From the inside of our homes to massive skyscrapers and from small public parks to national space programs, civil engineers work to create the built environment while also shaping the natural environment. Integrating both the hard sciences and esthetics, civil engineers work at the leading edge of engineering to make our lives more efficient, more convenient, and more enjoyable. Civil engineering (‘civil’ as in ‘not military’, not ‘civil’ as in ‘polite’!) has a considerably long history, second only to military engineering, and we encounter the work of civil engineers in almost every aspect of our daily lives. Without civil engineers, our cities would develop in chaos; we would have to drive on make-shift roads; and no person would have ever walked on the moon.
Due to the broad range of work that civil engineers do, they often choose to specialize within the field. Some specialties include Control Engineering (for space flight), Environmental Engineering, and Forensic Engineering. There are many others – far too many to list here. However, if you have a love of science and the desire to apply that knowledge to make the world a better place, you will likely find your skills in high demand. Unlike other fields such as medicine where students need to complete a terminal degree before they begin working, civil engineers progress up a career ladder that starts right after finishing their bachelor’s degree. After that, civil engineers begin working in order to gain their licensure. In addition, licensing bodies typically recognize certifications from one another, allowing civil engineers to work across borders.
After you have gained some work experience, you will probably want to pursue graduate studies in civil engineering. Graduate programs are typically more focused than ones for undergraduate, so picking the right school for your specialty is particularly important. The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and Iowa State University have excellent graduate programs for Materials Science. Unsurprisingly, the University of California at Berkeley has the top program in Earthquake Engineering. If you’re interested in Environmental Engineering, you might want to consider Georgia Institute of Technology or Florida Institute of Technology (FIT). FIT’s rigorous training, combined with its dedication to personalized attention, make it a stand-out among engineering schools.
Whether your career in civil engineering takes you to the depths of the earth or the far reaches of outer space, the tradition of civil engineering as a field offers numerous opportunities and the ability to move up steadily as you improve your knowledge and experience. It is an exciting career that is always pushing the envelope to make for better societies and improved quality of life for local and global citizens.