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What is Environmental Engineering?

Environmental Engineering is a branch of applied science that contributes to the health of ecosystems and the provisioning of ecosystem services to people, by addressing problems associated with the quality of air, land, water and living systems.  Its scope includes: the provision of a safe and potable water supply and adequate sanitation, waste water management, air pollution abatement, noise reduction, contaminated soil remediation, contaminant transport, material recycling, and environmental assessment and law.

What are examples of the typical types of work or tasks that someone in Environmental Engineering does?

  • design facilities and management systems to prevent contamination and/or mitigate environmental impacts of contaminants in air, water and soil;
  • design information systems for environmental monitoring and mitigation;
  • perform impact assessments (including regulatory, sustainability, environmental, social, and risk);
  • participate in sustainability planning and design, and;
  • formulate environmental policy.


What distinguishes Environmental Engineering from other engineering programs at UBC?

Unlike any other type of engineering, the primary focus of environmental engineering work is protecting  and regenerating ecosystem health.

What are the typical courses that someone in Environmental Engineering takes?

  • Environmental Engineering Science
  • Air pollution prevention and control
  • Water pollution prevention and treatment
  • Waste Management for Resource Recovery
  • Technical Communications for Environmental Engineers
  • Environmental Engineering and Sustainable Development
  • Fundamentals of Sustainable Engineering
  • Municipal Engineering
  • Energy Engineering
  • Environmental Engineering Design Courses in each year of study

What is a typical course load in Environmental Engineering?

The typical course load in the ENVL program is six courses per term.


What options or streams are there in Environmental Engineering?

No specific option or stream within the Environmental Engineering program


How does Co-op work with the program?

ENVL students may choose to take work terms throughout their undergraduate studies.

What is the job market like for Environmental Engineering?

Because ENVL graduates are qualified to work in a variety of sectors, the job market for Environmental Engineers is usually strong. This is expected to continue into the foreseeable future due to continued growth of cities and the need to retrofit current practices in order to both reduce carbon emissions across sectors and improve ecosystem health.

What types of industries and jobs does someone in Environmental Engineering work in?

Graduates of the ENVL program are likely to find employment in one of four sectors:

1. Environmental consulting firms

British Columbia is the base for many renowned environmental consulting firms that work throughout the World. One hundred and twenty nine companies are members of the British Columbia Environment Industry Association (BCEIA). These include major international Companies such as Stantec Consulting Ltd., SNC Lavalin Inc., WSP, AECOM, Jacobs, Pottinger Gaherty Environmental Consultants Ltd., Hemmera (Ausenco), Klohn Crippen Berger Ltd., and Golder Associates Ltd., to mention just a few. These industries are involved in industrial waste management, remediation, environmental services, consulting, environmental risk analysis, water management and all aspects of environmental management and planning. Also, Environmental Engineers are key members of multidisciplinary teams working on sustainable development.

2. Urban Municipalities

Environmental Engineers are key to providing critical municipal services to large cities, including water supply, waste management, energy conservation & recovery, pollution reduction and remediation of contaminated sites for construction. This is especially critical as urban areas prepare for the impacts of climate change, and the mitigation of biodiversity loss.

3. Extractive industries and Agriculture

Extractive industries, such as mining and oil and gas, employ Environmental Engineers to design systems and new technologies to mitigate the effect of these activities on the environment. These include new ways to reduce footprint, water and reagent use and energy consumption, and alternative processes to recover values from residues and wastes for reuse in order to contribute to a circular economy. Within the mining and forestry sectors, two of the largest industrial sectors in BC, there are opportunities for Environmental Engineers in reducing and managing energy and residuals, creating innovative solutions for residual reuse, development of new biomass derived products, and reducing the environmental impact of forestry and mining sectors.

4. Companies or utilities serving rural communities

British Columbia is home to 198 First Nations, about one third of all First Nations in Canada. Many Indigenous people live in remote communities that do not receive services. Some of these experience drinking water advisories and do not have access to safe drinking water. The Canadian government has committed to supplying all of these communities with clean water by 2021. Furthermore, out of nearly 4800 water systems in the province of BC, nearly 4500 serve small and rural communities of less than 300 connections, and at any given time there are between 500 and 700 boil water advisories in those communities.  Environmental Engineers are responsible for designing appropriate technologies for remote communities to supply them with safe drinking water and to treat their wastes to improve health and protect the environment.

Student Experience

What are the unique student experiences in Environmental Engineering?

Mentorship by Professionals: ENVL students in small groups meet with a senior professional environmental engineers to discuss career goals, professionalism, and to work on integrating their knowledge by discussing case studies.

Optional Co-op Terms: ENVL students may choose to take work terms throughout their undergraduate studies.

High-Impact Learning Opportunities: High-impact learning is hands-on and engaging while building knowledge to address current issues important to everyone. Students in the ENVL program can expect the following:

  • Flipped classrooms in which students prepare for their classroom learning by participating in on-line learning
  • Classroom learning via mini-lectures and small-group discussions
  • Learning activities that are problem-driven and project-based
  • Community engagement
  • In-the-field learning
  • Interdisciplinary learning
  • A post-colonial curriculum
  • A 4th year capstone design project