A civil engineering specialization is a subfield of a larger academic study that involves a specific operation, material or object. As civil engineering involves multiple types of infrastructure projects, it's often helpful if professionals have a comprehensive knowledge of one particular area. Undergraduate students typically choose a specialization after selecting a civil engineering major in their degree program. After they graduate, they can either gain a higher degree in their specialization or enter the workforce for their niche.
1. Structural engineering
Structural engineering students learn how to design large structures and ensure they can stay functional during high winds and natural disasters, like earthquakes. They study the gravitational properties of a structure to determine how much weight they can handle, as this step allows them to create support mechanisms through beams and columns. It's important for these students to take courses on other physical science topics, including kinetics, shock waves and airflow. After they graduate from a program, they can further specialize in building, bridge design or aircraft engineering.
Vehicle and airplane design
2. Construction engineering and management
In this specialization, civil engineering students can learn the design principles of construction, building code regulations and operation steps for a project. They typically take courses on how to manage a project's resources and equipment, then how to construct buildings that are safe, functional and sustainable. Students also study how to organize each construction process step, including making a timeline, maintaining a materials inventory and preparing a budget. Programs with a management component often emphasize building information modeling (BIM), which is an information technology tool that many construction engineers use for their endeavors.
Roads and bridges
Water treatment plants
3. Geotechnical engineering
Geotechnical engineering is a specialization that involves the study of rocks, soil and any artificial materials that support a system. For example, a graduate may coordinate the construction of an underground mining facility. It's important for geotechnical students to learn about the chemical properties of earth materials, as different types of rock may require different building techniques. When completing their degree, students often study water and soil interactions, plus how to designpavement structures and predict whether a natural slope can handle the additional weight.
Water tank reservoir systems
Sewer tunnel systems
Pavements and roads
Historical monument restoration
Soil sampling and testing
4. Environmental engineering
Environmental engineering students learn how to reduce the overall impact of an artificial system on the world's ecosystem and manage natural resources for a construction project. They typically study the chemical properties of water, soil and air so they can design technical mechanisms that solve pollution issues. After they graduate, they may help companies improve the sustainability of their facilities and advise legislators on environmental policies. Their projects often result in the production of green energy, which is a renewable power source from natural occurrences like sunlight or water.
Solid waste management
5. Transportation engineering
In a transportation engineering specialization, students learn how to design networking systems that individuals use for traveling purposes, including railroads, subways, airways and seaways. They study how to develop infrastructure to help people move between locations safely and efficiently, including pathway plans. Transportation engineering students also learn how to modify natural environments to plan transportation systems, like an artificial canal. When taking coursework, students typically study physical science properties like applied force and lateral force, which involves how earthquakes or wind storms may affect a system's durability.
Traffic monitoring systems
Automated public transit
Bicycle path development
Road access management
6. Water resources engineering
Water resources engineering involves developing infrastructure for safe drinking water in towns and cities. Students learn the hydrologic cycle, which is how water molecules move between the atmosphere and the earth over time. They use this knowledge of natural systems to design water sanitation facilities and artificial lakes or ponds. This civil engineering specialization also involves hydraulics, which refers to how water moves through pipes and channels through natural forces in physical science.
Water distribution centers
Flood protection facilities
7. Materials engineering
This specialization involves the study of all items and components required for a construction project, such as wood, steel and concrete. They may also study stones, soil, plastics and fabrics, depending on a university program's requirements. Materials engineering students learn the chemical properties of these items, which allows them to determine the best possible materials for a project or adjust them on an atomic level. For example, a professional might measure a component's ability to handle heat or conduct electricity.
Biodegradable product design
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