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Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?
3

Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

(OP)
I don't want to make a post complaining about my own personal experience in the profession since I graduated in 2009.

I would like to know from the more experienced civil engineers if they would choose the major in 2014. Do you think there are brighter opportunities outside of civil engineering for people who are still early in their careers?

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

do you mean enginering as opposed to more "trendy" vocations, like accounting, MBAing, dot-com, app writing, ...

Quando Omni Flunkus Moritati

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

Yup(pie)

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA)


RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

(OP)
Well, I'm mostly looking for feedback from civil engineers. Primarily because I feel that civil has been impacted a little differently than many of the other engineering disciplines.

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

(OP)
Oops I accidentally posted that last message before finishing

I mean, if you had to choose a career field that offers the brightest opportunities and job security in your lifetime. I'm not really talking about any specific trendy occupations, it could be as simple as becoming a plumber. Since, we know that the master plumbers with their own business can make a lot of money and the job seems to offer at least a little bit of satisfaction (can't say I've ever been a plumber though)

If it were up to me, I would not choose civil engineering as a way to build useful skills that are in demand. If I took the major, it would be out of sheer interest in learning since I found all the topics interesting. But I wouldn't count on gaining any transferable skills in the process

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

(OP)
And i'm talking about taking the major in 2014. As opposed to 1974, 1983 or 1992, which may have been a different era for the profession. sorry for the triple post smile

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

(OP)
Funny you should mention that GrandpaDave. Although, I'm not sure if you are serious. I worked my first 3 years out of school as a graduate engineer at a local government (civil service). I very much enjoyed working there but could not bring myself to commit for life. With the benefits getting better every year, I decided to leave my comfortable job to return to graduate school.

Are you serious about the civil service type job?

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

No... "My tongue was stuck in my cheek." I'd never work for the local, state or federal governments.
However, if you do join the public sector you are general fixed for life. In the private sector today,
companies are not offering pension plan so you have to start early planning for retirement. Also, you
are not set for life in case the company has hard times... even if you are a top engineer. Be prepared to move.
I was lucky, in 45+ years I was only RIF'ed (laid-off) 2 times... and come to think of it only moved 3 times!pipe

Regards,
G-pa Dave
pipe

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

You are set for life as long as the government employer does not run out of money.

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

Would I do something different than engineering? No
Looking back on a 40 year career if I did it over again I might look at either a field position in civil engineer (I've been strictly an office worker) or something in the industrial/manufacturing engineering sector. Of course I've been a construction junkie since about the time I was 5 so any other field would not satisfy me the way that engineering does.
That's not to say that civil engineering is necessarily the most profitable career these days, even within the engineering community, but you got to do what you love doing.

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

i doubt any field of engineering is really profitable. we do it 'cause we like it (like ajh's post), not 'cause we think we'll get rich.

Quando Omni Flunkus Moritati

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

(OP)
Thank you for your input

I didn't mean to ask if it was the most lucrative career. I meant is it a good choice for having a good all-around career experience. This means developing valuable skills that can be transferred between workplaces, being involved on interesting and challenging projects, meeting and interacting with good natured people, having a decent work/life balance, AND yes, making enough money for you and your family to live a decent quality of life.

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

(OP)
I'm just not convinced that it is a good field for young people to get into, from 2008 on wards. While some people have been able to make, it seems more like a gamble from my own experience.

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

ok, a different tangent ... why do you think it's not a good field ? have you answered your own question ? I mean, wouldn't you value your doubts based on your experience above some unknown others with experience to the contray ?

sounds like you've had at best a mixed experience ... what was good ? what bad ??

Quando Omni Flunkus Moritati

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

I hope there is a shortage of engineers in the sewer and water rehab area. I want to keep working till I can't travel anymore. And I only travel to get me PDH's to keep my licenses up to date. But I've only been working since 1966.

Richard A. Cornelius, P.E.
WWW.amlinereast.com

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

If I was a graduating high school senior, and did not have a scholarship to a university, I would skip college entirely and learn to write code.

Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East - http://www.campbellcivil.com

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

(OP)
rb1957 - You're right, eventually I'm going to have to go with my gut feeling. Some people have shared my experience; others have had an experience to the contrary.

