Civil Engineering Technology Degrees: Associate, Bachelor & Online Info

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What will you learn in a civil engineering technology degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Studying Civil Engineering Technology: Degrees at a Glance

The civil engineering field employs professionals who design, develop and implement local and national infrastructures. Large, small, hidden, or visible, civil engineering specialists are responsible for the development of multiple structures, including utilities, highways and bridges. Because the profession requires a combination of technology, engineering and critical thinking skills, colleges design programs to provide graduates with an understanding of communication, technical mathematics and structural design.

The bachelor's and associate degrees will prepare you for a career in construction, land surveying or architectural services. While an associate degree will not prepare you for a civil engineering career - since civil engineers need at least a bachelor's degree - you can find work as an engineering technician.

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that the majority of workers in this field could see average to faster-than-average job growth from 2010-2020, some professionals - such as civil drafters - were expected to see slower than average job growth. Reasons for the sluggish growth opportunities in the drafting field include technological advancements that are making it easier for non-drafting professionals to perform drafting duties previously contracted out to drafting specialists.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in entry-level technician or drafting opportunities in multiple sectors People who want to pursue a civil engineer career
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Surveying and mapping technician ($42,000)*
- Architectural or civil drafter ($50,000)*
- Civil engineering technician ($48,500)*
- Construction manager ($94,000 - people with more than five years' experience earned this salary)*
- Surveyor ($59,000)*
- Civil engineer ($83,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years, full-time 4 years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 70 or more credits in general education and technical coursework
- High school mathematics requirement or remedial coursework
-Roughly 130 credits in general education, subject matter and upper-division courses
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability None found at this time Very limited availability

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate of Applied Science in Civil Engineering Technology

These associate degree programs offer basic training in the processes involved in each phase of a construction project. You will learn surveying techniques, problem solving skills and project management concepts. The technical component of these programs provides a foundation in project drawings and blueprints and scientific modules deliver knowledge of soils and materials. Some programs offer training that will prepare you to take industry-standard certification exams. Programs are science and mathematics intensive; consequently, you will benefit from gaining a solid foundation in mathematics and science prior to enrollment.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Career salaries are relatively competitive with the appropriate experience
  • You will have a leg up on applicants for other technician jobs - like posts for surveying and mapping technicians - that usually require a high school diploma
  • Associate degree program credits may transfer to a bachelor's degree, if you choose to continue your education

Cons

  • Some occupations will experience slower-than-average job growth (drafting jobs were projected to grow only 6% through 2020)*
  • Local industries play a role in job prospects; fluctuations in the construction sector can influence job availability*
  • Some jobs may require that you compete against graduates of a bachelor's degree program

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

The associate degree program provides the foundation required to solve complex engineering problems using mathematics and scientific knowledge. In addition, programs offer a firm understanding of communicating technical information through a series of communications courses. The program requires roughly 70 credits in general education, technology, science and subject matter courses. Following are some common courses offered by many programs:

  • Technical mathematics
  • Structural detailing
  • Highway surveying
  • Soils and materials testing
  • Physics
  • Introduction to AutoCAD
  • Structural concepts

Online Degree Options

Currently, the associate degree may prove difficult to locate in an online format. While employers tend to prefer candidates who graduate from an ABET-accredited institution, the ABET accredits very few 100%-online programs, and - as of August 2012 - these programs were all at the bachelor's and master's degree levels. If you find an online option, keep in mind that the accrediting organization will play a significant role in the selection of a quality program and suitable employment offers.

Stand Out with This Degree

Modern technology skills and certification offer the best foundation for increased job prospects and advancement. Because civil engineering technicians and drafters use technologies that civil engineers may not, mastering technologies - including computer-aided design (CAD), building information modeling (BIM) and product data management (PDM) software - can position you for better job opportunities. You can inquire about technical courses in relevant software at your school or take professional development courses to meet technical requirements.

Certification demonstrates your proficiency in the theoretical practices associated with civil engineering technology. The American Design Drafting Association confers several professional drafting certifications. The National Institute for Certification and Engineering Technologies offers a technician certification open to individuals who possess work experience and positive recommendations. Both programs require a recertification process to maintain your credentials.

Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering Technology

A bachelor's degree can take your education further through instruction in design, materials selection and the application of experimental processes to the improvement of engineering practices. You will learn to analyze and solve engineering technology complications, manage construction methods and function in a leadership role. Bachelor's degree programs require a broad range of coursework in general education, communication and technical courses. Universities incorporate science, mathematics and materials courses to provide an engineering foundation. You can select from multiple areas of emphasis, including environmental, transportation, structural and geotechnical engineering technology.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • These degrees offer the opportunity for a wider range of employment options, including civil engineering positions
  • This is a flexible degree that offers a number of concentrations and provides a sound scientific foundation
  • Some degree programs can transition into a 5-year, accelerated master's degree program, should you consider pursuing higher education

Cons

  • Salaries for some positions are comparable to those earned by graduates of an associate degree program (construction managers earned a mean annual wage of $94,000 vs. civil engineers who earned $83,000)*
  • Pursuing professional licensing will increase your training time, although it is essential to advancing to supervisory positions
  • Online degree options are - at best - limited, and non-ABET programs prevent candidates from pursuing certification or licensing

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Courses and Requirements

The bachelor's degree prepares you to apply standard principles of the field to project activities, including the development, design and management of construction plans. Scientific laboratory courses offer practical experience in solving problems through experiments, while technology courses offer a hands-on approach to managing computer-aided designs. Universities structure programs to provide roughly 130 credits in general education, communications, technical and engineering coursework. You will learn graphical and mathematical communication, cost estimation, surveying methods and problem-solving techniques using multiple approaches.

Prior to graduation, students must meet the educational objectives through courses in pre-calculus, engineering practices, surveying, construction materials, structural analysis, thermodynamics and engineering economics. You may also take elective courses in specific designs, including bridge, seismic or highway, as well as ethical and legal concepts in the industry.

Online Degree Options

Very few online options for a bachelor's degree exist. You may find a program in construction engineering technology or a related discipline. Online programs accredited by ABET offer the best option and provide a curriculum similar to campus-based programs. Selecting a non-ABET accredited program may affect your ability to find suitable employment or pursue licensure.

Stand Out with This Degree

Similar to the associate degree, obtaining certification can increase job prospects, although licensing increases your opportunity for advancement. Each state - and the District of Columbia - require licensing for civil engineers who supervise civil engineering technicians and related staff. The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying confers the Professional Engineer license, which requires a suitable score on the Fundamentals of Engineering examination, a supervised work experience of no less than four years, and a passing score on the Professional Engineering examination.

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