My Major: Civil Engineering

This is my third project with the Gazette, and it’s all about my major. I happened to just graduate, so it’s not fully about what I’m currently studying, but instead what I’ve studied over the last four years.

I love that there are so many creative people on this platform, with majors in fashion, journalism, English. There are also people who want to be doctors and teachers, of which we need way more of at this time and in general.

But, I don’t see many engineers on this platform. I get it, we’re seen as fashionless, introverted, bad writers, not artsy, and not great at communication.

That stuff isn’t always true, and it’s definitely becoming less true as more women join engineering. I love fashion and I love writing and I love civil engineering. And there shouldn’t be anything wrong with that.

And because I love civil engineering, I was excited to share my major with others here. So, let’s get into it:

The definition of civil engineering, henceforth known as CE, is an engineering discipline that deals with the design, construction, and maintenance of the physical and naturally built environment, including public works such as roads, bridges, canals, dams, airports, sewerage systems, pipelines, structural components of buildings, and railways.
civil engineering, engineer, and plans image

What I love about CE is how it has a ton of different disciplines within it. I’ve learned all about the different public works above in college. I’ve chosen to pursue transportation engineering as my specific discipline in CE. Transportation engineering itself has many of its own subsections; it’s honestly amazing how many different options you have when becoming a civil engineer.

Here’s a list of the disciplines of civil engineering:
  • Structural Engineering
  • Water Resources
  • Transportation Engineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Geotechnical Engineering
  • Coastal Engineering
  • Construction Engineering
  • Earthquake Engineering
  • Municipal and Urban Engineering
civil engineering, engineer, and plans image civil engineering, engineer, and plans image
If you want descriptions of each subsection, check out this website that does a good job of defining:

As I previously stated, I’m choosing to pursue transportation engineering. I’m still figuring out what I want to specialize in, but I think I’m interested in working on airports. I’ve loved traveling for as long as I can remember and I find airports to be fascinating.

airport, care, and plane image travel, sky, and plane image
There are not a lot of people interested in airports, so once I learn all there is to know about airports, I'll become a commodity within the industry.

And you can do this with any specialty in CE. The average age of a civil engineer is 41, and while this isn't that old, that still means there is plenty of space for young people to enter the workforce.

I will be honest with you, I originally chose CE for it's security. There is always a need for a road or a bridge or a building. And as new innovations are created, so will new innovative infrastructure. I grew to love CE over my four years at college and it made me want to someday own my own practice or become the CEO of an established one.

Furthermore, I would like to get both a Master of Engineering and a Master of Business Administration. Both of these can help me learn more about my field as well as get a chance to actually learn about running a business. I also don't want to stop my education quite yet, though I am taking a break for a few years.

Temporarily removed

Now, there are more steps to become a licensed engineer than just graduating college. I recommend a brief Google search for your country to see the steps necessary, because it can be a long process.

For the US, here are the steps to take to become a fully-licensed engineer:

1 | Take your FE

The FE is the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam. It’s recommended to be taken in your last year of college or directly after graduating, because that’s when you retain the most information. The FE covers everything from math to dynamics / statics (physics) to the specifics in CE in geotechnical, transportation, etc. If you look up the NCEES website, there is a list of the subjects and an approximate number of questions in each section.

2 | Take your PE

The PE is the Professional Engineering Exam. It’s similar to the FE, but is more specific on CE for the first half of the exam, and the second half is about where you would like to specialize. For me, the second half of my exam would be about transportation engineering.

3 | 4 (or 8) years under a licensed engineer

If you attended college, you only need 4 years under a licensed engineer, (a masters or PhD could shorten it to 2). If you didn’t attend college, you need 8, though I think this requirement is fading.

4 | Continuous learning

Once you get your license, you have to continuously learn by attending conferences and lectures. It’s important for engineers to stay on top of new innovations and processes, and you have to keep track and report to the engineering board your hours every certain number of years, to renew your license. On average, civil engineers need 15 hours of continuing education between each time you renew your license.

What does it mean to be a fully-licensed engineer?

A fully-licensed engineer can stamp plans.

And that means? (I can just hear you asking xD)
illustration, retro, and scrapbooking image
Not this type of stamp btw

For everything that needs to be built, plans for it are created. They used to be drawn by hand, to scale. Now, we used computer software and print out said plans.

Once the plans have been completed and can be sent to the client, an engineer must "stamp" them. This means, to the best of the engineers' knowledge, the plans for correct AND safe for construction. The "stamp" includes the state you are licensed in as well as your signature.

Therefore, if anything goes wrong once the thing is built, you can be held liable.

This is quite scary, really. Structural engineers have the largest liability, which also means it's the hardest to become a structural engineer.

The very first thing we do as engineers is certify that the public and the public safety are our FIRST priority. We are here to serve the public, but keep them safe in the process.

civil engineering, engineer, and plans image

There is definitely more information I could include here. I could always drone on and on about my chosen career path, but you also could do some research. Before I chose a major in college, I extensively researched different majors, what careers they led to, the average pay, statistics on gender and small vs. big companies. There is a lot of information, and it can be overwhelming.

My best advice is to complete a PRO and CON list, if you're trying to decide on what to pursue.

It's already pretty difficult to try and decide where you want your life to go in high school, but remember that you can always change your mind. One of my best friends from college is in her mid-thirties and a transfer student. If she can do it, so can you.

If you have any questions or want some more resources, email me!:

As for me, I luckily got an internship working as a resident engineer overseeing an electrical project, at guess where? AN AIRPORT! I'm really excited and really nervous since my career is just beginning, but I hope it'll give me even more skills I can bring to future jobs.

[I also passed my FE, now just waiting for COVID to get over to take my PE, and I'm on my way to getting my engineering stamp!
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As always,

email me!:

(my messages are broken so this is the way for you to comment about my articles or give me suggestions!)
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This article was written by @sborek at the We Heart It Gazette.