Civil engineers are the ones designing our roads, water treatment plants, power plants, schools and other critical infrastructure. The architect creates the general design, but it is the civil engineer who makes sure the supports hold up the roof and the runoff doesn’t flood the basement. This means that there is always demand for civil engineers. What does it take to be a civil engineer?
They say that if you can see it, you can achieve it. For engineers, the ability to see how to implement the architect’s often fanciful designs is essential. The ability to visualize all sides of a part or structure are essential to ensuring all sides of it are properly designed. And unlike the architect, civil engineers figure out how to build the tall walls and sweeping facades while still integrating plumbing, electrical wiring, network cables and other infrastructure, which makes visualization skills that much more important. Mistakes lead to unsightly holes cut in walls to bring chilled water or conditioned air to common areas or uncomfortable buildings because of insufficient air flow.
Engineering is one of those fields where calculus and algebra are relevant and critical to the job. Determining the stress on beams, the torque a strut is subjected to, and the load behind a wall as the water levels rise all involve calculus.
Civil engineers are the ones who oversee much of the construction of the designs they’ve contributed to. They have to work with architects who are selecting materials and then tell them the ground just won’t hold that load. They need to work with skilled tradesmen to build the structure and handle issues like material shortages, failures, and oversights. They’re in constant communication with the client regarding the status of the schedule and talking to vendors to keep the materials and talent coordinated so you don’t end up with beams arriving before the concrete is ready to be poured or wait two days for electricians while drywall installers sit idle. This is also why project management skills are essential for civil engineers. Skills like this are taught to you as you complete an online civil engineering degree.
Engineers are problem solvers. They’re often the practical half of the architectural firm, figuring out how the heck to build what the architect designed and fixing practical flaws in their designs. And they’re solving other problems, too, like how to maximize access to an area while ensuring security or using materials the customer wants while remaining within limits set by the local building code. You can learn practical solutions to common issues like this while enrolled in the online civil engineering program at Norwich University. You also learn solutions for retrofitting buildings, whether making them more energy efficient or upgrading aging equipment.
If you want to become a successful engineer, you have to either have or learn the traits and skills above. The good news is that it’s never too late to improve yourself, all it takes is perseverance and a little bit of self-awareness.