Career in Civil Engineering

In summary, the conversation discusses the individual's interest in majoring in civil engineering, potentially combining it with their love for physics and interest in environmental engineering. They also express a desire to do research in the field, but question the availability of research opportunities for those without a PhD. The conversation also mentions the variability of the civil engineering field and the potential for more monotonous work in project management. It concludes with the importance of pursuing a field that is personally interesting and fulfilling.
  • #1
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Hello all. I'm going off to college this summer (yah!), and I'm planning on majoring in civil. I'm interested in the environment (I was considering environmental engineering for a while), but I also love physics and I thought civil would be a good combination. However, it seems like a career in civil would be less focused on the sciences than other fields (like mechanical), and more focused on the corporate world -- I really don't want something like this:

Ideally, I want to get into research, like say analyzing fluid flow around the shore and figuring out what kinds of structures would mitigate the effect of floods (just an example). I want to learn new concepts in science into my career. How possible would it be to do stuff like that going into civil?

(I'm going to Stony Brook, by the way, and since it is big on research, that might make a difference).
 
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  • #2
person123 said:
I really don't want something like this:
Unfortunately I don't think there's much running away from situations like that, regardless of your field. And sometimes it gets even worse the more "experts" you have in the room.
 
  • #3
My father (now retired) was a Civil Engineer who designed wastewater treatment plants and did flood mitigation and simulation. He used to joke around that most of the technology he used was invented during the Roman Empire (he was exaggerating, of course) and he would tell me to be a Civil Engineer you only need to know two things: 1. Water flows downhill (except uphill towards money), and 2. You can't push a rope.

He's a funny guy.

A lot of Civil Engineer is focused on practice, large public work projects and a lot of project management type stuff. There are some very interesting developments in Civil Engineering research (e.g. "green" concrete, using wetlands for wasterwater treatment, etc.) but unless you get a PhD and go into research you'll probably end up doing project management and filling out Gantt Charts (like my Dad did). In all honest me hearing about his work over the years pushed me to Electrical Engineering.
 
  • #4
The Civil field is quite varied...environmental, structural, transportation, geology, green design, etc...not much for research unless you go for a PhD...mechanical engineering might be a better choice for fluid flow courses...I am a civil structural and enjoy it..i'm not a research guy.. I focus on the basics and apply it in all sorts of ways...maybe not for you, though. Civil is probably the easiest of the major engineering disciplines, and pay scales are a bit below the others.
 
  • #5
Thanks for the advice.

Do you know if in general research is only really available for engineers after getting a PhD, or is this something particularly true for civil engineers?

It is quite a long way in the future, so I think I'm going to make my decision for major mainly based on what's offered at my college, in which case I'm pretty set on civil (the courses seem more interesting). Later in life, research would be nice, but I guess what I really want is something which challenges me and isn't too monotonous (the gantt charts do seem kind of dull). I really don't care about pay.
 
  • #6
person123 said:
Do you know if in general research is only really available for engineers after getting a PhD, or is this something particularly true for civil engineers?

For the most part, yeah, research is *mostly* limited to PhD engineers. This is for the practical reason is that you spend years getting trained to perform research during your PhD studies so the company can just take advantage of this without paying to train someone.

I do research for a bit more that 50% of my time and I can tell you in my organization most of the other researchers have PhDs (not all, but most). There are plenty of BS and MS engineers here but they mostly support the research staff. For example, they would design boards and test stands, supervise students to carry out testing and so on. Still very interesting work but to move the state of the art in research you need to have a deep command of a narrow field, and you learn how to acquire that while you earn you PhD.

You'll be far happier doing something you find interesting, so studying Civil sounds like a great plan. There are some interesting design jobs out there, but beware of working for a county or city government (or utility) because you often become a project manager for the consultants hired to do the actual work. The trade off there is you have a secure job and the consultants are always scrambling for their next project.
 
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1. What is civil engineering?

Civil engineering is a branch of engineering that deals with the design, construction, and maintenance of the built environment, including roads, bridges, buildings, and other infrastructure. It involves the application of mathematics, science, and technology to create safe, sustainable, and efficient structures and systems.

2. What are the job responsibilities of a civil engineer?

Civil engineers are responsible for planning, designing, and overseeing the construction of various structures and systems. This includes conducting site investigations, analyzing data, creating blueprints and construction plans, managing budgets and resources, and ensuring that projects comply with regulations and safety standards. They also oversee the maintenance and repair of existing infrastructure.

3. What skills are required for a career in civil engineering?

Some of the essential skills for a career in civil engineering include strong analytical and problem-solving abilities, attention to detail, proficiency in math and science, excellent communication and teamwork skills, and the ability to use CAD software and other technical tools. Additionally, time management, project management, and leadership skills are also important for success in this field.

4. What education and training are needed to become a civil engineer?

To become a civil engineer, you will need a bachelor's degree in civil engineering or a related field. Many employers also prefer candidates with a master's degree in civil engineering or a specialized area of the field. In addition to formal education, civil engineers often participate in internships or co-op programs to gain practical experience. They may also need to obtain a professional license, which requires passing a licensure exam and meeting other requirements set by the state.

5. What job opportunities are available in the field of civil engineering?

Civil engineering offers a wide range of job opportunities in various sectors, including construction, transportation, water resources, environmental engineering, and geotechnical engineering. Some common job titles in this field include civil engineer, structural engineer, transportation engineer, environmental engineer, and construction manager. With experience and further education, civil engineers can also advance to higher positions, such as project manager, senior engineer, or consultant.

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