What Is a Civil Engineering Major?

If you’re wondering who is responsible for designing your roads, bridges, and other structures essential for making your life easier once you leave home, then you can thank civil engineers. 

Civil engineers are professional engineers who are required to be licensed by the state or region in which they perform their job; like other professionals, such as doctors or lawyers, civil engineers have extensive education and experience in their area of expertise.  

What Do Civil Engineers Learn?

As you may imagine, becoming a civil engineer requires various classes that emphasize science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This is because these individuals are employed to solve real-world problems, often involving planning and building structures. 

Much of your degree major courses will focus on teaching you building and construction information. Examples of courses you may take while earning your degree to become a civil engineer include: 

  • Fundamentals of Surveying
  • Fundamentals of Building Construction
  • Strength of Materials
  • Energy and the Environment
  • Engineering Economics

Along with your typical STEM classes, students in civil engineering degree programs are often required to complete an internship. Sometimes this internship is part of a required capstone project and other times it is simply strongly encouraged by the university.

What Do You Do With a Civil Engineering Degree?

Well, the obvious answer is to work as a civil engineer, but those with this kind of degree have many options within the field. Those with a civil engineering degree can specialize their interests in: 

  • Coastal engineering
  • Construction engineering
  • Earthquake engineering
  • Environmental engineering
  • Forensic engineering
  • Geotechnical engineering
  • Materials science and engineering
  • Structural engineering
  • Surveying
  • Civil engineering systems

The above list is not nearly a comprehensive list of the subfields in civil engineering but will give you a good idea of things you could end up doing after earning your degree. Those who choose to work as a general civil engineer often work with other civil engineers who specialize in one of the above-listed jobs. 

Which Type of Civil Engineering Is Best?

There is no clear answer as to which type of civil engineering is best, as those working in specialized areas will likely claim that their area of focus is best. It’s important to recognize that each of the specialized areas of civil engineering requires specific knowledge and performs specific tasks that other civil engineers simply don’t have the expertise to complete. 

Now, if we are talking about the kind of compensation you can expect in each specialty of civil engineering, then these figures can vary greatly. General civil engineers earn a median annual salary of $87,060. Transportation engineers, who plan and organize transportation projects, will make about the same pay as generalists. 

On the other hand, Environmental Engineers take home slightly more money per year than the previous two professionals, with an expected yearly salary of $88,860

Additionally, surveyors, who assess property boundaries while analyzing land features, earn significantly less than many other kinds of engineers at $63,420 per year. 

As you can see, civil engineers perform many kinds of jobs, some of which are better compensated for than others. Keep in mind that the aforementioned figures are the median values. Some states or regions will pay significantly more or less for these jobs depending on the demand in that particular region. 

Is Civil Engineering a Popular Major?

Many students choose a civil engineering major because of the excellent pay for new graduates, and those who end up going back to school for a master’s degree can expect to earn even more. Those who have worked as civil engineers also report excellent job satisfaction, primarily because those working in this field often report being able to see their work’s immediate results. 

If you have a propensity for engineering and don’t mind taking the STEM classes necessary to complete a civil engineering degree, then you’ll likely find great satisfaction in this career. With that said, one of the best things you can do if you’re considering this career is to reach out to a professional civil engineer and ask if you can shadow them for a couple of days. This will give you an inside view of what your future life can look like if you decide to major in civil engineering. It’s better to know the pros and cons before going through all that hard work and school dedication!