Coastal engineering is the study of ongoing natural processes at the shoreline, and how they interact with construction within the coastal zone. It entails familiarity with, and the study of, near-shore oceanography, marine geology, and civil engineering. Coastal engineering is often directed at mitigating the erosion of the coasts or providing navigational access.
Universities that offer the best coastal engineering degrees in the U.S. include the University of Delaware, the Florida Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University, Oregon State University, Old Dominion University, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Florida, the University of Hawaii, the University of Michigan, Stevens Institute of Technology, and Texas A&M University.
Being a graduate student of, or holding a PhD from, an accredited coastal engineering program will make you eligible for state licensing in a coastal engineering job.
According to the Sci-Tech Encyclopedia, ''The successful coastal engineer must have a working knowledge of oceanography and meteorology, hydrodynamics, geomorphology and soil mechanics, statistics, and structural mechanics. Tools that support coastal engineering design include analytical theories of wave motion, wave-structure interaction, diffusion in a turbulent flow field, and so on; numerical and physical hydraulic models; basic experiments in wave and current flumes; and field measurements of basic processes such as beach profile response to wave attack, and the construction of works. Postconstruction monitoring efforts at coastal projects have also contributed greatly to improved design practice.''
So coastal engineering jobs are highly important for the present as well as the future, and coastal engineers may be seen as unsung heroes of both humanity and the environment. Coastal engineering in its modern form began with the development of maritime traffic and the need for organized ports in the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf, likely before 3500 BCE, according to archaeological findings. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is the federal military arm of coastal engineering, was founded in June of 1775.
Pierre Duhem, in chapter III of his book The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory, wrote, ''Scientific progress has often been compared to a mounting tide; applied to the evolution of physical theories, this comparison seems to us very appropriate, and it may be pursued in further detail. Whoever casts a brief glance at the waves striking a beach does not see the tide mount; he sees a wave rise, run, uncurl itself, and cover a narrow strip of sand, then withdraw by leaving dry the terrain which it had seemed to conquer, a new wave follows, sometimes going a little farther than the preceding one, but also this superficial to-and-fro motion, another movement is produced, deeper, slower, imperceptible to the casual observer; it is a progressive movement continuing and coming of the waves is the faithful image of those attempts at explanation which arise only to be crumbled, which advance only to retreat; underneath there continues the slow and constant progress whose flow steadily conquers new lands, and guarantees to physical doctrines the continuity of a tradition.''
Coastal engineers divide their time spent at work between office settings, laboratories, and the field. The more experience one has, the more time one will spend in the office and laboratory. Government at all levels employs over 40% of coastal engineers. Job prospects in this field are expected to get better and better as civilization becomes wealthier, and more aware of, and concerned about, the environment. While salaries vary greatly with respect to the specific company, location, industry, experience, and benefits, the average salary for coastal engineering jobs in the United States is $59,000 per year.
In the United States, the top coastal engineering labs include the U.S. Army Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, the Center for Applied Coastal Research at the University of Delaware, the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory, the Coastal Imaging Laboratory at Oregon State University, the Center for Coastal Studies at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the Davidson Laboratory at the Stevens Institute of Technology.
Sir William Halcrow, a noted English civil engineer, said, ''The well-being of the world largely depends upon the work of the engineer. There is a great future and unlimited scope for the profession; new works of all kinds are and will be required in every country, and for a young man of imagination and keenness I cannot conceive a more attractive profession. Imagination is necessary as well as scientific knowledge.''
Coastal engineering jobs are among the most important and satisfying to our society now, and in the future.