The first Homo sapiens who put a bunch of sticks together to get a roof over their heads were, in a way, civil engineers. Today’s civil engineers have more responsibility than ever. They build skyscrapers that reach thousands of feet in the air. They hang suspension bridges that support tons of cars and trucks each day. They create water systems that support millions of city dwellers. If you study civil engineering, you’ll learn what you need to know to work on the projects that make modern life possible.
Civil engineering majors learn how to use math and science to design big construction projects. Topics covered include the calculation of how much weight a structure will hold and the environmental issues that surround construction.
“I love civil engineering because it is a field with a fascinating balance between the certainty of science and the uncertainty of the natural environment.”Keith D. Hjelmstad, Professor and Associate Head, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Are You Ready To...?
- Join a club such as the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) or the Society of Women Engineers
- Choose a concentration, such as structural engineering or geotechnology
- Do a summer internship or six-month co-op
- Complete a senior design project
- Work as part of a team
- Spend hours and hours working on problem sets and design projects
It Helps To Be...
A problem-solver who’s creative, curious, logical, and a fan of math. Civil engineers work on big projects, so it helps to be patient and willing to see things through to the end.
- Is the department accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology?
- Is there a combined bachelor’s/master’s degree program?
- What are the labs like? Is there enough space for everyone to get their work done?
- Will the department help you find internships?
- Is there a chapter of ASCE on campus?
- Where are recent grads working now?
“Civil engineering allows you to think and be creative … We get to solve problems and projects that seem impossible at first, but when they’re completed, it’s so cool.” -- Cindy, junior, civil and environmental engineering, UC Berkeley
You’ll spend a lot of time working on word problems that test your understanding of civil engineering with real-world examples. You’ll be told about a situation, and then asked to decide which theories will help solve it, which information is important, and what other information would be helpful.
Sometimes, you’ll solve a problem with a group or compare ideas with other students after working a problem out on your own. That way, you’ll get a taste of life in the workplace, where engineers often work in teams.