Civil Engineers Build

Hi my name is Lauren. I have a knack for building things and was thinking about becoming a civil engineer. I also enjoy imagining things and how to make them better than what they are now. I understand that civil engineers design roads, and buildings etc. But do they actually hands-on build the roads, streets and buildings?
posted by Lauren on March 29, 2012

Answer by Dr. Kara Kockelman

Lauren: Thanks so much for the great question! Engineers can do anything. Really. So a civil engineer may end up as a major policymaker (we have an engineer mayor right now in Austin), head of construction crews (directly engaged in the earth moving, concrete pouring testing, etc.), designer (largely in an office but also on site regularly to see exactly how the structures are going up [to ensure they meet the design specifications]), regulator or review consultant (inspecting construction, trying to diagnose any weaknesses or failures), and so on. If you really like be on the job site, civil engineering departments generally have subsets of faculty ( & classes) focused on construction management. If you want a mix of design in there (which I can recommend, given your stated interests and abilities), then you would find that job type quite easily within design-build firms (which are the biggest civil engineering firms out there - so there are tons of graduates headed into these firms every year). I teach a senior-level design class for roadways. I have several colleagues teaching such courses for buildings. Others for bridges. Some for brick buildings, others for steel, and still others for wood. We have several materials engineers in our department, focused on concrete, asphalt, and so on. (Note: I am at the University of Texas at Austin.) Such variety and strength in multiple areas is very common, especially at bigger public universities. Let me know if you have any other questions! We hope to see you in engineering soon! Best wishes, Dr. Kockelman