Civil Engineering Areas of Study

Civil Engineering includes multiple related areas of study grouped into six subdisciplines. As a working professional you may be a generalist, or you may specialize in one of the areas. Subdisciplines include:

  • Construction Engineering involves all of the steps necessary to physically construct a project design. This involves planning, scheduling, bidding, contract administration, cost estimation, management of the construction crews, procuring materials, managing the budget, making changes, settling claims, and finally turning the project over to the client. In addition, project management in construction involves oversight of the quality and safety plans for all operations. These diverse functions must be monitored throughout the construction phase to ensure that actual operations and costs align with what was planned. Finally, where there are errors, delays or issues, the project manager must make changes in a timely fashion to keep the project on track.
  • Environmental Engineering includes providing safe drinking water, properly managing wastewater, the remediation of contaminated sites or brownfields, the design of solid waste management systems and the control of air emissions from any type of facility. Providing safe drinking water requires the development of water supplies including underground aquifers or surface water sources such as lakes, rivers or manmade reservoirs.
  • Geotechnical Engineering is the study and design of soil and rock foundations for structures such as buildings or bridges. These foundations may be shallow concrete pads or deep pilings depending on the characteristics of the soil. Alternatively, geotechnical engineers may use soil and rock as a building material for projects such as highway roadbeds, earthen dams, levees and highway overpasses. 
  • Structural Engineering designs the structures that enclose or span across space while safely withstanding a variety of loads such as the weight of the structure and occupants, wind, and earthquakes.  Structural engineers primarily design the “skeleton” (also known as structural frame) that will support these structures in the same way that your skeleton supports you muscles and organs. 
  • Transportation Engineering involves the movement of people or goods from one place to another. Examples are roads, railroads, airports, and port facilities. Transportation engineers model and plan transportation demands and networks to ensure adequate capacity and also design the physical structures reequired to implement the networks such as roads, intersections, and ports. 
  • Water Resources Engineering includes managing water quantity and water quality to meet the water needs of humanity and habitats at the local, regional, national or international level. This requires analysis and design water distribution systems such as rivers, canals pipelines, culverts, ground water wells, and water storage systems such as reservoirs, retention-detention ponds and aquifers. 
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