Civil engineers design and oversee the construction of large infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, buildings, and water treatment systems. To succeed in this field, one must possess knowledge and experience in a number of disciplines, including mathematics, the physical sciences, engineering, and business.
Civil engineering draws on disciplines like mathematics, physics, chemistry, statistics, and geology. Many schools offer "engineering" versions of classes in these subjects. Students in a civil engineering program learn about materials, mechanics, and engineering design. They also learn to use engineering tools like computer-aided design software.
Students in master's degree programs choose coursework based on the specialization they choose. Following are some examples of degree concentrations and the coursework they offer:
Degree programs in civil engineering often require students to complete capstone projects and portfolio presentations. Some master's degree programs also require students to complete a thesis. Online programs handle these requirements in different ways. Students in some programs work on collaborative projects and present portfolios and capstone projects to faculty through the Internet. Other programs require students to visit campus to present these projects in person. Research the graduation requirements of the schools offering these programs and pick one that best meets your needs.
Another consideration to make when choosing a program is accreditation. Employers and licensing agencies typically hire and accept only civil engineers who have graduated from a program that is accredited by ABET.
Civil engineers may work for architectural and engineering firms or for government agencies designing and oveseeing large construction projects. Employment in this field is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2020.
Engineers who have completed a bachelor's degree and have four or more years of experience in the field may sit for the PE exam to become licensed as a professional engineer (PE). Licensing standards differ by state, but earning the PE title is a requirement for many civil engineering jobs and can help advance one's career. Organizations such as the National Society of Professional Engineers and the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying help engineers prepare to earn their PE license.