As we can see, the spectrum of working field is very wide, from analyzing the soil to analyzing the air quality. There are various fields within this engineering branch which you can pursue to have a Civil Engineering career. Also, we can separate Coastal Engineering, Tunnel Engineering, and Earthquake Engineering as sub-disciplines for water resources, transportation, and geotechnical engineering, respectively.
It is inevitable that all Civil Engineers interact with other branches of science or engineering; nobody does only math or just deals with structures. A Civil Engineer should understand clearly how physics works, how chemistry works and should know that how our earth lives and dies, including geographical knowledge. However, for an individual engineer in the field, he or she cannot know everything well at the same time. Thus, we might need some help about our field or an idea which can help us throughout the construction or renovation. Civil Engineers generally work in a variety of work groups and environments. It is common for them to split the workload between working in the office with colleagues and working outdoors at construction sites with an architect or another helpful professional who would help at the site.
Communication is one of the key roles that a Civil Engineer would like to have; working with a team of other engineers or professions requires at least a moderate level of social contact. You can be very good at calculating stuff and doing math or physics. However, if you cannot properly deliver the information you have by words to the client then what you did might be useless. This includes the tools which we would like to use in the site area. If we want to use an “excavator” and if we need the client’s approval for that we need to communicate well and tell the cost and what it does. Additionally, the work performance depends on communication in many cases. Without knowing even one of the definitions would likely cost you a lot. As we are getting closer to graduating from MSU, we have to take a two semester course of called “Capstone: Civil Engineering Design I/II”, and in that course we learn how to write long reports with good formal writing and we learn how to work with a team of five or even six of civil engineers with a time constraint.
Every profession in the world has its own language and own communication. It does not matter whether it is engineering, fishing, or skiing. They must have their own language in order to connect with one another. It can sometimes be confusing among the people who are not proficient for that specific major or work area. I would say from experience that mathematics is the general language of engineering, whether you are looking at a most fundamental level of information, or a complicated and expert level of data analysis. Especially, working as engineering consultants rather than academically, the first thing they need to overcome the language barrier between customers which is delivering the basis of projects to them. For instance, “In other words, the hydrostatic pressure at any point in the water is equal to the product of the specific weight of water and the vertical distance between the point and the water surface” (Akan, Osman, Open Channel Hydraulics, 6), which we can see that among the client nobody can translate that sentence to true meaning if you did not take engineering courses. As like other professions, Civil Engineering has its own language and own dictionary which you can refer to. There is an actual dictionary called, “Dictionary of Construction, Surveying & Civil Engineering” by Oxford press itself (see below figure – 1.4).
This language is not necessarily limited to use communication like speaking but also computer software, tools, and many other things that civil engineers use on a daily basis between each other. Such as, ArcGIS, AutoCAD, StormCAD, HEC-RAS, and EPANET are a few examples of that which we as a community would use and benefit a lot in the case of an ongoing project. For an example, for modelling and analysis for drainage systems, stormwater and sanitary sewer designs we would use StormCAD, for a mapping platform that Civil Engineers can use to create exhibits and geographic information we would use ArcGIS which is a free tool released by Environmental Systems Research Institute. As to tools, scientific calculators allow us to calculate complex mathematical equations and graphs at the same time, instantaneously. From experience, I got my own TI-84 (see below figure-1.5) when I was a junior at MSU and I still can remember how I was amazed from it. It can literally create a graph in seconds and solve from it which was tough to learn at the beginning, but the circumstances helped me to get over it, fast. Being one of the six main sub-disciplines of Civil Engineering, Environmental Engineering plays huge role inside the Civil Engineering community and it is too broad to be written in one sentence. The United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics defines it as, “Environmental engineering is the branch of engineering that is concerned with protecting people from the effects of adverse environmental effects, such as a pollution, as well as improving environmental quality. Environmental engineers work to improve recycling, waste disposal, public health, and water and air pollution control”. Since I was a teenager, I always wanted to do something good for the environment and where we live, this world. Thus, now I can be helpful and do something with all the knowledge I gathered from MSU during this 4-year journey.
Every four years, the ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) publishes an infrastructure report card specific to that year, this time they published in the year 2017, and GPA was D+ (A+ is the best and F is failing). To give you more in-depth information, the sub-sections are, energy, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, aviation, schools, transit, wastewater, solid waste, rail, roads, ports, public parks, dams, bridges, and drinking water. Unfortunately, hazardous waste had D+, drinking water, D, and wastewater also had a D+ which brought my attention to focus even more about Environmental Engineering and have an interview one of our instructors, Dr. Adrienne Phillips who has worked in the field many years and came to MSU in 2014 for her PhD and has been teaching since. She teaches three courses at MSU which are, Hazardous Waste Management, Hazardous Waste Treatment, and Air Pollution Control. I was in Hazardous Waste Management in Spring-2019. When I asked her if teaching is now a lifestyle or a job in her perspective, she stated that, “Consulting was little more of like a job. I had cleared the plate. I really liked consulting too. It was fun. Every day was different I was not working on a same project forever. I did work air group, ground group too so I got to do sampling in the field and designing in addition to permitting, letters, reports” (A. Phillips, personal communication, September 9, 2019). She made me think that outside of the college where private industries have an influence, nothing anything there is a money issue, and everything is the money whether it is saving the environment or just do a project.
I always wanted to pursue my master’s degree on one of the sub-disciplines of Civil Engineering. However, I knew that if I ever stayed in college right after graduation, it would not be as beneficial as Dr. Phillips did years ago that she worked in a consulting firm and then came back for pursuing her PhD in MSU. Regardless which she stated, “I’d say consulting is going to pay better than academic position but of course it depends location and the firm” (A. Phillips, personal communication, September 9, 2019). She came back and researched, read a lot of articles, wrote a lot of articles. “It’s not easy. Anyone tells you to you should do PhD you need to think really hard about it because you want to make sure that you are devoted and dedicated about it because it takes a lot” (A. Phillips, personal communication, September 9, 2019). She stated and I thought she was right about it; it is not easy. I think working for a consulting or any firm as an engineer first would be highly beneficial because, you could observe the practical solutions in the field comparing to directly going to grad school after graduation without any practical experience.
Civil Engineering is an extremely big field. It is integrated with a number of different professional branches. The field itself serves as the basis of early lives, the advancement of cities even countries, and protecting people from adverse environmental pollutions. With Civil Engineer’s knowledge and experience, if successful, the world could be more livable, environmentally friendly, and more sophisticated.