Civil engineers are responsible for designing, building, and maintaining infrastructure such as roads, bridges, buildings, and water systems. The minimum degree requirement to become a licensed civil engineer is typically a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering or a related field.
To become licensed after obtaining a degree, aspiring civil engineers must gain professional experience by working under the supervision of a licensed engineer. The exact amount of experience required may vary by jurisdiction, but it typically ranges from two to four years.
There are also some assessments involved. First, individuals will need to take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, which is the first step in obtaining a license as a professional engineer. That one can be taken right out of college. After gaining experience, the next step is to take the Principles of Engineering (PE) exam, which is required in order to gain a license in most states.
To sum it up, becoming a civil engineer requires obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering or a related field, gaining professional experience, and passing two exams. While it’s not required, obtaining a master’s degree may also be beneficial for advancing in the field or pursuing specialized positions.
In this article, we will break down the course requirements that you will need in order to pursue a degree in civil engineering. While this coursework is only the first step toward the civil engineering career of your dreams, it’s an important piece of laying the foundation for success down the road.
What General Courses Are Required for a Civil Engineering Degree?
The most common general courses that are required for a civil engineering degree include those in mathematics, chemistry, and physics. A degree in civil engineering requires students to have a broad education, including general education courses in the humanities and specialized courses in civil engineering. Below, we’ve listed some of the general courses typically required for a civil engineering degree.
Mathematics: Civil engineers must have a strong foundation in mathematics, including calculus, differential equations, and linear algebra. These skills are essential to success down the line in the workplace.
Chemistry: Chemistry courses provide a basic understanding of chemical reactions and the properties of materials, which is essential for understanding environmental issues and the behavior of materials under different conditions.
Physics: Physics courses help students understand the behavior of matter and energy, including mechanics and materials science. Those topics assist in understanding the behavior of structures and materials under different loads and conditions – an important piece of civil engineering planning and design.
English Composition: Communication is an essential skill for civil engineers. Taking classes in English literature and composition helps students develop their writing and verbal communication skills, which always pays off in the workplace.
Introduction to Computer Programming: In today’s digital world, computer programming skills are increasingly useful for civil engineers. This course will provide a basic understanding of programming languages and algorithms, which can be applied to various engineering projects and tasks in the real world.
Dynamics and Kinematics: Dynamics and kinematics courses cover the study of motion and its causes. They provide a foundation for understanding the behavior of structures and materials under different loads and conditions.
Economics: Economics courses help students understand the principles of economics and how they apply to engineering projects, including cost analysis and project management. Civil engineers are always working under a budget, so it’s important to know how to create accurate proposals, predict costs, and operate under budgetary restraints.
Technical Writing: Technical writing courses help students develop their writing skills for technical reports, proposals, and other documents commonly used in engineering. These skills go hand in hand with those picked up from English composition courses.
A civil engineering degree requires a combination of specialized and general education courses. These general courses provide students with a well-rounded education, critical thinking and communication skills, and a foundation in mathematics, science, and engineering principles. More specialized courses, which we will go into next, help hone your knowledge even further.
What Math Courses Are Required for a Civil Engineering Degree?
The math courses that are generally required for a civil engineering degree include calculus, analytic geometry, and linear algebra. Mathematics is a crucial component of a civil engineering education, and students pursuing a degree in this field must have a strong foundation in math. Below are some of the courses that are typically required for a civil engineering degree.
Calculus: Calculus is a fundamental branch of mathematics that deals with rates of change and slopes of curves. It is a critical tool for solving engineering problems often used in structural analysis, fluid mechanics, and heat transfer.
Analytic Geometry: Analytic geometry is the study of geometry using coordinates and algebra. This subject involves understanding and solving problems related to geometry and spatial relationships, which are common in civil engineering.
Differential Equations: Differential equations describe the relationship between a function and its derivatives. They are commonly used in civil engineering to model and analyze dynamic systems, such as the behavior of structures and materials under loads.
