Geotechnical Engineering

Geotechnical engineers use rocks and soils to design foundations, dams, tunnels and other infrastructure. Continue reading to learn about degree programs and career options specific to the field of geotechnical engineering.

Inside Geotechnical Engineering

Geotechnical engineering is a specialized field in which engineers examine the behavior of earthen building materials, as well as how these materials can be used in constructing foundations, embankments, tunnels, dams and landfills. Geotechnical engineers are hired to provide information on such issues as sustainable infrastructure and mitigation of ground hazards. This line of work can entail surveying building sites, assessing risks and helping plan new construction projects.

Education Information

While some schools offer degrees specifically in geotechnical engineering, many offer degrees in civil, environmental, structural or geological engineering with a geotechnical engineering emphasis. Civil engineering programs without concentrations may still feature geotechnical engineering courses as electives. Engineering students are typically required to take hands-on design and laboratory courses, and major coursework includes instruction in soil behavior, modeling and simulation, material design and earth retaining structures.

Geotechnical engineering candidates can earn a Bachelor of Science degree to enter the field; advanced degrees include a Master of Science, Master of Engineering and Doctor of Philosophy. While many engineers enter the field with a bachelor's degree, continuing education may be needed to learn about new technological developments. Check out the article links below for more information about degree programs in this field.

Distance Learning Options

Geotechnical engineering students can pursue their studies through online and hybrid degree programs in civil engineering and related fields. Such programs are readily available at the bachelor's and master's degree levels; however, online doctoral programs in this field are rare. The following Education-Portal.com articles provide information about online learning programs.

Required Skills

Most engineering students need a strong mathematical foundation. In addition, geotechnical engineering professionals must be proficient in civil and foundation engineering, geology, rock and soil mechanics, slope stability and computational mechanics.

Licensing and Certification Information

Some engineering jobs require state licensure. Applicants for licensure will be required to have earned a degree from an accredited program. They will also need to pass their state's licensing exam. ABET is the accrediting authority for engineering programs in the United States (www.abet.org). In addition, professional organizations, like the American Society of Civil Engineers, offer voluntary certification and continuing education options (www.asce.org).

Career Options

Companies often hire geotechnical engineers to help find solutions to problems in the areas of foundation engineering, soil mechanics, sustainability, ground hazards and environmental restoration. They may work as practitioners with governmental agencies, consulting and design firms, contracting companies or utility and energy companies.

A bachelor's degree in geotechnical engineering can qualify individuals for entry-level positions as engineers, while advanced managerial positions, for instance, may require a master's degree. Those with doctoral degrees are more likely to work in academia teaching engineering courses and conducting original research. Read the articles below to learn about positions related to the geotechnical engineering field.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that civil engineering jobs were expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations, specifically 20%, during the 2012-2022 decade (www.bls.gov). As of May 2013, the median annual wages for civil engineers, including geotechnical engineers, were $80,770, with the top 10% of workers earning $126,190 or more.

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