Construction engineering programs prepare people to use math and science to plan, design, and build structures. Students learn to analyze sites using principles of geology. They also learn about construction methods, materials, and managing projects.
To some people, there are few sights as exciting as a construction site. Mammoth trucks move dirt around, dig deep holes, and set up the skeletons of large structures. Banging and booming sounds match the visual activity. But consider this: When an office building, an airport, or a dam is going up, much of the engineering work has already been done.
As a construction engineer, you solve problems while the structure is being planned. Using principles of math and science, you help decide how to modify the building site to support the structure. You recommend the materials to use for the frame and walls. You may design some of the systems inside the structure that carry heat, electricity, and water. During construction you continue to make recommendations. You also gather data to ensure a successful project.
When you study construction engineering, you learn not only about design, but also about the practical matter of making the design a reality. You study math and various sciences, especially physics. You learn how to create designs and simulations using a computer. You learn how to estimate building costs.
Four or five years of full-time study beyond high school can earn you a bachelor's degree in construction engineering. This is usually the ticket to your first job in this field. However, only a few colleges in the U.S. offer this specific program, so you may have to study civil engineering instead. In that case, you would take as many construction-related courses as possible.
Another entry route is to study construction engineering in a master's program. About 25 graduate schools of engineering offer this program. It usually takes one or two years. You can get your bachelor's degree in a related field of engineering, such as civil, and then get your master's in this field.