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Construction Engineering Technology - Overview


Construction engineering technology programs prepare people to help engineers who construct buildings and other structures. Students learn to inspect and manage construction sites. They learn about materials and construction methods. They also learn to read and interpret building plans.

Are you one of those people who likes to watch construction sites? Maybe you enjoy watching the heavy equipment pushing soil into position, or the welders shooting off sparks as they join steel beams, or the concrete being poured into forms to make beams.

What you don't see is all the engineering and planning that people did before the construction began. And it's easy to overlook the workers who are running tests and measurements to confirm that everything is going according to plan. You may also not notice the supervisors who use this information and make decisions about the work being done. But these are all crucial roles in the project - and construction engineering technologists and technicians often fill these roles.

You can work as a technician after completing two years of full-time study beyond high school. That's what it takes to earn an associate degree in construction engineering technology. Many colleges offer this program. Of these, only about 10 are approved by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). But at the technician level this label may not be very important. You may work testing construction materials. You may assist surveyors on the building site. If you're good at computers, you may use computer-aided drafting (CAD) to prepare blueprints and plans. If the business end interests you, you may compute estimates. Or you may work as a sales representative for a contractor.

You need four years of study to become an engineering technologist. This earns you a bachelor's degree. About 50 colleges offer this degree. Of these, about one-third are accredited by ABET. This credential can be valuable if you want to work closely with engineers. (In some states, you can become an engineer.) Your role is to turn the engineer's design into an actual structure. You compute the loads borne by structural parts and by the soil and suggest materials and construction methods to make the design succeed. With the help of computer software, you turn the design into detailed engineering drawings. You suggest plumbing, ventilation, and electrical components. You develop the specifications, so that the contractor can order supplies. You create timetables.

The two-year program focuses on technology, starting with physics and math. This helps you understand the forces that keep a structure standing. You also study the specific skills you will need to create engineering graphics and work with surveyors. You learn how to translate the details of a design into specifications and estimates.

In the four-year program, you learn more advanced math and science. You also study more of the business concerns. For example, you learn about laws that apply to construction and how accountants keep track of income and expenses. You study how engineering design is influenced by the properties of steel and concrete. Often you finish the program by working on an actual construction project as part of an engineering team.

Source: Illinois Career Information System (CIS) brought to you by Illinois Department of Employment Security.
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