Now I don't want to complain or seek personal advice, I do that elsewhere thumbsup

But this has been my experience so far

My perceived pros
-Potential to work on interesting and engaging projects
-Decent pay, benefits and work/life balance at my last municipal job
-Good job security in public sector (but not so much for private)

My perceived cons
-Very few job opportunities upon graduation(BSCE) in 2009
-Very few job opportunities upon graduation(MSCE) in 2014 (but maybe not as bad as 2009)
-High likelihood of getting pigeonholed or purple squirreled. I feel like this is happening to me right now, only 3 years into the career, as well as in 2009. i.e. my public experience doesn't translate to private experience. My water experience doesn't translate to structures or transportation... etc. etc. They can find the perfect candidate with the exact experience they need.
-Very few entry/junior level positions; those that exist are actually filled by more experienced candidates who do not require training but will work for the same price
-Potential for low pay, long hours, and underappreciated work. No matter how rewarding the work is, sometimes it just isn't worth it
-Long periods of time sitting at a computer(8-10 hrs/day); personally I put a $$ tag on my own health and vitality

Not to mention, I have friends who have "half-assed" (their own words) it through non-engineering school and were still greeted by great jobs in their profession upon graduation.

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

(OP)
dicksewerrat - I've had the pleasure of watching some of the CCTV sewer videos at my last job. I've seen rat colonies in abandoned sewer laterals, gigantic grease blobs and sewers from the 1800s that were 2/3 full of sediment. Hopefully there will be W/S R&R work for years to come

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

(OP)
beej67 - That is the kind of alternative that I'm talking about. I would probably go that route myself and then go to college when I've made some money or get someone else to pay for it.

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

(OP)
ajh1 - can I ask why you prefer the field? I prefer the field myself but there seems to be less opportunities for fieldwork

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

i'd've thought that working for the govt would have helped network you with people on the outside.

i see goivt work as either
1) writing the rules for everyone to follow (lots of "interaction" with folks on the outside, interested in the rules, and how to shape them to suit themselves),
2) enforcing these rules (same sort of interaction, seeing what creative means are being used to show compliance, without actually doing what the rule intended), or
3) doing analysis (ok, watching sewer video might fit) that folks on the outside don't do, don't want to do, or can't do. this is an opportunity to strike out on your own ... the govt shouldn't be doing this (just as the govt shouldn't run airlines). reduce govt costs by out-sourcing.

Quando Omni Flunkus Moritati

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

I was a Mech Engr essentially doing project management work for the first 6 years out of school. Got concerned that I was not developing "hard" engineering skills so left that to do design work. Now after 30 years and lots of solid design skills I have a layoff notice in hand and I'm surrounded by other guys in the same boat. Yet people who stayed on the mgt side and developed the "soft" skills seem to be valued more and are not facing layoffs, at least for now.
Not that simple to predict what skills will provide job security, laws of supply and demand are always there.

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

I've been working a little over 20 years working for State government and I feel like my job is closer to a teacher grading papers. You'd be surprised (or maybe you wouldn't) of how much garbage we see every day signed/stamped by P.E.'s. I'd just wish everyone would remember to use some of the basic things taught in school when doing calculations like showing your formulae, listing assumptions, and showing units life would be better for all. I think one reason why I got my P.E. license was so I didn't feel intimidated by P.E.'s who've made a mistakes try to verbally attack me with their credentials.

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

Zelgar - I complete agree. What's being taught today in engineering colleges?
Back in the late 50s and early 60s when slide rules and engineering handbooks
were used, our generation was taught the basics. Today with all this FEM-ing,
FEA-ing and CAD-ing the basics get lost. When I started at McDonnell aircraft
we had large groups of engineers, the young ones were taught by the senior people.
Today young engineers are left to learn on their own which leads to GI-GO...

Zelgar - I liked this part: "like showing your formulae, listing assumptions, and
showing units life..." One should shows free bodies so load paths are well
understood too.

My 2-cents, please tell me I'm wrong.
G-pa Dave
pipe

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

(OP)
Zelgar - I've reviewed many plans from PE's that were drafted in MS Paint. Usually after a couple rounds of comments they surprisingly got the plan looking pretty good.

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

I think the three most important things about choosing a career path in modern times are these:

1) Choose something with a high ROI, particularly as college costs are skyrocketing and the value of the college education is plummeting,
2) Choose something that is unlikely to be automated completely by software in the foreseeable future,
3) Choose something that you can start your own business doing, if the opportunity arises.

#3 is a big deal in my opinion, because it provides you insulation against layoffs, the freedom to set your own obligations, and a window into the truly big money. Nobody becomes a lord by being a serf their whole life.

