Top Careers in the Field of Civil Engineering

August 19th, 2014 by

You might be an engineerCivil engineering is the study of how to make large construction projects such as roads, skyscrapers, airports or even water treatment facilities. These large-scale projects require a strong knowledge of engineering and physics as well as skills in project management.

Civil engineers have to start with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in the same subject, but after graduation there are plenty of opportunities to branch out and specialize in the engineering of a particular type of structure or a specific type of civil engineering as a whole.

The following are just a few of the most common kinds of civil engineering that you could consider for your own future.

Structural Engineers

Just as the name implies, a structural engineer is responsible for engineering large structures where stability is a primary priority. This might include things like dams or bridges.

A structural engineer has to tackle unique challenges due to the sheer size of their structures. While some civil engineers focus on environmental impact or overall aesthetics, structural engineers have more practical concerns.

The types of buildings and structures created by structural engineers need to be able to withstand hurricane strength winds during storms and bridges need to be able to withstand heavy semi-trucks crossing over them.

Skyscrapers need to be durable enough to handle earthquakes and tornadoes as well as torrential downpours and certain weight limits.

Because of these practical constraints, structural engineers deal with the physics of construction, and they rely on advanced software programs and applications to help them determine which materials will best serve the purpose of their buildings.

Structural engineers may work for private real estate development corporations, but they are also often employed by local and state governments who are building airports, public bridges or military structures like aircraft carriers.

Transportation Engineers

The job of a transportation engineer is to design, create and update the kinds of structures and systems that help people and goods get from one place to another.

Transportation engineers might work to build extensive road systems in a city, build new airports so that they can handle as many planes and passengers at a time as possible or build harbors that can easily handle cruise ships as well as ships carrying cargo.

For transportation engineers, the focus is all about efficiency. While the look of a highway or airport or harbor might be of some interest, it is primarily about getting the job done.

Passengers are much more interested in how easy it is to get out of the airport, generally speaking, than they are about the view of the structure from the air.

Transportation engineers need to be able to appreciate the big picture and focus on dozens or even hundreds of elements that can influence the overall efficiency of their designs.

Materials Engineers

Materials engineers are tasked with determining which raw and synthetic materials are the best choice for various structures. In designing a highway, for example, there are several different materials that could be used in construction.

Materials engineers need to price and source the materials and calculate how much needs to be used in order to have a secure and stable final product. In the construction of a road, the ground needs to be properly compacted and then materials like ground glass or even reinforced steel are placed below the concrete or asphalt, all of which work together to ensure that potholes in the road don’t occur after just a few months of heavy use.

Materials engineers may have to determine the environmental impact of some of their materials as well as apply for permits to start these large projects. Materials engineers can work for private businesses, but those involved in infrastructure like roads will typically be contracted by the state, county or federal governments in their work.

Environmental Engineers

Tasked with helping the environment and protecting our natural resources, environmental engineers definitely have an important job. One of the most common jobs of an environmental engineer is the purification of water.

Although water is abundant in many destinations around the globe, contaminated or saline water is not safe to drink. Environmental engineers might spend their time creating water treatment plants, which involves orchestrating the collection of water, the treatment of it and then the transport of the clean water to homes and businesses throughout the region.

Environmental engineers can also handle jobs like treating the air to reduce pollution, designing purification systems that can be used in factories, or developing tests to ensure that groundwater is unharmed by construction or manufacturing in the surrounding areas. Environmental engineers work hard to ensure that residents have access to clean air and water.

They may be employed by government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency or they might work for companies who need to meet environmental regulations.

Geotechnical Engineers

When most people think about what civil engineers do, they picture structures that, for the most part, stand above ground. However, the job of a geotechnical engineer is to focus on what is below the ground.

Geotechnical engineers are responsible for supporting the structures that get built, and that includes things like compacting the earth, determining how thick a foundation needs to be and what weight the building can be without sinking into the ground over time.

The primary task for geotechnical engineers is the stabilization of soil, which can erode over time, be compacted due to the heavy weight of certain materials and be blown away in heavy winds or storms.

Geotechnical engineers work in the field to collect soil samples and study the local climate, but they may also work in labs to experiment with various arrangements before construction ever begins on a building.

Civil engineering is a vast field, and it is one that contains a number of different careers, each a little different from the last. Whether you want to become a geotechnical engineer, an environmental engineer, a materials engineer, a transportation engineer or a structural engineer, earning a bachelor’s degree is the first step. After graduation, there are a variety of different positions that you can explore within the interesting field of civil engineering. Discover you options to earn the degree of your choice at

About the Author:

Sandy Davis

Sandy Davis is a long-time educator who holds a Master’s Degree in Education, having taught English, writing, and communication on the secondary and college levels. With ten years of experience in blogging, social media and content management, she is a freelance writer and content marketing specialist for a diverse range of clients.

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