Have You Ever Wanted to Build the World’s Tallest Building?
How about the longest bridge? What if you could be the person who figured out how to span the continent with an interconnected transit system, which allowed people to travel from New York to Los Angeles without a single stop light? The world of Civil Engineering is a world of creating things that others say can’t be created, making the structures that define our modern world.
Other than military engineering, civil engineering is the oldest engineering discipline in the world, with a history that goes back over 4,000 years. The royal engineers of Pharaoh’s court devised the pyramids of Egypt as a final resting place for their king. Since then, civil engineers have created structures which have marveled the world; everything from the Great Wall of China, to the Colosseum in Italy, to the Taj Majal in India to the pyramid of Chichen Itza, Mexico. In fact, all seven of the Wonders of the World were designed and created by civil engineers.
Today’s civil engineers face the challenge of creating structures which at times seen to defy gravity, defy engineering science and even defy logic. Yet, these amazing structures are firmly based in scientific principle; seeming to bend scientific laws to meet the needs of the architect.
While an architect may come up with a design concept, it is the structural engineer who makes it possible. Take the Bird’s Nest for example; the stadium built in Beijing, China for the 2008 Olympic Games. This incredible building seems to be a structural impossibility, with girders running all around it, forming a design which looks very much like its name. Yet, these curved beams support the entire stadium, providing seating for 100,000 fans to watch the athletes perform in this 258,000 square meter facility.
Civil engineering doesn’t end with creating elaborate buildings, though. It can be broken down into a number of other disciplines, which deal with transportation, urban design, water resources, earthquakes, the environment and coastal areas. These specialties and more cover every area of the environment in which we work and live.
Occupational Outlook for Civil Engineers
According to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities for civil engineers is on the upswing, with an expected increase of 24% in the ten year period of 2008 to 2018. As of 2010, the average pay for civil engineers was $82,280. If you are looking for a well paying career with a secure future, there are few fields that offer as much potential as civil engineering.
As mankind strives to build bigger buildings, utilizing living and working space better, civil engineers will face new challenges in making structures which are stronger, more resistant to natural disaster and have greater capacities. This is a growing field, where the challenges are increasing as mankind stretches the envelope of our existing materials science.
Becoming a Civil Engineer
Civil engineering students like all other types of engineering students, study math and science extensively. The vast majority of what civil engineers do is a combination of materials science and physics. A civil engineering student studies to receive their Bachelor of Engineering or Bachelor of Science degree.
Once civil engineers enter the workplace, they don’t stop their engineering studies. Most go on to become certified as Professional Engineers (PE), which requires experience and testing. A civil engineer without this certification is limited in their authority. The PE license allows them the authority to sign off on all projects within their professional specialty.
There are a number of technical specialties within the realm of Civil Engineering, these include:
Structural engineering – creating the structural elements of design, whether for bridges, or skyscrapers. Probably the oldest single specialty in civil engineering, going all the way back to Pharaoh’s pyramids.
Geotechnical engineering – concerned with the rock and soil which supports the structures that other civil engineers design.
Environmental engineering – designing systems for the treatment of chemical, biological and thermal wastes.
Materials engineering – these are the experts on the various materials which other civil engineers use for their projects.
Water resource engineering – concerned with the collection and management of water. Some of the earliest known civil engineers were the Roman engineers who created the aqueducts.
Earthquake engineering – a specialty dealing with creating buildings and other structures which can withstand the stresses of earthquakes without falling.
Coastal engineering – managing the coastal areas of our country, including marshlands. Coastal engineers create defenses against flooding and erosion.
Engineering knowledge has increased through the years to where each of these specialties needs its own training. Although all of these are considered part of civil engineering, each of these specialties is its own vast area of knowledge, requiring dedicated, talented individuals who want to learn and grow.
Being a civil engineering is satisfying, yet challenging work. It requires mixing creativity and science; something that not everyone can do. Yet, for those who can, it provides incredible satisfaction, as they see the results of their labors.