Civil Engineering, General  Program Description


Insider Info

dotEverything from sewage treatment to highway construction falls under the banner of civil engineering. It's a broad program with a number of specialty areas.

A civil engineering program should expose you to all the different branches of the profession. However, some programs allow you to specialize.

Civil engineering has several major subspecialties:

  • Structural engineering: buildings and bridges
  • Transportation engineering: highways and subways
  • Geotechnical engineering: soil and rock mechanics
  • Environmental engineering: protecting the environment from human activity
  • Municipal engineering: sewage treatment and city roads

According to engineering professor Murat Saatcioglu, there is an increased emphasis on environmental engineering because of concerns for the environment. "Many civil engineering departments even changed their names to civil and environmental engineering."

James McKinney is chair of civil engineering at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Indiana. He says that while it is possible to specialize at the bachelor's level, he recommends students wait until the master's level. "It is important that the student obtain a sound foundation in all of the areas that make up civil engineering," he says.

"Engineering is a very rigorous undergraduate program requiring significant effort on the part of the student."

At the graduate level, there are lots of options for specializations. Marc Hoita is a civil engineering professor at the University of Florida. He says his school offers master's degrees in structures, geotechnical, hydraulic, materials, public works, construction management transportation and geomatics (surveying and mapping).

Eldo Hildebrand works with a civil engineering department. He says that high school students should prepare early for an engineering program. "This includes math [up to pre-calculus or calculus], chemistry and physics. Any technology courses are also beneficial. English is critical in order to be able to communicate ideas," he says.

Hoita says that interpersonal skills are just as important as knowledge of math and physics.

The main costs are tuition and books.


Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Engineers

Internet Resources for Civil and Environmental Engineering
Check out these civil engineering connections

Civil Engineering news, landmark database and local guides

Just the Facts

Want a quick overview of what this program is about? Check out Just the Facts for a simple description.