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Grad Program: Civil Engineering

Basic Information

Are you interested in the design of structures (from skyscrapers to sports stadiums, bridges), construction engineering, reliability and random processes, soil mechanics, fluid mechanics, hydrogeology, continuum mechanics, finite element methods, computational mechanics, experimental mechanics, acoustics, vibrations and dynamics, earthquake engineering or any combination thereof? Then this might be the field for you. At root, civil engineers are the folks who make the things around us work; for this reason, the discipline requires an unusual combination of imagination and practicality.

In today’s world, civil engineers have some wonderful opportunities to do highly exciting and important work. One area that is particularly essential right now is infrastructure. Many cities (and towns) have infrastructure that has hardly changed since its original design, sometimes many decades ago. Civil engineers are needed both to help revamp infrastructure, and even to protect existing infrastructure from terrorists.

Another interesting new issue in Civil Engineering concerns environmental conservation. Are we going to run out of water? How do we deal with structures and systems that were put in place before current awareness of ecological risk? How do we build structures and systems that will not drain resources? What sort of development is sustainable and what isn’t?

On a more microcosmic level, civil engineers are needed in the design of recording studios and concert halls, of earth-quake-proof homes and schools, of the way to build the best and most efficient sinks, toys, and tennis balls. Of course, there are designers and architects who do a lot of this work as well, and sometimes it is hard to tell where one job ends and an engineer’s work begins. The easiest way to think of it is this: the designers and architects come up with the ideas, and do as much as possible to ensure that these ideas will actually work. Then the civil engineer steps in to ensure that the design will, sometimes literally, hold water.

Degree Information

More than a third of the people who earn bachelor’s degrees in civil engineering go on to pursue a graduate degree in the field. The typical master’s degree in Civil Engineering will take a year to earn, while a doctorate can take much longer. As with other engineering fields, qualified female applicants are in high demand in the workforce.

Master of Science (M.S.) programs in the field of Civil Engineering include the following specialties: Construction Engineering, Hydrosystems Engineering, Structural Engineering, and Transportation Engineering.

Doctorate programs are mainly for those individuals who aspire to teach at the university level or to engage in some serious research and development work. The doctoral degree typically conferred is either a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering or a Doctor of Engineering Science (Eng.Sc.D.).

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program
  • Do I like the idea of being responsible for other people’s safety?
  • Am I a highly detail-oriented person?
  • Am I willing to work in a field where I will need to keep up with new developments, even after I am finished with school?
  • Does the program offer the specialization I am interested in?
  • Who are the faculty members? How accessible are they?

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