Feature Stories

MS in Environmental Engineering - Featured Graduate Degree for Fall 2008

MS in Environmental Engineering - Featured Graduate Degree for Fall 2008


The environmental movement, both here and abroad, is snowballing. Industry is responding with green products and processes, while governments around the world have instituted more stringent environmental policies. As a result, there is an increasing demand for environmental engineers, who will design the technologies to usher in a cleaner environment. And for those who'd like to do work in the environmental field, NJIT has the just program for you: a master’s degree in environmental engineering.

In this interview, Lisa Axe, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, discusses the master’s program. Axe is environmental expert in water quality and sub-surface contamination. She uses sophisticated tools to analyze various ecological risks. She has also developed a method that purifies contaminated sediments, so that they can be reused in the construction industry.


How many classes will it take to get the master's degree?

The program will be based on a nine-month course model, meaning that a full-time student can complete the 10-course program in nine months. But since many students will be working full time and studying part time, we've made the program so that they can take classes at their convenience and work on the degree at their own pace. The program will offer a mix of distance-learning classes and face-to-face classes. So if a student is especially busy at work, he or she can keep up by taking e-learning classes.

What kinds of students might be interested in this master's degree?

A variety of students are likely to be interested in this degree. Those already working in environmental jobs in the New York metropolitan area may want to take it on a part-time basis. These students, who work full time, can take evening classes and distance-learning classes. The program will also appeal to those who can take a year off from work to complete the master’s degree. Students with an undergraduate degree in some other environmental field, such as biology or chemistry, may have a desire, or a career-based need, to get this degree. The program is designed for them as well. It provides an opportunity for them to learn environmental engineering approaches and applications without having to take basic engineering classes.

What kinds of environmental problems will the program focus on? 

The classes offered will focus on the major environmental problems confronting us: water quality, water treatment and infrastructure; integrated site remediation; and multi-disciplinary environmental engineering. All the environmental areas students will study will incorporate an environmental and a biological perspective, coupled with other aspects of environmental technology and science.

Will the master's students focus on the technical side of improving the environment? Or will they also study the policy aspects of environmental science?

This is an environmental engineering program, so students will focus on the technical side of environmental issues. But it is important that they have some context of environmental policy and the history of the environment both here and abroad.

Will students be asked to do research?

This is not a research program, so there are no research requirements other than what might be expected within particular courses. Of course, for students who want to participate in research, they'll have plenty of opportunities.

How is the program structured, in terms of core requirements and electives?

The program is structured so that there are four core courses. And to obtain a specialty, students need to take a minimum of four electives. All students are required to take two courses in business, management, entrepreneurship or similar topics. Core courses include offerings through environmental engineering, environmental science and environmental policy. The goal of the core courses is to give students an understanding of four areas:

  • The natural and industrial ecosystems in which we live, as well as the tools to measure and understand them.
  • The values assigned by society to the environment and the policies and laws established to preserve, protect, manage and restore it.
  •  The roles played by biological organisms in ecological processes, as well as their contributions to environmental technology.
  • The importance of water as a medium and the chemical movements and transformations that occur, and especially how those changes illustrate environmental processes as well as their control and management.

Will students study global warming and how to combat it by, for example, by learning   how to developing alternative fuels?

A key goal of an environmental engineering approach is to solve problems.  Enhancing the skills of the students in solving environmental problems is the program’s goal. Responding to the challenge of global climate change is certainly an important part of today’s environmental problems. An environmental professional today must be able to understand the factors that contribute to environmental challenges and to understand how technology and usage patterns may improve the problems. With regard to global climate change, the contributions of energy consumption and an array of energy alternatives will be discussed. In addition to global climate change, the program will focus on the local, national and global environmental problems that could most effectively be addressed by research and technology that involves a mix of environmental science and engineering policy.

What kinds of jobs might students who graduate from this program get?

In this part of the country, and globally for that matter, the career opportunities are huge. There is currently an unmet job demand in New Jersey for people who are appropriately trained to work in the environmental industry, which is growing so fast.

Our graduates will be work in that industry, which includes consulting firms, state government, federal government, nonprofit agencies, utilities and chemical and pharmaceutical companies.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has identified the 30 fastest growing jobs (CNN, 2006, www.cnn.com/2006/US/Careers/01/26/cb.top.jobs.pay/index.html); topping the list at No. 5 was environmental engineer and No. 10 was hydrologist. And it’s not just that the careers are expanding. More importantly, those lucky enough to work in these careers will be the ones to usher in the new technology that will give us a cleaner environment. What job could be more satisfying than that? 

(by Robert Florida, University Web Services)