The ROI in civil isn't terrible when compared to non-technical fields, but it's not great compared to other engineering fields. Civil does have an advantage over other engineering fields when it comes to #3 though, and it's solid on #2.

Oil rig divers make $1000 a day, but are prohibited from working for longer than one month at a time, or more than six months out of the year. Teach your kids SCUBA. ;)

Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East - http://www.campbellcivil.com

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

(OP)
Grandpa Dave - All of those things were taught in my engineering college. But they were not being reinforced in the workplace (in my experience). I was one of the lucky ones at my first job who got to do some basic hand calculations for pipe sizing and even measure areas using a planimeter. But once the higher ups found out that I had some experience with a certain software package, they switched much of my workload to that area. All that seems to matter for junior positions is if you can run software. In my area it's Civil3d and water modeling software like HEC-RAS and SWMM. At this point there are so many models that you can pick the model to give you the results you want (like smaller pipe sizes). The assumptions and equations the model is based on gets thrown out the window, since the software has been accepted and validated by so many. Personally I don't feel like I was learning anything about engineering when I was running the software. I was only learning how to run the software itself. People say it's just a tool but it ends up being used as THE tool. From my brief experience smile

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

(OP)
cjccmc - Maybe now you can move back over to the "soft skills" side of things since you have so much design experience.

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

I would tell anyone who is thinking about going into Civil Engineering to think again.

If I had it to do over again, I think I would go into medicine. I encouraged all three of my kids to go into medicine and they did. They have far better pay and much more respect.

Civil (particularly Structural) Engineering (in the US) is being assaulted on three fronts:
- Many of the industries that employed Engineers either have moved or will move offshore.
- Much of the engineering work traditionally done domestically is being outsourced to India, China, etc.
- Foreign students are staying in this country or coming to this country due to H1-B visas.

I advise going into a field with some entry barriers. There is very minimal (or none at all) educational requirements or licensing requirements for working in Civil Engineering. In Pennsylvania, a person cannot commercially cut someone's hair without a license but they can be an Engineer without a license.

There are far better professions for a young person to enter than Civil Engineering.



RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

I've been out of school with a civil engineering degree for 10 years and the loans are all but paid off.
I make a lot more money than I did in construction but a lot less than my friends with math and computer degrees or MBAs.
I've been laid off once and couldn't find a decent job for over a year.
But I've never had to sit behind the same desk for more than a couple of weeks at a time and I get to work outside a lot.
So far it's been a good run and I wouldn't trade it in for a higher paying computer job where I was stuck in the same office day in and day out for the rest of my life.
Society will always need civil engineers.

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

Graduated in 2002. Somewhere in there I switched out of Mechanical Engineering and wanted to go into Economics. Was told to stick with engineering. Started in a down time, went through the bust. Money wise I am sure I would have made a lot more money being an investment banker. Engineering is more interesting to me though. Would I tell someone to go into Engineering now? No. And that's knowing that civil engineers are one of the few professions that's actually needed. Programmers and MBA's is where the money is at.

Certain civil plans cannot be outsourced completely so I wouldn't worry about that just yet. Someone still needs to physically sit over the counter with a Govt. person most of the time.

B+W Engineering and Design
Los Angeles Civil Engineer and Structural Engineer
http://bwengr.com

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

(OP)
Thank you for the response guys thumbsup

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

In terms of why I think I would like field work:
One thing I find amiss in too many engineers who have spent their whole career in an office is a lack of understanding of how 3D objects really go together, rather than just lines on paper. The ability to work out solutions with real things and in many cases make those things work within the constraints that actually exist versus the ideal conditions that we all carefully design for is fun. I do a lot of Saturday work with Habitat for Humanity and have for over 20 years. The chance to stay physically active while creating something permanent is a great feeling. Office wear has devolved over the years, but there's nothing quite as freeing as hard hat, steel-toed boots, and a good pair of construction grade pants. As I said before I'm a construction junkie, which always makes hands-on good.

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

I think one of the secrets to success in the construction industry is to understand its inherent entrepreneurial nature. Every project is a prototype, and projects start and then they stop. For that reason, folks who can jump at opportunities and be adaptable with oddball problems do well. Investment banking and website development also have that character. Medicine and government jobs are the opposite.

RE: Would you major in Civil Engineering in 2014?

No. If I could go back, I would not have gone to engineering school.

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