University of Vermont

CEMS - The College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences

Undergraduate Program
Civil Engineering

Who Are Civil Engineers?

Civil engineers deal with the planning, designing and constructing of facilities that serve people. These diversified services include development of highways and railways, buildings and structures of all kinds, airports and harbor facilities for transportation of goods and people, space stations, power generation, renewal of older sections of cities, soil mechanics, foundations, and development of new communities.

These opportunities occur in all phases of project development, including planning, research, design and construction. Our future as a nation will be closely tied to space, energy, the environment, and our ability to interact with and compete in the global economy.

You, as a civil engineer, will perform a vital role in linking these themes and improving the quality of life for the 21st century. As the technological revolution expands, as the world's population increases, and as environmental concerns mount, your skills will be needed. There's no limit to the personal satisfaction you will feel from helping to make our world a better place to live. Whatever area you choose, be it design, construction, research, teaching, or management, civil engineering offers you a wide range of career choices for your future.

Below are descriptions of some of the subdisciplines you'll find in Civil Engineering. Click the links to find out more about your area of interest.

Structural Engineering

As a structural engineer, you will face the challenge of designing structures that support their own weight and the loads they carry, and that resist wind, temperature, earthquake, and many other forces. Bridges, buildings, offshore structures, sports arenas, amusement park rides and many other kinds of projects are included within this exciting specialty. You will develop the appropriate combination of steel, concrete, timber, plastic and new exotic materials. You will do the planning and design, as well as visit the project site to make sure the work is done properly.

Geotechnical Engineering

Geotechnical engineering is required in all aspects of civil engineering because most projects are supported by the ground. As a geotechnical engineer, you might develop projects below ground, such as tunnels, foundations and offshore platforms. You will analyze the properties of soil and rock that support and affect the behavior of these structures. You may evaluate the potential settlements of buildings, the stability of slopes and fills, the seepage of ground water and the effects of earthquakes. You will investigate the rocks and soils at a project site and determine the best way to support a structure in the ground. You will also take part in the design and construction of dams, embankments and retaining walls.

Transportation Engineering

Because the quality of a community is directly related to the quality of its transportation system, your function as a transportation engineer will be to move people, goods and materials safely and efficiently. Your challenge will be to find ways to meet our ever-increasing travel needs on land, air and sea. You will design, construct and maintain all types of transportation facilities, including highways, railroads, airfields and ports. An important part of transportation engineering is to upgrade our transportation capability by improving traffic control and mass transit systems, and by introducing high-speed trains, people movers and other new transportation methods.

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Construction Engineering

You, as a construction engineer, are the builder of our future. The construction phase of a project represents the first tangible result of a design. Using your technical and management skills will allow you to turn designs into reality-on time and within budget. You will apply your knowledge of construction methods and equipment, along with principles of financing, planning and managing, to turn the designs of other engineers into successful facilities.

Urban & Community Planning

As a professional in this area, you will be concerned with the full development of a community. Analyzing a variety of information will help you coordinate projects, such as projecting street patterns, identifying park and recreation areas, and determining areas for industrial and residential growth. To ensure ready access to your community, coordination with other authorities may be required to integrate freeways, airports and other related facilities. Successful coordination of a project will require you to be people-oriented as well as technically knowledgeable.

Water Resources Engineering

Water is essential to our lives, and as a water resources engineer, you will deal with the physical control of water. You will work with others to prevent floods, to supply water for cities, industry and irrigation, to protect beaches, or to manage and redirect rivers. You might design, construct or maintain hydroelectric power facilities, canals, dams, pipelines, pumping stations, locks, seaport facilities, or even water slides.

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