Everything you see around you that is man-made is a product of civil engineering. It’s the buildings, roads, and railways that make up our cities, as well as the infrastructure below ground such as plumbing and power cables.
We may take many of these things for granted daily, but we cannot live without them. In this article, we will cover all the basics of civil engineering and how to get training in the field either in person or with online courses.
Civil engineers design the world from concept to completion. Learn all about the fascinating subject of civil engineering by following our guide.
What Is Civil Engineering?
A civil engineer’s work is never done. As mentioned earlier, these people help society by “engineering” and designing concepts that fit within the confines of society and that help people from all walks of life. They work to improve towns and cities for their residents.
The types of projects they work on can include:
- Commercial buildings
- Treatment systems
What Subjects Do You Study to Become a Civil Engineer?
You must decide which subjects you enjoy most while you are still in school. Knowing where your strengths and weaknesses lie early on will save you from taking an unnecessary higher education path and from wasting money.
If you are analytical and enjoy designing and creating plans in the office as well as supervising on building sites, you might be cut out for civil engineering. The primary subjects listed below will help get you closer to this career.
- Geography. Understanding the physical aspects of the world both in practice and in theory will help you to gain an in-depth understanding of structural materials.
- Design and technology. Studying these subjects will help you become a creative problem solver.
- Art. Having a flair for creativity and design will help an engineer formulate their ideas.
- Mathematics. Mathematical theories are one of the fundamentals of engineering.
- Physics. Similar to mathematics, physics is also central to civil engineering. You will be able to solve problems better if you understand these concepts.
- Computer skills. To become an expert in civil engineering, you should know your way around the digital applications and computer programs used in the industry.
It is a good idea to do some further research on websites such as Universities and Colleges Admissions Services before you decide which educational institution offers the best engineering courses.
Types of Civil Engineers
Like most professions, there are a few subcategories of civil engineering. Let’s look at some of these branches below to help you choose which area you might like to specialize in.
As the name implies, coastal engineers are responsible primarily for managing coastal areas. They manage projects involving “sea defense,” which entails putting in place a structure to defend against flooding and erosion. If a piece of infrastructure needs to be constructed near the coast, a coastal engineer will oversee the process.
Challenges include natural calamities such as storms, tsunamis, tides, and waves. Environmental conditions must be taken into consideration with each coastal structure. A coastal engineer’s tasks include land reclamation, coastal defense, environmental impact assessments, and providing input.
This profession deals mainly with designing, planning, and constructing infrastructures such as tunnels, bridges, roads, and dams. The majority of the time, it focuses on practical projects and tasks.
During their studies, civil engineering students mostly focus on design work and analysis, while construction engineering students focus on construction and management.
They too are problem solvers and aim to create an infrastructure that meets the needs of the population using their unique perspective and critical thinking. They must also have a keen understanding of the lifespans of various pieces of infrastructure.
Sometimes called “sanitary engineers,” environmental engineers deal mainly with thermal, biological, and chemical waste treatment. They also help to purify water and air supply systems and remediate polluted sites after accidental contamination.
Thus, when looking through some of the best engineering careers to go for, this would be right on top of that list. It applies aspects of both science and engineering to improve natural ecosystems, protecting humans and the environment.
There are also many subsectors of this profession, including water purification, air pollution control, wastewater treatment, and hazardous materials management and recycling.
When structures are being built, someone needs to make sure the ground they are being built on is stable. Those whose job it is to oversee the rock and soil supporting the infrastructure are known as geotechnical engineers.
They are knowledgeable in soil science, mechanics, hydraulics, and materials science. Unlike predictable materials such as concrete and steel, the soil is erratic and geotechnical engineers must protect groundwater and landfills from any damage.
Engineering careers such as these are not stand-alone. Rather, you will get to work with those who are accomplishing their careers in the environmental science fields such as the soil scientists and geologists who will help you expand your research in their field.
Materials Science and Engineering
This intriguing sub-category of civil engineering combines principles of physics, engineering, and chemistry to help solve global problems. The discipline focuses mostly on energy, manufacturing, biotechnology, and nanotechnology.
These engineers create materials that improve structure. They look into how functional material is and why some materials perform better than others. Material engineers are the ones who step in when we require advanced materials to manufacture products such as faster computers or safer cars.
Learning Civil Engineering
Luckily, if you’re keen on directing your efforts toward a career in civil engineering, there are several opportunities for you to do so and the more knowledge you gain in this field, the more expandable you become when working at any company.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Civil Engineer?
Those looking to become a civil engineer must complete a four-year bachelor’s degree. If you feel like carrying on toward a master’s degree, it will likely take an extra two years. According to data from 2012, one in every five civil engineers held a master’s degree, and the majority of them were in either leadership roles.
You could also choose to earn a doctoral-level degree, which would put you on a path toward a consulting or teaching role at the college level.
After graduating with your civil engineering degree, you must pass an exam to become what is called an engineer-in-training. If you’re preparing for your test, make sure to check out the practice tests and resources available online, which we will discuss further below.
