What’s One Thing High School Students Should Know About Civil Engineering?

I have used most of the “Ask Anthony” articles in this column to answer questions from ASCE members about civil engineering careers. However, in this article, I’d like to turn the table and ask you a question.

Recently, I’ve been getting questions from high school and some college students interested in civil engineering. They want to know what to expect in a civil engineering career. They want to learn about the industry before deciding to invest time, money and effort in a civil engineering degree (good idea).

Thinking back on this from my own career in civil engineering, my advice would be to gain field experience. I started with a civil engineering firm in high school as a summer intern and was put on a survey team, where I spent a summer as the “rod-person.”

I hated it at the time. Hot days. Poison ivy.

What was to like about it?

However, looking back, it was the most valuable experience of my career, because when I eventually transitioned into the office, it was so much easier to perform practical designs because I knew how projects were laid out and constructed in the field.

I would do it all over again!

But back to what I was going to ask you.

To help develop valuable content and provide quality professional advice for the students, please leave a comment below this post answering the following question (you can leave multiple answers if you’d like):

Question: What is one thing that high school students interested in civil engineering should know about the profession?

Thank you!

Anthony Fasano, P.E., M.ASCE, is the founder of the Engineering Management Institute (previously known as the Engineering Career Coach), which has helped thousands of engineers develop their business and leadership skills. He hosts the Civil Engineering Podcast and he is the author of a bestselling book for engineers, Engineer Your Own Success. You can download a free video series on his website that will give you the tools needed to immediately improve your networking and communication skills by clicking here.

He has also recently started the Engineering Management Accelerator to help engineers become more effective managers: www.EngineerToManager.com.

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  1. Using math and science and working with people to analyze problems and develop solutions usually in the form of projects in the natural or built environments for public or private spaces. Examples of broad practice areas include drinking water/wastewater, stormwater/floodplains, solid/hazardous waste, transportation, structures, geotechnical/soil mechanics.

  2. After doing engineering outreach for many years mostly with jr. high or younger I alternate this “one thing about CE” message mostly between:
    -How many of you are on a team or like to play sports on teams? Civil Engr is the ultimate team activity! I as a geotechnical engineer always work with other engineering specialties (structural, environmental, mechanical, electrical, etc) as a team to successfully design and build projects like your school.
    -Many students are looking for meaningful careers. Civil Engineers are solving the most current pressing problems today: how to prepare infrastructure for climate change, how to build in a sustainable way, and how to protect and clean up our environment. They impact every aspect of your life like bringing to your school water, sewer and electricity or the roads and bridges your car or bus take to get here. It is very rewarding and meaningful work.

  3. Civil engineering serves the basic needs of humanity in many different ways: shelter, transportation, sanitation, clean water etc. It is very satisfying and gratifying work. And hopping rod is a good way to start!!

  4. Civil engineering isn’t just about solving technical challenges, it is also about effectively communicating with clients, the public, media, and policymakers. Civil engineers have many opportunities to influence decisions to ensure a sustainable and vibrant future.

  5. One thing I like to stress when I go to K-12 outreach events is that you do not need to be good at math and science to become an engineer. If you really want to pursue engineering and enjoy solving problems, then engineering is a great fit for you! I personally had my fair share of self-doubt throughout my time studying civil engineering, but I surrounded myself with other female engineering students who reminded me that I am not alone and who encouraged me to keep putting in the hard work.

  6. As a senior in civil engineering I have learned the incredible value of obtaining experience in a field or engineering related environment while in school. My professors pushed us to obtain internships as early as freshman year but many companies were hesitant to hire someone with so little knowledge. Even though I was not able to have a true internship my freshman year, I frequently asked to shadow an engineer for the day and, as a result, it led to internships for the next two years. My advice to those looking to become a civil engineer would be to never stop making connections. Be bold in asking to shadow or meet with a professional as it may open a new door for you.


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