In modern usage, civil engineering is a broad field of engineering that deals with the planning, construction, demolition, and maintenance of fixed structures, or public works, as they related to earth, water, or civilization and their processes. Most civil engineering today deals with roads, structures, water supply, sewer, flood control and traffic. In essence civil engineering is the profession which makes the world a more habitable place to live.

Engineering has developed from observations of the ways natural and constructed systems react and from the development of empirical equations that provide bases for design. Civil engineering is the broadest of the engineering fields. In fact engineering was once divided into only two fields—military and civil. All the engineering specialties have derived from civil engineering  Civil engineering is still an umbrella field comprised of many related specialities.

Sub-disciplines of civil engineering[]

General civil engineering[]

General civil engineering is concerned with the overall interface of fixed projects with the greater world. General civil engineers work closely with surveyors and specialized civil engineers to fit and serve fixed projects within their given site, community and terrain by designing grading, drainage (flood control), paving, water supply, sewer service, electric and communications supply and land (real property) divisions. General engineers spend much of their time visiting project sites, developing community/neighborhood consensus, and preparing construction plans.

Structural engineering[]

Main article: Structural engineering

Structural engineering is concerned with the design of bridges, buildings, offshore oil platforms, dams etc. Structural engineering also depends on the materials that are studied. There are several types of materials, but the most common in structural studies are metal, wood, and reinforced concrete. Structural studies require not only good knowledge of mathematics and physics, but also knowledge of national regulations. Structural design and structural analysis are components of structural engineering and a key component in the structural design process. This involves computing the stresses and forces at work within a structure. There are some structural engineers who work in non-typical areas, designing aircraft, spacecraft and even biomedical devices. Major design concerns are building seismic resistant structures and seismically retrofitting existing structures, and otherwise designing structures that can withstand the forces applied by a dynamic earth.

Content has been added to this subject recently, please follow the link above entitled Structural Design.

Geotechnical engineering[]

Main article: Geotechnical engineering

The main subject of the studies also known as soil mechanics is concerned with soil properties, mechanics of soil particles, compression and swelling of soils, seepage, slopes, retaining walls, foundations, footings, ground and rock anchors, use of synthetic tensile materials in soil structures, soil-structure interaction and soil dynamics. Geotechnical engineering covers this field of studies for application in engineering.

The importance of geotechnical engineering can hardly be overstated: buildings must be supported by reliable foundations. Dam design and construction reducing flooding of lower drainage areas is an important subject of geotechnical engineering.

Transportation engineering[]

Main article: Transportation engineering

Transportation engineering is primarily concerned with motorized road transportation, especially in North America. This includes areas such as queueing theory and traffic flow planning, roadway geometric design and driver behavior patterns. Simulation of traffic operation is performed through use of trip generation, traffic assignment algorithms which can be highly complex computational problems. Other, more specialized areas of transportation engineering are concerned with the designs of non-road transportation facilities, such as rail systems, airports, and ports.

Environmental engineering[]

Main article: Environmental engineering

Environmental engineering deals with the treatment of chemical, biological, and/or thermal waste, the purification of water and air, and the remediation of contaminated sites, due to prior waste disposal or accidental contamination. Among the topics covered by environmental engineering are water purification, sewage treatment, and hazardous waste management. Environmental engineering is related to the fields of hydrology, geohydrology and meteorology insofar as knowledge of (ground)water and flows are required to understand pollutant transport. Environmental engineers are also involved in pollution reduction, green engineering and industrial ecology. Environmental engineering also deals with the gathering of information on the environmental consequences of proposed actions and the assessment of effects of proposed actions for the purpose of assisting society and policy makers in the decision making process.

Environmental engineering is the contemporary term for Sanitary engineering. Some other terms in use are public health engineering and environmental health engineering.

Hydraulic engineering[]

Main article: Hydraulic engineering

Hydraulic engineering is concerned with the flow and conveyance of fluids, principally water. This area of engineering is intimately related to the design of bridges, dams, channels, canals, and levees, and to both sanitary and environmental engineering.

Construction engineering[]

Main article: Construction engineering

Construction engineering involves planning and execution of the designs from transportation, site development, hydraulic, environmental, structural and geotechnical engineers.

Demolition engineering[]

Main article: Demolition engineering

Demolition engineering involves planning and execution of the designs from transportation, site development, hydraulic, environmental, structural and geotechnical engineers.

Material science[]

Main article: Material science

Civil engineering also includes material science. Engineering materials include concrete, steel and recently, polymers and ceramics with potential engineering application. Rubbers and Glass are other engineering materials that are widely used in civil engineering. Metals and geotextiles too have wast applications in this field and are frequently used in construction projects.


Main article: Surveying

Elements of a building or structure must be correctly sized and positioned in relation to each other and to site boundaries and adjacent structures. This is accomplished using surveying techniques and instruments like Theodolite, Levels, Rods, Chains and other devices, especially measurement instruments.


A popular misconception is that civil engineering is far from the exciting frontiers in mathematics and computer science. In actuality, much of what is now computer science was driven by work in civil engineering, where structural and network analysis problems required parallel computations and development of advanced algorithms.

There are also civil engineers who work in the area of safety engineering, applying probabilistic methods to structural design, safety analysis and even estimates of insurance losses due to natural and man-made hazards.

Education and Licensure[]

Prior to becoming a practicing engineer, civil engineers generally complete tertiary (college or higher) educational requirements, followed by several years of practical experience. Each country, state, or province individually regulates civil engineering practice:

In the United States, one must become a licensed Professional Engineer to do any civil engineering work affecting the public or to legally represent oneself as a civil engineer. Licensure requirements vary slightly by state, but in all cases entail passing two licensure exams, the Fundamentals of Engineering exam and the Principles and Practice exam (commonly called the PE), and completing a state-mandated number of years of work under the supervision of a licensed Professional Engineer. In addition, an educational requirement must often be met. All states accept a four year Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelor of Engineering (BEng) degree in Civil Engineering, from an ABET-accredited program, for their educational requirement. The acceptability of degrees in other fields varies by state; some states allow a person to substitute additional years of supervised work experience for the degree requirement. Although the American Society of Civil Engineers encourages states to raise the educational requirement to a graduate degree, advanced degrees are currently optional for civil engineers in the United States. Graduate study may lead either to a Master of Engineering, which is a Professional Master's degree, or to a Master of Science degree followed by a PhD in civil engineering or a sub-discipline.

In the United Kingdom, current graduates require a MSc or MEng in order to become chartered through the Institution of Civil Engineers. This is relaxed to a BSc or BEng for those who entered University prior to the current rules coming into force. The Institution also allows entrants with substantial experience to apply without this level of formal academic achievement. In practice many, if not most, Civil Engineers in the UK work without chartered status.

In Australia and New Zealand, this is typically a four year Bachelor of Engineering(BE) degree which includes 12 weeks of work experience. In Denmark, a Civil Engineer takes 5 years to complete, whereof the first 3 years is aimed at completing a Bachelor degree, and the following two years, in follwing up with what is roughly the equivalent of a Master's degree, in Denmark called a candidate degree. The only two places in Denmark to complete the Civil Engineer education, is at DTU and University of Aalborg.

"International Engineering Agreements" can be found at These agreements are designed to allow engineers to practice across international borders. In general, these agreements require both educational competencies and professional experiential competencies.

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