a substantial environmental issue. 

This hands-on experience hones their problem-solving skills, encourages teamwork, and prepares them for the complexities of professional practice.

6. Ethics and Sustainability:

Courses emphasize the responsibility of engineers in developing solutions that not only meet technological requirements but also align with environmental ethics and long-term sustainability goals.

Environmental engineering major students are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to contribute to a sustainable and resilient future. 

In the next section, we will explore the specializations available for those pursuing this field.

The Specializations Available for an Environmental Engineering Major

Environmental is a vast field offering multiple niches for passionate individuals. Choosing a specialization allows you to study a specific area, sharpening your skills and expertise. 

Here’s a glimpse into some of the specializations you can pursue:

1. Water Resources Engineering:

Sustainable water management, treatment, and distribution are the focal points of this specialization. 

Courses include hydraulic engineering, water quality modeling, and stormwater management. 

The application involves designing systems for efficient water use, addressing water scarcity, and ensuring water quality.

2. Air Quality Management:

This specialization centers on monitoring and controlling air pollutants to enhance air quality. 

Courses cover atmospheric chemistry, air pollution modeling, and emission control. 

Students learn to develop strategies to reduce air pollution and assess the impact of industrial emissions.

3. Hazardous Waste Management:

Handling and remediating hazardous materials and wastes are the core areas of focus. Courses include environmental toxicology, waste treatment technologies, and risk assessment. 

Graduates are equipped to design systems for safe disposal, minimizing environmental and public health risks.

4. Environmental Health and Safety:

This specialization concentrates on protecting human health through risk assessment and safety measures. Courses include industrial hygiene, risk analysis, and emergency response planning. 

Graduates ensure workplaces and communities adhere to safety standards, preventing environmental hazards.

5. Sustainable Energy and Environmental Design:

Integrating sustainable practices into engineering projects is the focus. Courses cover renewable energy systems, green building design, and life cycle assessment. 

The application involves implementing eco-friendly solutions and optimizing energy efficiency in infrastructure.

6. Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation:

This specialization focuses on developing strategies to address and adapt to climate change. Courses include climate science, adaptation planning, and carbon footprint analysis. 

Graduates contribute to designing infrastructure resilient to climate impacts, promoting global sustainability.

7. Environmental Data Analytics:

Utilizing data-driven approaches for environmental decision-making is the key emphasis. Courses include data analysis, machine learning, and environmental informatics. 

The application involves processing and interpreting large datasets to inform environmental policies and solutions.

8. Environmental Policy and Management:

Understanding regulatory frameworks and managing environmental projects are the core elements. 

Courses cover environmental law, policy analysis, and project management

Graduates navigate legal and regulatory landscapes, overseeing environmental initiatives.

Be sure to research each specialization thoroughly and talk to professionals in the field to find the perfect path for you to make a lasting impact on our planet.

Let’s now explore the career options awaiting environmental engineering graduates.

Career Options Available

An environmental engineering degree opens doors to a world of diverse and impactful careers. 

From tackling air pollution in cities to protecting precious ecosystems, the possibilities are as vast. 

Here are some of the many career paths you can pursue:

1. Government Agencies:

Join the environmental policy and regulation by working for the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, or local environmental agencies. 

You’ll be involved in enforcing environmental regulations, managing water resources, and developing sustainable infrastructure.

2. Public Utilities: 

Contribute to sustainable water and wastewater management by working for water treatment plants, sanitation departments, or public utility companies. 

You’ll design and develop efficient water treatment systems, optimize resource utilization, and address water quality challenges.

3. Consulting Firms: 

Lend your expertise to a variety of clients by working for environmental consulting firms. 

You’ll conduct environmental impact assessments, design pollution control systems, and advise companies on environmental compliance and sustainability strategies.

4. Engineering Firms: 

Put your technical skills to the test by working for engineering firms specializing in environmental projects. 

You’ll design and implement water treatment plants, wastewater treatment systems, renewable energy systems, and sustainable infrastructure projects.

5. Renewable Energy Companies: 

Develop and implement renewable energy solutions like solar, wind, geothermal, and hydroelectric power by working for energy companies, manufacturers, or developers.

Your skillset, interests, and career aspirations will guide you toward your ideal path. 

Network with professionals, explore internship opportunities, and constantly adapt to the evolving environmental landscape. 


The exploration of the best colleges for environmental engineering reveals an array of institutions globally, each contributing uniquely to environmental education. 

From the historic halls of the University of Oxford to research hubs like Imperial College London, these universities provide a transformative learning experience. 

The guide highlights renowned institutions and delves into specialized fields, career paths, and emerging opportunities within environmental engineering, promising a shared vision of a sustainable future.


Where is the best place to study environmental engineering?

The best place varies based on personal preferences and goals. Institutions such as ETH Zurich, UC Berkeley, and the University of Cambridge are globally renowned for their comprehensive and cutting-edge environmental engineering programs.

What is the best major for environmental engineering?

The best major is environmental engineering itself.
However, students can enhance their focus by choosing specializations like Water Resources Engineering or Air Quality Management, tailoring their studies to specific areas of interest.

Is environmental engineering a good job?

Yes, environmental engineering is a highly rewarding profession.
Professionals in this field play a crucial role in addressing environmental challenges, promoting sustainability, and contributing to public health and well-being.

What field do most environmental engineers work in?

Environmental engineers work across diverse fields.
These include the public sector, private sector (consulting, engineering, and renewable energy), research institutions, academia, and non-profit organizations.
Their versatility allows them to contribute to various aspects of environmental management and sustainability.