Polygence blog / Education and College Admissions

What Can You Do With a Civil Engineering Degree?

6 minute read

Civil Engineering is a discipline that blends science, mathematics, and creativity to design and construct the infrastructure that defines our modern world. From towering skyscrapers to intricate transportation systems, the impact of civil engineers is felt in every corner of our lives.

But what can you do with a Civil Engineering degree? Below is a list of 9 exciting opportunities that you can embark on with a degree in Civil Engineering.

9 Civil Engineering Degree Career Trajectories

1. Structural Engineering

One of the most traditional paths for civil engineering graduates is entering the field of structural engineering. These engineers are the architects of safety, ensuring that buildings, bridges, and other structures stand tall and resilient against the forces of nature. From seismic-resistant skyscrapers to elegant bridges, structural engineers shape the physical landscape of our cities. Polygence civil engineering research mentor Karilin’s expertise is in exactly this realm. She is using her Civil Engineering degree to understand design and construction of infrastructure.

2. Transportation Engineering

Civil engineers specializing in transportation take on the challenge of optimizing the movement of people and goods. They design highways, airports, and public transportation systems that connect communities and facilitate economic growth. This path offers opportunities to tackle issues of congestion, sustainability, and accessibility in our ever-evolving urban environments. Polygence environmental and civil engineering research mentor Anne-Laure is at the forefront of innovative research, currently leading a project titled "Life Cycle and Economic Analysis of 3D Printing for Construction." In this venture, students under her guidance immerse themselves in the dynamic realm of 3D printing for construction, exploring the latest trends and advancements in this cutting-edge field.

3. Water Resources Engineering

Water resources engineers are stewards of one of our most precious resources. They design systems to manage water supply, treat wastewater, and protect against flooding. In a world where water scarcity is an increasing concern, these engineers play a vital role in ensuring sustainable and efficient use of this essential resource. Polygence engineering research mentor Holly is combining this area of expertise with environmental engineering and justice. With her, students can investigate the challenges and opportunities engineers face in developing more sustainable practices of waste water treatment.

4. Geotechnical Engineering

Delving into the Earth's depths, geotechnical engineers assess soil and rock properties to ensure stable foundations for construction projects. From skyscrapers to dams, their expertise is crucial in understanding and mitigating the geological challenges that construction projects often face. Polygence civil engineering research mentor Brandon’s expertise lies exactly in this realm. With him, students can embark on a project to understand the way older houses are constructed, and how they fare when compared to newer houses in the event of natural disasters, such as earthquakes or tornadoes.

5. Environmental Engineering

In an era marked by environmental consciousness, civil engineers can specialize in environmental engineering to address pressing issues. They design systems for waste management, pollution control, and sustainable infrastructure, contributing to a cleaner and greener future. Apart from designing these creative solutions, environmental engineers–such as Polygence research mentor Yoichi–use computational methods like machine learning to understand the regions of carbon sources and sinks.

6. Construction Management

For those inclined towards project management, a civil engineering degree opens doors to construction management. These professionals oversee every aspect of a construction project, from budgeting and scheduling to quality control. It's a role that requires a holistic understanding of engineering principles and the ability to navigate the complexities of large-scale construction.

7. Shaping Sustainable Communities via Urban Planning

Civil engineers with a passion for the broader picture may find fulfillment in urban planning. Working alongside architects, policymakers, and communities, they contribute to creating sustainable and livable urban spaces. From designing efficient transportation networks to implementing green spaces, urban planning is about shaping the future of communities.

8. Consulting and Entrepreneurship

After spending years honing their skills and building a robust understanding of the industry, they're well-equipped to offer specialized services. As a result, many civil engineers choose to start their consulting firms or venture into entrepreneurship, offering specialized services in areas like structural analysis, environmental impact assessments, or project management. Starting a consulting firm allows them to apply their expertise in a more targeted way and have a direct impact on projects.

9. International Development

Civil engineers have the opportunity to make a global impact by contributing to international development projects. From designing infrastructure in underserved regions to participating in humanitarian initiatives (e.g., Habitat for Humanity), this path allows engineers to apply their skills to address pressing global challenges.

What You Learn With a Civil Engineering Degree

Civil engineering courses will include applied use of mathematics, such as geometry, trigonometry, and calculus. Civil engineering coursework frequently includes team projects, which provides students with opportunities to develop communication, collaboration, project management, and leadership skills.

How High School Students Can Learn More About Civil Engineering Before Pursuing a Degree

You don’t need to wait until starting college to study civil engineering topics. Middle and high school students interested in civil engineering can explore civil engineering now through: working one-on-one with an engineering research mentor to explore a civil engineering research or passion project; participating in a career discovery program; or taking advantage of available industry-specific resources and opportunities.

Because of the heavy emphasis on math in civil engineering, students should take as many advanced math courses as possible while in middle and high school to solidify their mathematical knowledge. Physics and business courses would also be beneficial for students who wish to pursue a degree in civil engineering to take.

Research projects

Polygence’s 10-week Core program matches you with a research mentor who has expertise in your field of interest.

Work with an expert mentor to explore your passion

At Polygence, we precisely match you with a mentor in your area of interest. Together, you can explore and deepen your passions.

Check out Polygence’s list of Engineering research and passion project ideas for middle and high school students for inspiration on which direction to take with your project!

Civil Engineering research projects completed by Polygence students

Here’s an example of a civil engineering-related project Polygence student Audrey worked on with mentor guidance and support:

Career discovery programs

If you’re not ready to take on a project just yet and would like to focus on exploring potential careers in civil engineering, the one-month Polygence Pathfinders program is an excellent way to do just that. Through the program, you will meet with three expert mentors to learn more about which direction you want to take with your future career.

The Polygence Pathfinders Program

Pathfinders is a career discovery mentorship experience designed to help you explore different career paths and gain more clarity about your future. Learn from three world class mentors in the fields of your choice and discover your passions!

Industry-specific resources

Teens can take advantage of educational programs, conferences, research efforts, and publications in the field of civil engineering to gather information and further their studies.

Here are some excellent resources:

Starting Your Journey Toward Earning a Degree in Civil Engineering

Civil Engineering opens a world of possibilities that extend far beyond the blueprints and structures. Whether you're drawn to the elegance of structural design, the intricacies of transportation systems, the stewardship of water resources, or the challenges of geotechnical engineering, there's a niche waiting for your expertise.

As you contemplate your future in this dynamic field, remember that being a civil engineer means more than just constructing buildings and bridges—it's about shaping the world we live in. The diverse paths highlighted, from environmental engineering to urban planning and international development, showcase the breadth of impact a civil engineer can have.

So, as you embark on your educational journey in Civil Engineering, envision the role you want to play in crafting a sustainable, resilient, and interconnected world. Whether you choose to build towering structures, design eco-friendly solutions, or lead projects on a global scale, your skills as a civil engineer will be the foundation upon which a better future stands. The possibilities are as vast as the landscapes you may one day help shape. 

Your Project Your Schedule - Your Admissions Edge!

Register to get paired with one of our expert mentors and to get started on exploring your passions today! And give yourself the edge you need to move forward!