Trends in Population and Demographics of U.S. Environmental Engineering Students and Faculty from 2005 to 2013

Lee Blaney, Ramanitharan Kandiah, Joel J. Ducoste, Judith A. Perlinger, Shannon L. Bartelt-Hunt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Although modern environmental engineering was established in the mid 1900s, the field has arguably evolved into its own professional discipline only in the past 3-4 decades. During this time, the number of environmental engineering students, faculty, and practitioners has grown dramatically, and many environmental engineering BS degree programs were established. To better assess this growth, we have conducted an analysis of the demographics of environmental engineering students and faculty using the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Engineering Data Management System. One limitation of the ASEE database is that only students and faculty primarily associated with environmental engineering degrees and programs, respectively, are counted; therefore, students and faculty related to environmental engineering tracks within civil and chemical engineering programs are excluded from this analysis. From 2005 to 2013, the number of BS, MS, and PhD degrees awarded rose by 90%, 27%, and 39%, respectively; furthermore, these growth rates exceeded those of civil and chemical engineering at all levels. As a consequence, the BS student-to-faculty ratio rose from 8 in 2005 to 35 in 2013. Hispanic American, African American, and Native American students are underrepresented in environmental engineering programs at all levels. Representation and retention of African American students is particularly concerning, since this group exhibited negative retention trends from the 2006 to 2010 BS cohorts. Gender demographics were reasonably representative with 46% of all environmental engineering degrees awarded to women in 2013. Some gains were found in representation of ethnic and racial minorities and women in environmental engineering faculty at the associate professor level. Minimal gains were observed at the assistant professor rank. However, 88% of full professors are Caucasian, and 85% are men. These findings suggest that increased efforts are needed to recruit and retain students from underrepresented groups to environmental engineering and encourage them to pursue careers in academia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)578-590
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Engineering Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2016


  • assessment
  • demographics
  • diversity
  • innovations in environmental education
  • outreach

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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