Civil Engineering Courses and College Degrees

Many civil engineering universities and colleges around the country offer a variety of degree programs for students who want to train for a career in the field of construction, design, and maintenance of different physical structures, buildings, bridges and dams. Civil engineering schools prepare students for a rewarding career in several disciplines, and require students to complete classroom training, computer simulations and hands-on coursework. Some civil engineering courses can be taken online. Students may have the opportunity to complete an internship or externship as part of their educational career.

Civil Engineering Degree Programs

Civil engineering colleges typically offer a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science civil engineering degree program. Students typically take general courses for the first two years of their academic program, and then more specialized courses in management, construction, transportation infrastructure, infrastructure design, technology and heavy construction.

These degree programs require students to apply both mathematical principles and physics to solve real-life problems, and they may use computer design programs and drafting tools to create working systems and plans, or to review blueprints of buildings that have structural problems. Some civil engineering courses require students to test different theories and develop models to predict how a certain type of building or infrastructure design will perform in a real life setting.

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The American Society of Civil Engineers, a professional organization, recommends that students obtain at least a master's civil engineering degree in order to ensure career advancement in the field. Masters degree programs typically require at least three years of study beyond the undergraduate level, and students may have the option to specialize in a particular field.

Students who do not live near civil engineering schools may have the option to enroll in an online degree program. Online civil engineering degrees allow students to enjoy the flexibility of a home study education.

Online Civil Engineering Degrees

Students who prefer an online study format, or parents who want to complete a civil engineering degree while raising a family, are good candidates for an degree program. These programs are available at the bachelor, masters and even doctoral level in an online format, and provide students with more flexibility as they complete their education. Students enrolled in an online program are prepared for employment in both professional and technical positions with consulting engineering, surveying industries, construction companies and development firms.

The online civil engineering degree format may include tutorials, downloadable lectures, discussion forum participation and online quizzes, exams and simulations.

Types of Civil Engineering Courses

Most students begin a program with two years of general education courses, followed by a set of specialized courses and electives.

Some of the most common types of civil engineering courses available at the undergraduate and graduate level include:

  • Introduction to Civil Engineering
  • Civil Engineering Materials
  • Structural Analysis
  • Transportation Engineering
  • Fundamentals of Construction Engineering
  • Water Resources Engineering
  • Hydraulics and Hydrology
  • Soil Mechanics for Engineers
  • Uncertainty Analysis in Engineering
  • Consulting Engineering
  • Green Building Design
  • Matrix Structural Analysis
  • Computer Applications
  • Steel Design
  • Structural Timber Design
  • Computer Based Project Management

What to Expect at Civil Engineering Schools

These schools offer very specialized training and education for students who want to work in the field of building design, construction, land surveying and related fields. Those attending civil engineering universities are trained to plan, design, build and solve problems of various types of buildings, bridges, transit systems, irrigation systems and even highways. Civil engineering schools train students to be problem solvers and learn how to overcome many of the challenges associated with old buildings, highways, urban redevelopment projects and community planning initiatives.

Some universities require students to complete simulations, work with advanced computer software, learn about the latest technology and equipment used in the field, and log in time at a project work site.

Career Options with a Civil Engineering Degree

Those who successfully complete a degree program and training can work in the construction, building design, commercial building planning and transportation design industry. They may specialize in the building, designing, planning and construction of roads, airports, channels, irrigation projects, waste disposal units, geo-technical engineering projects and more.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most civil engineers are employed by architectural and engineering firms, state and local governments, and nonresidential building construction firms. Some also work for the Federal Executive Branch.

Wages and salaries vary significantly by state and employer, but the median annual wage for civil engineers was $76,590 in May 2009.