Connecting Global Climate Change with Engineering


We need young people… a smart kid coming out of school, instead of wanting to be an investment banker, we need them to decide if they want to be an engineer, they want to be a scientist, they want to be a doctor or a teacher."

— President Barack Obama (2009)

It is important to introduce students to engineering career opportunities while they are participating in engineering activities as part of their science curriculum.

We know from pedagogic research that the best way to encourage students to consider STEM careers is to allow them to see themselves in those positions. Examine these resources to determine if any of them would be appealing to your students:

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Career Profiles in Engineering:

Investigate the website O*NET Online for specific STEM careers. Students can choose a STEM career, look at a description of the tasks involved in that job, the tools and technology used, the education required, the median wages and employment outlook.

Career Profile: Engineers

What can an engineer do, related to climate change?

There are as many possibilities, as there are inventions—from conducting research assessing past climate and current climate change, to modeling and preparing for future climate impacts.

What can students do to prepare for a career in engineering?

Climate scientist Steve Vavrus, University of Wisconsin-Madison, makes the following suggestions:

Try to become as knowledgeable about a really wide range of topics that bear on climate. It's so interdisciplinary. You may be really interested in one topic, say meteorology, but if you want a career in climate science, you need to broaden yourself and learn about other related aspects of climate such as geology, biology, history, economics, and engineering. Computer programming experiences is helpful. Learn more math. It always comes in handy! (2011)

What about after high school?

A bachelor's degree in an Earth science is needed for entry-level positions. Some companies prefer applicants with master's degrees. A doctorate is required for college teaching and for some research positions.

Compensation and outlook:

The average annual salary for environmental scientists is $71,600. Nationally, employment of environmental scientists is expected to increase by 28% between 2008 and 2018. An Internet search for the "best jobs" will provide more information about engineering careers—in 2010, environmental engineering was rated in the top five!

How can you use the engineering design process and today's climate issues to inspire students into an engineering career?

Global Climate Change Modules

Online Professional Development

PBS Teacherline

PBS TeacherLine, the premier provider of online professional development services for PreK-12 educators, has the goal of making professional development accessible, affordable and engaging for teachers. Our hope is that our courses can help inspire and guide STEM learning at every age and in every discipline.

Integrate science and mathematics learning with technology and the engineering design process to investigate solutions to real-world problems with our STEM courses.

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