What skills will transportation engineers need in the future?

The transportation industry is experiencing ongoing transformation as a result of technological changes as well as population growth and shifts. Transportation engineers who plan, design, and construct urban and interurban travel will need to be prepared for the evolution of this industry, which will include new transportation modes, materials, technologies, and broader technical and environmental challenges. But how to ensure that graduate level coursework will prepare these future engineers?

Researchers at Ohio State collected views from a balanced panel of experts from academia, the private sector, and the public sector, in order to address three questions specific to transportation engineers in next 5-10 years. Firstly, how will employment opportunities evolve? Secondly, how will the work evolve? And lastly, what topics should be covered in graduate-level curricula to help students develop correct skillset?

The authors, Meg E. West; Andre L. Carrel; and Rachel L. Kajfez, used qualitative techniques to gain a clear understanding of each interviewee’s views on the future of transportation engineering. Their paper, “Future Skill Requirements in Transportation Engineering and Implications for Graduate Curriculum Design”, published in the Journal of Civil Engineering Education, will assist faculty in transportation engineering master’s programs to prepare transportation engineering students for their future careers.

Read more about this study, and the recommendations for academia in the abstract below, or by reading the full paper in the ASCE Library.


The transportation engineering field is currently experiencing a profound transformation driven by technological evolution, which highlights the importance of preparing students for the types of careers that will be available to them in the future. Although transportation engineering programs in the United States are typically at the graduate level, the majority of existing research has focused on undergraduate courses. This study focuses on master’s-level transportation engineering curricula, with the goal of investigating how changes in employment opportunities and day-to-day work responsibilities of transportation engineers over the coming 5–10 years will inform the topics that graduate-level curricula should include to set students up for future success. The study consists of in-depth interviews with a range of academics and practitioners and subsequent analyses of interview transcripts using thematic analysis methods. Seven themes were derived, pertaining to three categories: future opportunities, identified skills, and program structure observations. The three thematic categories are not independent, and their interactions with one another hold information that can lead to recommendations for the design of transportation engineering master’s programs.

Read the full paper in the ASCE Library: https://doi.org/10.1061/(ASCE)EI.2643-9115.0000042

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