Civil engineers are professionals who perform services for public works and infrastructure projects. Engineering actually encompasses several branches, broken down into specialty areas and disciplines, many of which are listed below. Each of those specializations covers some specific types of infrastructure and projects.
Let's take a closer look at civil engineering, the education required, and the different types of engineers that fall under the umbrella of civil engineering.
Civil Engineering Education and Skills
The path to becoming a civil engineer begins with a rigorous curriculum rooted in practical applications of mathematics and science. Civil engineering programs are often selective and competitive, and many who earn a bachelor's degree go on to a master's program where they further develop their skills in specialized areas.
Civil engineers need to have a broad skillset beyond math and science, including problem-solving, decision making, and leadership. A civil engineering graduate typically begins their career as an Engineer-in-Training. Upon passing a national exam and meeting a State’s requirements for work experience under the supervision of a Professional Engineer, they themselves are eligible to be granted the title of Professional Engineer. Civil engineers work with the public, with municipalities, with construction workers, and more. Communication skills are extremely important, as they work in a variety of settings and with multiple teams and individuals.
Specialized Areas of Civil Engineering
Civil engineers can take on a variety of roles within specific branches of the civil engineering field. These branches include:
- Structural Engineering
- Environmental Engineering
- Geotechnical Engineering
- Transportation Engineering
- Water Resource Engineering
- Construction Engineering
- Municipal Engineering
Here's a brief overview of a few of these key subdivisions.
The structural engineering branch of civil engineering includes all structural analysis and the design of structures. They are responsible for analyzing and designing structures that can safely bear loads and resist stress and force. Their designs must satisfy all project specifications and meet all safety requirements. Their structures must be able to withstand natural disasters, environmental conditions, and meet design criteria and codes to ensure public safety.
Projects structural engineers work on include:
- Working with architects to design and construct buildings such as facilities such as wastewater treatment plants and buildings including skyscrapers, apartments, churches, and more
- Designing bridges, tunnels, or overpasses
- Analyzing the effect of wind on structures
- Evaluating how structures react to earthquakes
- Supervising the construction of structures, including houses, commercial buildings, and schools
- Consulting on structural work or repair
Essentially, every structure that is being designed, built, or repaired can use a structural engineer on hand for a variety of purposes.
The environmental engineering branch of civil engineering studies the effects of projects on the environment. Environmental Engineers study and evaluate impacts to cultural resources, noise impacts, threatened and endangered species, water quality, air quality, wetlands, and socio-economic impacts to name a few. Their aim is to identify the environmental impacts of a project and to suggest ways to eliminate or mitigate those impacts. The goal of environmental engineering is to help develop a project that has the least amount of impact on the natural environment.
Example projects environmental engineers would be involved with include:
- Environmental evaluation, such as assessing project impacts to soil and groundwater
- Assessing wetlands and streams through delineation, determination, and categorization to accurately identify impacts
- Designing mitigation plans that eliminate or off-set impacts to environmental resources
- Presenting project implementation options for avoiding impacts to species of concern, including endangered species
- Helping to develop solutions to environmental issues like erosion control, water or air pollution
- Working with districts, cities, or counties to solve stormwater runoff pollution issues
- Coordinating with agency oversight at the local, state, and federal level to most reasonably protect environmental resources and achieve project goals
This division of civil engineering is crucial for long-term, sustainable projects that keep the environment and public health as top priorities.
Transportation engineers plan and manage the construction of transportation facilities. The transportation facilities often include roadways, highways, airports, railways, bicycle/pedestrian paths, waterways, and public transit facilities. These projects can range in size from small road-widening projects to major freeway interchange projects, from pedestrian pathways to multi-lane bridges on a highway.
The following is a list of some of the specialty areas which utilize the services of a transportation civil engineer:
- Highway transportation engineering
- Air transportation engineering
- Waterway transportation engineering
- Aerospace transportation engineering
- Coastal and ocean transportation engineering
- Urban transportation engineering
Example projects that use transportation engineers include:
- Highway or freeway improvements
- Redesigning intersections
- Evaluating stop signs or traffic signals
- Traffic impact analysis
- Developing city-wide traffic plans
There can be some overlap between the types of projects structural and transportation engineers work on, but transportation engineering focuses on the design and implementation of transportation infrastructures that are safe, comfortable, economical, convenient, and environmentally sound.
Water and Wastewater Engineering
Water and Wastewater engineers plan, design, and manage the construction of municipal water supply systems, as well as for wastewater treatment systems. Each type of system is designed to meet industry standards and codes to ensure that drinking water meets public safety requirements and that the discharged water from wastewater treatment systems will not have a negative impact on the environment.
Example projects Water and Wastewater engineers would be involved with include:
- Wastewater studies to determine the best and safest way to collect, treat, and transport blackwater, greywater, and irrigation water
- Working with districts, cities, or counties to develop potable water treatment facilities
Need to bring a civil engineer on board for your project? Interested in learning more about becoming an engineer? Learn more about T-O-Engineers Civil Engineering Experience by contacting us today.