How to Become A Civil Engineer: Step-by-Step
If you’re keen on building and shaping the world around you, you should consider a career in one of the civil engineering fields, such as construction or environmental engineering.
Whether your goal is to work in the public or the private sector, you can achieve your goal by following these steps.
- Attend an engineering event. Attending an open day event at a university or job center is a good idea if you want to make certain that an engineering career is right for you. The Institution of Civil Engineers holds events throughout the year, so be sure to check their calendar.
- Create a plan. As with most professions, you will need to have the right qualifications for the job. For aspiring engineers, studying at a university is a popular option. Alternatively, you could enroll in some of the thousands of courses offered online, or even join an apprenticeship at a company.
- Study for your master’s. A postgraduate degree will be helpful in this field. You can either combine your undergrad and the postgrad degree to save time or complete them separately. Either way, there are tons of online sources out there to help you find the right master’s degree program for you.
- Join a professional body. Several institutions provide civil engineering students and apprentices with free memberships.
- Land the job. Once you have completed the relevant courses and received your degrees and certifications, you can start getting hands-on experience. Join an apprenticeship program or apply for part-time or full-time work.
The Best Civil Engineering Courses and Training
As an engineering student in college, you would initially take foundational courses before advancing to more specialized courses such as fluid dynamics and engineering, or analysis and mechanics of engineering.
However, the online courses listed below will allow you to skip over some of the basic courses and get straight into learning about civil engineering.
Best Online Civil Engineering Courses
Below are the top online learning platforms you should consider as you explore the field of civil engineering and its many subsectors.
- Prerequisites: None
- Time: Varies
- Price: From $11.99
Udemy’s variety of engineering courses could help you land your dream job. Take one of the courses above to learn more about structural analysis, distribution methods, and road bridge mechanics. Whether you are looking to brush up on your skills or are just starting to learn about civil engineering, there is something for everyone.
- Prerequisites: None
- Time: From 1 to 10 hours
- Price: Varies (First month free)
Explore an entire library of civil engineering courses offered by lynda.com, all of which have been divided into chapters and contain short individual videos for further learning. The above-chosen ones focus on both the theoretical and practical sides of each. Learn how to use industry-leading software, discover how to enhance and optimize roads in InfraWorks, and the fundamentals of civil construction projects all in one seating.
- Time: From 45 mins
- Prerequisites: None
- Price: Varies (First month free)
Navigate through these online courses, including some that use 3D CAD software, to learn everything from using intersection objects to working with alignments, managing figures, and creating and grading objects. LinkedIn makes civil engineering design software AutoCAD exciting and accessible.
- Time: 2 months
- Prerequisites: None
- Price: Varies
Get on your way toward a master’s degree in civil engineering via this online portal. EdX provides a selection of educational approaches to civil engineering, including programs designed for experienced engineering professionals who are looking to gain new skills.
- Time: 2 to 11 weeks
- Prerequisites: None
- Price: From $13.99
Join thousands of other budding civil engineers taking these free online courses by the massive open online course provider Class Central. The platform offers courses in conjunction with some of the world’s top universities. Learn about anything from geographical engineering to waste management or 3D CAD applications.
Accreditation Boards That Offer Certifications
Many accreditation boards offer certifications in civil engineering and its subcategories.
Areas of specialty, include building construction, transportation and water control, land management, and geotechnical engineering. There are five common areas of certification, including general certificate, undergraduate, graduate, postgraduate and advanced certifications.
Some of the well-known institutions providing these certificates include:
- The National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET)
- The CPD Certification Service
- American Society of Certified Engineering Technicians
- Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE)
- American Academy of Water Resources Engineers
- American Academy of Environmental Engineers
- Council of Engineering and Scientific Specialty Boards (CESB)
- National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE)
- Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET)
Best Civil Engineering Books
There are plenty of ways to learn about civil engineering if you don’t want to take courses or training online. Perhaps you are more of a bookworm, in which case the literature below might be of interest.
If you’re concerned about where your water is coming from and want to be better informed, this is the book for you.
The author provides a comprehensive introduction to many aspects of geographical, cultural, regulatory, and scientific issues that correlate with water pollution control and quality. If you want to learn the basic scientific principles of these concepts, this is a great place to start.
This practical timber design guide discusses the fundamental concepts of designing structures using this accessible natural material. The book is ideal for construction engineers and is based on real-world design issues. It provides detailed descriptions of all the processes involved in building with wood.
This book will help you to prepare for your civil engineering assessments. It includes case studies, theoretical principles, and other valuable industry information.
Should You Study Civil Engineering?
Given the fact that civil engineering involves the construction of everything we see around us, you may have thought about entering the field. This fascinating subject will become even more intriguing when you understand how to solve infrastructure problems around you or help improve the environment for future generations.
The course information and resources above are a great place to start. Tap into all that is available to you online as you take it one step at a time, combining practical and theoretical knowledge.
We hope this article has provided you with some valuable information in the field of civil engineering and has helped point you in the direction of a successful future.