Civil engineers design and supervise large construction projects, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment.
Civil engineers typically do the following:
- Analyze survey reports, maps, and other data to plan projects
- Consider construction costs, government regulations, potential environmental hazards, and other factors in planning stages
- Test soils to determine the adequacy and strength of foundations
- Test building materials, such as concrete, asphalt, or steel, for use in particular projects
- Provide cost estimates for materials, equipment, or labor to determine a projectís economic feasibility
- Use design software to plan and design transportation systems, hydraulic systems, and structures in line with industry and government standards
- Oversee, or participate in, surveying to establish reference points, grades, and elevations to guide construction
- Present their findings to the public on topics such as bid proposals, environmental impact statements, or property descriptions
Many civil engineers hold supervisory or administrative positions ranging from supervisor of a construction site to city engineer. Others work in design, construction, research, and teaching. They work with others on projects and may be assisted by civil engineering technicians and technologists.
The federal government employs about 12,100 civil engineers to do many of the same things done in private industry, except that the federally employed civil engineers may also inspect projects to be sure that they comply with regulations.
Civil engineers work on complex projects, so they usually specialize in one of several areas.
Geotechnical engineers work to make sure that foundations are solid. They focus on how structures built by civil engineers, such as buildings and tunnels, interact with the earth (including soil and rock). Additionally, they design and plan for slopes, retaining walls, and tunnels.
Structural engineers design and assess major projects, such as bridges or dams, to ensure their strength and durability.
Transportation engineers plan and design everyday systems, such as streets and highways, but they also plan larger projects, such as airports, ports, and harbors.
Mechanical engineering is one of the broadest engineering disciplines. Mechanical engineers research, design, develop, build, and test mechanical devices, including tools, engines, and machines.
Mechanical engineers typically do the following:
- Analyze problems to see how a mechanical device might help solve the problem
- Design or redesign mechanical devices, creating blueprints so the device can be built
- Develop a prototype of the device and test the prototype
- Analyze the test results and change the design as needed
- Oversee the manufacturing process for the device
Mechanical engineers use many types of tools, engines, and machines. Examples include the following:
- Power-producing machines such as electric generators, internal combustion engines, and steam and gas turbines
- Power-using machines, such as refrigeration and air-conditioning
- Industrial production equipment, including robots used in manufacturing
- Other machines inside buildings, such as elevators and escalators
- Machine tools and tools for other engineers
- Material-handling systems, such as conveyor systems and automated transfer stations
Like other engineers, mechanical engineers use computers extensively. Computers help mechanical engineers to do the following:
- Produce and analyze designs
- Simulate and test how a machine is likely to work
- Generate specifications for parts
- Monitor the quality of products
- Control manufacturing and production