Matrix/Linear Algebra: Matrix and linear algebra are mathematical disciplines that deal with matrices and systems of linear equations. These subjects are essential for solving complex engineering problems, such as the analysis of structures and the behavior of materials.
Probability and Statistics: Probability and statistics are mathematical disciplines that deal with the study of uncertainty and data analysis. These skills assist with understanding and modeling uncertainty and risk in engineering projects and making data-driven decisions.
Keep in mind that civil engineering does require an extensive course load in math, physics, and statistics, among many other courses. If math is not an area of strength for you, you can work with online tutors, but your math aptitude is an important factor to consider.
Aspiring civil engineers must have a solid foundation in math. Knowledge in this area provides the necessary tools for solving complex engineering problems, modeling and analyzing dynamic systems, and making decisions that are backed by strong data analysis.
Are There Online Courses for Civil Engineering?
Yes, there are online courses for civil engineering. Online civil engineering degrees have become popular for many students seeking a career in this field as they offer several advantages over traditional, on-campus programs. Online programs are often more flexible and convenient, allowing students to study at their own pace and around their schedule.
This is particularly useful for working professionals who cannot afford to take time off work to attend classes. Online programs can also be more cost-effective as they often have lower tuition fees and do not require students to relocate in order to attend school.
While online programs may provide fewer hands-on opportunities than typical on-campus programs, students can still gain practical experience through internships, projects, and other real-world endeavors. Additionally, many online programs are designed with collaboration from industry partners, ensuring that students receive a relevant and up-to-date education.
Online civil engineering degrees offer a flexible, cost-effective, and convenient option for students seeking a career in this field. With a strong curriculum, practical components, and industry partnerships, students can gain the skills and knowledge needed for a successful career in civil engineering.
What Are the Most Difficult Courses in Civil Engineering?
Some of the most difficult courses in civil engineering include Engineering Mechanics, Design of Bridges, and Geotechnical Engineering. While all civil engineering courses have their own unique set of difficulties, some courses are considered to be particularly challenging for students. Here’s a little more about some of the most difficult courses in civil engineering:
Engineering Mechanics: Engineering mechanics is the study of the mechanics of solids and structures and is concerned with the behavior of structures under loads. This subject is difficult because it requires a deep understanding of mathematical concepts.
Design of Steel Structures: This course focuses on the design and analysis of steel structures, including beams, columns, and trusses. This subject requires a solid grasp of structural analysis and the ability to perform complex calculations related to the behavior of steel structures under loads.
Geotechnical Engineering: Geotechnical engineering is the study of soil and rock mechanics, and it is concerned with the design and construction of foundations, slopes, and retaining structures. These courses require a solid understanding of soil mechanics and the ability to perform complex calculations.
Design of Bridges: This course is focused on the design and analysis of bridges, including beam bridges, arch bridges, and suspension bridges. This subject is considered difficult because it requires a deep understanding of structural analysis and the ability to perform complex calculations related to the behavior of bridges under loads.
All in all, civil engineering is a challenging field that requires a strong foundation in mathematics, physics, and engineering principles. The subjects addressed here are some of the many challenging courses that require a deep understanding of high-level concepts and the ability to perform complex calculations. That said, these courses are also essential for a successful career in civil engineering and will prepare you to excel in the field.
If you are interested in designing, building, and maintaining roads, bridges, and water systems, a career in civil engineering may be the right path for you. You will need a four-year degree, but you have options when it comes to how you can earn it.
You can attend a traditional on-campus program, or you can earn the degree from the comfort of your own home now that online degree options are becoming more common. Either way, you will likely find yourself engaged in many of the classes that we have listed in this article. If these topics sound interesting to you, you’re probably on the right track!
Once you have completed a four-year degree, it’s time to take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. After that, you will need to get two to four years of prerequisite experience so that you can pursue licensure via the Principles of Engineering (PE) exam. One day, you may even want to obtain a master’s degree to continue growing in the field, take on leadership roles, and raise the cap on your salary.
Take a look at Fenstermaker’s engineering service page for more information. You’ll find examples of what real-world civil engineers actually do on a daily basis and discover the types of projects you may see down the line in your own career.