Geotechnical engineers use rocks and soils in the design of foundations, dams, tunnels and other infrastructure. A bachelor's degree is sufficient to begin a career in this field, though graduate-level education can open up research and advanced practitioner job opportunities. Read on to learn about the geotechnical engineering field.
Inside Geotechnical Engineering
Geotechnical engineering is a specialized field in which engineers examine the behavior of earthen building materials, such as soil and rocks, and how these materials can be used in constructing foundations, embankments, tunnels, dams and landfills. Geotechnical engineers' work can entail surveying building sites, assessing risks of hazards, like earthquakes or sinkholes, and helping plan new construction projects. These professionals must be proficient in civil and foundation engineering, geology, rock and soil mechanics, slope stability and computational mechanics.
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. 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.
Most engineering students need a strong mathematical foundation and are typically required to take hands-on design and laboratory courses. Major coursework includes instruction in soil behavior, modeling and simulation, material design and earth retaining structures. Some engineering jobs require state licensure, which often requires that the degree be from an accredited program in addition to passing state exams. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology is the accrediting authority for engineering programs in the United States (www.abet.org).
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. Those with doctoral degrees are more likely to work in academia teaching engineering courses and conducting original research. Professional organizations like the American Society of Civil Engineers offer voluntary certification and continuing education options (www.asce.org).
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that civil engineering jobs were expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations during the period 2008-2018, with job growth closely linked to the state of the construction industry (www.bls.gov). As of May 2010, the median annual wages for civil engineers, including geotechnical engineers, was $77,560, with the top ten percent earning $119,320 or more.
Learn More About Geotechnical Engineering
Geotechnical engineers are hired to provide information on such issues as sustainable infrastructure and mitigation of ground hazards. While many engineers enter the field with a bachelor's degree, continuing education may be needed to learn about new technological developments. Visit Education-Portal.com to find the educational information you need to help make your degree and career decisions.
Prospective geotechnical engineering students have a range of degree programs to choose from, such as the civil, structural and geological engineering programs listed below. To learn about additional educational options in this field, visit Education-Portal.com.
- Master of Science in Geotechnical Engineering
- Overview of Geotechnical Engineering Programs
- Degrees in Civil Engineering by Level
- Degrees in Structural Engineering by Level
- Degrees in Geological Engineering by Level
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.
- Online Bachelor's Degree in Civil Engineering
- Online Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Engineering
- Online Master's Degree in Civil Engineering
- Online Master's Degree in Construction Engineering
- Online Master's Degree in Structural Engineering
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. Professors and researchers generally hold doctorates. Read the articles below to learn about positions related to the geotechnical engineering field.
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