07 November 2014

Bleg: Can an electrical engineer work on environmental issues?

ZP writes:
I'm an electrical engineering senior in XX University. I have a great passion on environment protection, so I want to apply for environmental engineering as a graduate study.

I'm currently still an electrical engineering student, with an economy minor. My career goal is to find or create a job that combines economy, engineering and environment. I emailed some professors about applying environmental engineering for graduate study. Most of them told me it would be hard for me without an environmental background. Do you know any professor who will be willing to accept the student with background like me?

I'm also interested in where to study. I have thought about Europe, but I'm still not sure where to go. Do you have any advice for me on location?

Finally, what about self-study? I watched some of your videos. I really like your teaching and wonder if there are books or online classes I can study that relating economics, engineering and environment?

Sorry to write so much, but I really need some help. I have searched for almost three months already and cannot find any similar case of transferring from electrical to environmental.

Thank you for your patience and time.
I have a few responses to ZP's questions, but please add your own ideas.

First, many engineering programs are "closed" in the sense that they only want to see "their own" in MS or PhD programs. Most other disciplines are easier about "foreigners" coming in.

Second, environmental engineering may NOT be what you want. I suggest checking their course catalogs, textbooks and articles published in the field, as it may not be with your looking for compared to, say, environmental management or sciences. You may also want to think about being an EE within a company that deals with environmental problems. There are MANY of these.

Third, programs will vary by country in terms of timing, fees and student body. It's best to ask around ("the Facebook network" or student associations) to try to identify places you may like.

Finally, it's always good to do self study and read books, but it's easier with other students, since you can interact. Check out MOOCs under the topics that interest you. (Glad you like my videos :)

3 comments:

  1. Environmental engineering is a misnomer/red herring. Suggest you follow up with informational interviews with engineering firms. Most projects involve designing and building pump stations, pipelines, water treatment, waste water treatment, and similar projects.

    I agree with David on his suggestion.
    -r

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  2. I highly suggest working with the electricity industry. Renewables are booming, but there is a lot of work necessary to figure out how to accommodate them in the grid, and there is still no good rate policy for residential solar. There are lots of opportunities to work for utilities, industry, nonprofits, government, or specialized demand-response companies like EnerNoc.

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  3. One of my ex colleague holds a degree in maths and a master in environmental engineering from a scottish university and he ended up working for a financial markets advisory firm in london. According to his say there is no enough investment in renewables given the low energy production per investment compared to fossil fuels. If You are really into renewables and company. I suggest you going for all the day for a phd, then at least you can do research on what you like. If you look to study in europe, the uk has the broadest range of courses in english that you can find in the area although it is more expensive, fees wise, than other counties such as germany, nh, sweden, norway...
    Good luck

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