Civil engineering is a field of engineering that deals with the construction and maintenance of the structures that are required for human civilization, such as buildings, roads, water supply and sewers. In general, civil engineering has developed from observations of the ways natural and manmade systems react and from the development of empirical equations that provide bases for design.
It is an umbrella field comprised of many related specialities.
Structural engineering, of which structural design is a component, is typically the largest part of civil engineering as a practice. Structural engineers design bridges, buildings, offshore oil platforms, dams etc. Structural analysis is another component 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.
Supporting structural engineering is the field of geotechnical engineering. The importance of geotechnical engineering can hardly be overstated: buildings must be connected to the ground. Geotechnical engineering is concerned with soil properties, foundations, footings and soil dynamics.
Transportation engineering is concerned with 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 algorithims which can be highly complex computational problems.
Sanitary engineering is primarily concerned with purifying water for drinking and with treating sewage.
Hydraulic engineering is concerned with the flow and conveyance of fluids, principally water. This area of engineering is, of course, intimately related to the design of bridges, dams, channels, canals, and levees, and to both Sanitary and Environmental engineering.
Construction engineering involves planning and execution of the designs from transportation, site development, hydraulic, environmental, structural and geotechnical engineers.
Civil engineering also includes material science. Engineering materials include concrete, steel and recently, polymers and ceramics with potential engineering application.
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.
The civil engineer degree
In Scandinavian countries, some people prefer to call their Master of Science degree by the term civil engineer. The word has its origin from one of the English meaning of 'civil engineer' ;
- an engineer whose training or occupation is in the design and construction especially of public works (as roads or harbors).
Although a 'college engineer' (högskoleingenjör, diplomingenioer) represents a Bachelor of Science in Scandinavia, to become a 'civil engineer', one have to almost re-start the education from zero and it will take a half up to one year extra compared to B.Sc./M.Sc. studies. This is because the higher educational system is not fully suited to the international standard graduation system since, at least in Sweden, it is treated as a professional degree.