Why are environmental engineers important

Environmental engineer: an Eldorado for young engineers

Climate change, natural disasters, disturbed ecosystems - as far as the environment is concerned, the global community is known to be confronted with numerous challenges that must be resolved in a sustainable manner. With the growing awareness of environmental problems, the demand for experts in the field of environmental technology also increases. Engineering graduates who have specialized in one of the numerous areas in the field of energy and the environment are therefore in demand on the job market.

So it is not surprising that there are now many courses on offer that deal in depth with this topic. One example of this is the “Environmental Engineering” course at the TU Braunschweig. Dean of Studies Prof. Dr. Frank Suhling explains the professional requirements his students can face: »The tasks of environmental engineers are to develop scientifically and technically sound solutions for efficient, sustainable resource management and to plan, implement and operate the necessary infrastructure buildings and systems . «In order to be as fit as possible, the six-semester bachelor's degree students complete a broad education with many individual areas of specialization such as“ water management ”,“ building physics ”or“ utilities and waste management ”. The subsequent four-semester master’s degree is then more closely linked to the “Environmental Sciences” and “Construction” courses and offers courses on the subjects of “Soil Protection and Geotechnics”, “Environmental Monitoring” or “Transport and Infrastructure”.

Dirk Franzen, Managing Director of the Energy and Environment Society of the Association of German Engineers (VDI-GEU), is very pleased that there are now a number of courses that cover the field of environment in a multifaceted way. He emphasizes that our society urgently needs qualified young people who are well versed in environmental issues and the associated technology. And he immediately gives an example of where these experts can contribute their knowledge. "One of the most important challenges of our time lies in the successful implementation of the energy transition," he explains. "Here, the engineering focus is on the development of new technologies that can make a contribution to a lower-CO2 energy supply." According to the graduate engineer, another important point is the safe handling of nuclear power plants that have not yet been shut down in Germany Day must be guaranteed: "Not only for the operational management of the power plants, but also with regard to the dismantling, disposal and safe storage of materials from nuclear facilities is essential." For Frank Suhling, who at the TU Braunschweig as Lecturer for organismic ecology, biodiversity and nature conservation, in addition to energy supply and saving in the construction sector, three other topics are currently emerging that will become even more relevant in the future: sustainable water supply and the sustainable use of surface water, planning and design the city of the future as well as mobility and traffic.

The diversity of environmental engineering topics is reflected in the career opportunities in this area. "Environmental engineers can work as developers, manufacturers and operators of technologies and equipment for environmental technology in engineering offices, general and industrial companies as well as in research," says Frank Suhling, giving an overview of potential areas of application. »At banks and insurance companies, engineers with ecological specialization assess projects with regard to their environmental impact and risks. Further fields of activity open up in public administrations, in the implementation of spatial planning and environmental protection legislation as well as in the management of municipal supply and disposal companies. "Anyone who wants to feel the benefits of their work as directly as possible is in good hands with development aid abroad:" Here environmental engineers can make a major contribution to improving the living conditions there, for example by supplying the population with fresh drinking water or disposing of the waste water, ”explains the dean of studies. Regardless of the field in which prospective environmental engineers want to gain a professional foothold, the 51-year-old believes that they should always have a high level of responsibility. "In later professional life, you shouldn't be afraid to take responsibility for the tasks that arise in some managerial positions," he emphasizes. "Since you often work in a team in this area, the ability to discuss and communicate, as well as being persuasive and energetic are also relevant characteristics."

From a technical point of view, environmental engineers should not only be familiar with the purely engineering-scientific contexts, but also have a high level of interest in other disciplines such as natural sciences, economics or sociology. Dirk Franzen also points out that good knowledge of legal relationships is extremely important in everyday work: For example, legal regulations such as the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) and the Building and pollution control law to be observed. «At the TU Braunschweig this fact is already taken into account in the curriculum. "We offer our students a number of legal lectures, for example on European and international environmental law, water law or licensing law," explains Frank Suhling.

Both the dean of studies and VDI expert Dirk Franzen are certain: With an interdisciplinary training and, at best, intercultural skills with them, environmental engineers can really get started in terms of careers - and ensure that the world is made a little more sustainable every day.