What Is Structural Engineering, Public Works And Urban Planning?

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Scope of civil engineering, along with various educational options is open to students who are interested in pursuing a career in civil engineering. Here we give you a sampling of the types of options available to practicing civil engineers. And you your additional options are: Army Corps of Engineers, which also includes Navy and Air Force information.

Until, fairly recently civil engineers chose from a limited variety of technical specialties for which they were best suited. These included surveying and mapping, water resource planning and development, structural engineering, environmental engineering, geotechnical engineering, and highway and heavy construction engineering. Within these technical specialties, civil engineers would typically hone their skills in such functional areas as planning and design, construction supervision, or research and development. Through the course of their careers, civil engineers might move from one specialty or functional area to another. They might move into sales and management positions or become teachers or professors of civil engineering. Those civil engineers of a more entrepreneurial bent typically started their own contracting or consulting businesses, many of which are now major national and international companies.

Of course, these options are still as available today as they were 20 years ago. Meanwhile, particularly with the increasing role of the computer in civil engineering, many of the core specialties and functions have evolved or even completely changed. For instance, surveying and mapping, which traditionally evoked the image of engineers peering through tripod-mounted transits or marking chalk lines on the ground, is now on the cutting edge of high technology. The consequences in this specialty are twofold: On the one hand, high technology has reduced the number of civil engineers working as surveyors and mappers. On the other hand, today's surveyors and mappers are working with some of high technology's most exciting tools, including satellites equipped with ultra-high-resolution thermo graphic and infrared cameras and CAD (computer-aided design)-generated three-dimensional mapping systems. Other specialties, such as environmental engineering, once more commonly referred to as "sanitation engineering," have evolved far beyond their original scope and now offer opportunities not even imagined 20 years ago.

To give you an idea of the opportunities available to today's civil engineers, the following are some technical divisions established by the American Society of Civil Engineers:

Aerospace, Irrigation and Drainage, Air Transport Materials, Construction, Pipeline, Energy, Structural Engineering, Mechanics, Surveying and Mapping, Environmental Urban Planning and Development, Geotechnical, Urban Transportation- Highway, Water Resources Planning and Development, Hydraulics, Waterways, Ports, and Harbors.

The ASCE also has technical councils on other specialties including computer practices in civil engineering, earthquake engineering, cold regions engineering, and ocean engineering and research. These specialties are typically cross-disciplinary. For instance, specialists in earthquake engineering must know their geology as well as their materials and structural engineering. Likewise, although virtually all civil engineers use computers in their work, an increasing number of civil engineers are devoting their careers to developing engineering software.


The massive dams designed by civil engineers earlier in this century inspire awe through their sheer size, as do the Golden Gate Bridge, Empire State Building, and other bridges and skyscrapers designed by

The work of the modern structural engineer requires a comprehensive knowledge of the properties of materials as well as a deep appreciation for the balancing of forces in complex, three-dimensional structural frameworks. These skills are perfectly suited to the use of computers, and as a result, the practice of structural engineering demands a high level of competence in computing.

Approximately one out of four civil engineers working in the United States are structural engineers, making this the specialty of the highest number of civil engineers.


More than three fourths of the U.S. population lives in cities. Consequently, much of the work of today's civil engineers is associated with the design and planning of structures and facilities to serve urban communities. Civil engineers who specialize in urban planning and development work with other planners and designers in associated fields to accomplish a variety of tasks. Among other interesting duties, these engineers may predict, or model, the future needs of a community with respect to streets and roadways, recreational and park facilities, freeway and airport locations, urban renewal projects, industrial parks and associated developments, and residential areas. Civil engineers engaged in urban planning may also serve as members of planning commissions or zoning boards that advise elected officials on how to balance and coordinate community growth. These engineers work closely with planners, architects, politicians, citizen groups, and others concerned with the prudent and careful planning of future urban development.

The day-to-day maintenance activities of towns and cities are the responsibility of public works engineers, who generally are civil engineers employed by municipal or county government. These engineers often act in a supervisory capacity and coordinate the efforts of consultants and other civil engineers who are working on the design and construction of specific projects. Public works engineers are responsible for the coordination of activities associated with water supply systems, drinking water distribution lines, wastewater treatment disposal systems, municipal streets, roadways, parking facilities, solid waste collection and disposal systems, schools, hospitals, libraries, and other public buildings. Public works engineers must be educated in a broad spectrum of civil engineering activities and must be capable of managing and coordinating the efforts of many other engineers and nontechnical personnel.

Currently, about one in eight civil engineers working in the United States is involved in urban planning and public works.
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