Top Online Colleges for Civil Engineering

Civil engineering is focused on designing, building, and maintaining important public works structures such as roads, bridges, tunnels, dams, and water/wastewater systems. Civil engineers work on public facilities such as ports, railways, and airports, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. Civil engineering is a good fit for individuals who enjoy working on large-scale projects and taking an active role in seeing such projects through from start to finish. While most individuals pursue traditional degree paths in civil engineering, students have the option to earn a degree through accredited online colleges for civil engineering.

The best online colleges for civil engineering are those accredited by the Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology. Top online colleges for civil engineering incorporate online lectures as well as hands-on lab work that takes place on a college campus. After all, engineers must learn specific skills by doing, not just by sitting in front of a computer screen. Most of the online programs in civil engineering are available at the master’s level.

Civil Engineering Course Work Basics

Top accredited online colleges may offer both undergraduate and graduate programs in civil engineering. An undergraduate program will include general education requirements (also known as “basics”) for a well-rounded education. The curriculum may also feature foundational courses in chemistry, statics, dynamics, and mechanics of materials, as well as major courses centered on civil engineering. Although online undergraduate students must complete lab work on campus they still enjoy the flexibility of online learning for other components of their program. A civil engineering program’s courses may differ depending on the college or university that is offering the program. Read on to see a list of some common civil engineering courses:

  • Introduction to Digital Terrain Modeling: In this course students are introduced to 3D land systems design software and essential land surface modeling concepts.
  • Hydrology and Water Resources Engineering: This course teaches students the essentials of ground and surface water hydrology, and the steps involved in planning for water resources.
  • General Surveying: This course provides an overview of the surveying techniques and concepts necessary in civil engineering.
  • Structural Mechanics: Students explore classical theories of structural mechanics, related energy principles, and computer analysis.
  • Transportation Engineering: In this course students learn about the different structures involved in transportation, their design, principles of traffic flow, and how to plan for transportation projects.

Many top rated online colleges offer master’s programs in civil engineering. These programs give students the opportunity to specialize by enrolling in courses in their area of interest. Therefore a student specializing in construction management would take vastly different courses than a student specializing in environmental and water resources. Hands-on lab components are often integrated into online master’s programs in civil engineering, although some programs can be completed entirely online.

Most online civil engineering programs conclude with one or more comprehensive engineering design projects. Graduate programs in civil engineering tend to conclude with a capstone project in which students are asked to conduct independent study into a real-world civil engineering issue and write an in-depth analysis or report on their findings. Some capstone projects ask students to define the project goals, political hurdles, expenses, and design of a major engineering project. Both undergraduate and graduate students commonly work together in groups on small- and large-scale projects.

Careers for the Civil Engineering Graduate

Civil engineering is a broad field and those with a degree in civil engineering may seek specialized positions as geotechnical engineers, structural engineers, or transportation engineers, among other specialties. Civil engineers may work for the federal government or in private industry. Some work in a supervisory or management capacity and others fill roles in design, construction, research, and teaching, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). To become a civil engineer, an individual must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, and they often need a master’s degree to advance to management positions, the BLS reports. Civil engineers must also be licensed. State licensure requirements differ from state to state but generally involve graduating from an ABET-accredited engineering program, passing exams, and acquiring experience.

Average employment growth of 19% is expected from 2010 to 2020 for civil engineers. The median salary for civil engineers as of May 2010 was $77,560, with the lowest-paid 10% earning less than $50,560 and the highest-paid 10% earning more than $119,320, according to the BLS. However, keep in mind that salaries can vary significantly based on a civil engineer’s level of experience, roles and responsibilities, educational attainment, and size and type of employer. Industries with high levels of employment included federal, state, andlocal government; architectural, engineering, and related services; and non-residential building construction companies.

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