New Environmental Engineering Major Created at University of Pittsburgh

As the demand for energy grows and the human impact on natural resources like fresh water becomes more profound, public and private entities are relying on environmental engineers to address current and future challenges facing our society. In order for its students to capitalize on this changing job market, the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering will offer a new environmental engineering major beginning in the 2016-17 academic year.

Enrollment has begun, said Leonard Casson, associate professor and academic coordinator of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and the first graduates who are adjusting their course requirements should graduate in April 2017. The environmental engineering major joins bioengineering, chemical and petroleum engineering, civil engineering, electrical and computer engineering, industrial engineering, mechanical engineering, materials science and engineering, and engineering sciences in the Swanson School.

“Recently, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed that there’s going to be a great demand for environmental engineers, and many of our alumni and employment partners have indicated this to us as well.” he said. “Civil engineers in particular need to adapt quickly to evolving societal needs, and our department realized that we were poised to create a specific major to give our students an advantage.”

According to recent BLS data, “employment of environmental engineers is projected to grow 12 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations.” California, Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, and Texas currently lead the United States in the highest employment level of environmental engineers.

Casson added that there are currently 67 ABET-accredited environmental engineering programs in the United States. And, locally, he continued, environmental engineers—who use the principles of engineering, biology, and chemistry to develop solutions to environmental problems—will likely have job opportunities in many professional areas including water and wastewater treatment, site remediation, solid and hazardous waste management, energy, green building design and construction, and mining.

“Developing this program was possible thanks to the depth and breadth of our faculty, many of whom are nationally and internally recognized for their research in water and wastewater management, sustainability and green design, and unconventional resources such as Marcellus and Utica shale,” Casson said. “Additionally, we have found that women and minorities with a passion for the environment are greatly interested in this program, and so we anticipate it to be an advantage when recruiting future undergraduate students.”

The department has approximately 300 undergraduate students (sophomore, junior, and senior) and 150 graduate students (MS, PMS, and PhD). It is also one of Pitt’s oldest academic programs, established in 1867 as a direct result of the impact of the civil engineering field during the Civil War.

Originally published as a press release from University of Pittsburgh News Services on May 12, 2016.

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