Civil Engineering Advising Guide

Department of Civil, Coastal, and Environmental Engineering

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What is Civil Engineering?

Civil engineers design, build, operate, and maintain the structures and infrastructure that allows our modern society to function. These facilities are critically important to our everyday life and include buildings, roads, bridges, safe drinking water systems, storm water and wastewater collection and treatment systems, railroads, seaports, airports, environmental protection systems, dams, flood control works, navigational systems, beaches, and many others.  Civil engineering is the largest of all engineering fields and is projected to have the largest job growth (over 46,000 new hires) in the next 10 years. 

Civil engineers are problem solvers, meeting the challenges of pollution control, traffic congestion, drinking water needs, energy demands, urban redevelopment, costal protection and resiliency, and community planning.  From the Freedom Tower in NYC rising 1776 feet in the air to the massive Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, civil engineers are building our future.

Career Opportunities in Civil Engineering 

Civil engineers work in a variety of settings and for a wide range of employers. Some are self-employed and own their own engineering companies. Some civil engineering jobs are primarily indoors, but many involve frequent visits to project sites during both the design and construction phases.

Public sector employers include public agencies, such as city/county engineering (or public works) departments, water/wastewater utilities, state departments of transportation, and many federal agencies (US Army Corps of Engineers, EPA, US Geological Survey, NASA, NOAA, etc.).

Private sector employers include small, medium, and large consulting companies that provide engineering design/construction services. Often, these companies specialize in some particular area of civil engineering (structures, environmental, geotechnical, etc.). As examples, some firms specialize in the design/construction of large athletic stadiums, some firms specialize in the design/construction of bridges or highways, some wastewater treatment facilities, and some do a little bit of everything.

Civil engineers are involved in a wide variety of projects that all impact our built environment and our daily lives. More and more, civil engineers rely on modern tools such as global positioning systems (GPS), geographic information systems (GIS), and electronic sensing devices to solve problems related to water resources, transportation, environment, or structures. 

The profession is organized into several different sub-disciplines:

Structural Engineering:

Structural engineers design a lot more than buildings and bridges. They can be found in the aerospace industry, designing jetliners and space stations; in the automotive industry, perfecting the load-carrying capacity of a chassis and improving the crashworthiness of bumpers and doors; and in the energy industry, designing offshore oil production facilities that can withstand hurricane winds and waves. They can also be found in the ship building industry, the power industry, and many other industries wherever constructed facilities are involved.

Transportation Engineering:

Transportation engineers provide efficient and safe ways for us to move from one place to another. They design highways, railroads, seaports, airports, and other similar projects. Transportation infrastructure is essential to society and improving this infrastructure is a high priority in the coming decades, which will require civil engineers with expertise in transportation engineering.

Environmental Engineering

Environmental engineering focuses on providing safe drinking water systems, solid waste handling/recycling/disposal, environmental protection, storm water management, wastewater collection and treatment, ground water protection and remediation, air pollution treatment and management, and hazardous waste cleanup and management. Environmental engineers work closely with municipal governments, industry, and federal agencies to meet local, state, and national environmental regulations. With goals to protect public health and the environment, it is said that civil/environmental engineers have saved more lives than doctors.

Construction Engineering

Construction engineers oversee the actual construction of civil engineering projects. They start with design drawings and specifications prepared by design engineers, and convert them into physical reality. Cost estimating, scheduling, contracting, and working with project owners, engineers, vendors, and skilled craftsmen to complete sometimes massive construction jobs on-time and under-budget requires excellent leadership and communication skills.

Coastal Engineering

Another unique civil engineering subdiscipline is coastal engineering. Coastal engineers expertly understand water, wind, and waves so that they can design coastal protection structures, ports, harbors, beaches, living shorelines, and help protect coastal bridges, buildings, and barrier islands from severe tropical weather systems (i.e. hurricanes). Did you know that many urbanized beaches are actually “engineered” beaches so that they will protect the coastal structures?

Geotechnical Engineering

Geotechnical engineers focus on soil, rock, and underground water and how they relate to the design, construction, and long-term operation of civil engineering projects. Their work is critical to providing adequate foundations for buildings (or other large structures…think dams, overpasses, tunnels or subways, large storage tanks, etc.), preventing landslides, and remediating underground issues, including contamination.

Water Resources Engineering

Water resources engineering involves many types of projects needed to provide safe drinking water, irrigation water, flood control, and waterborne navigation. These projects may include aqueducts, pipelines, dams, levees, pump stations, locks and dams, channel dredging, and other similar projects. For example, the cities of New York and Los Angeles get their water (hundreds of millions of gallons per day) from mountain snowmelt located hundreds of miles away from the city centers. Water availability is becoming a serious problem in many parts of the U.S. and the world as population continues to grow.


Salary Trends in Civil Engineering 

A recent Kelly Services report on US Engineering Employment Growth found that overall engineering job growth is expected to increase by 11% over the next 10 years, and civil engineering is projected as the engineering field with the most job growth (over 46,000 new hires). New civil engineering graduates in the US typically earn $60,500 per year (ASCE). Private company hires often earn more than public agency hires, but public agency hires often have more secure positions and substantial benefits.


High School Preparation

To best prepare for a Civil Engineering program, take trigonometry and calculus classes in high school. If you have access to AP/IB classes or the opportunity to take classes at a community college, those too will give you a good idea of the expectation and preparation for the classes you will be expected to take in college. Having a solid foundation in chemistry, too, will benefit you upon entering our Civil Engineering program.


How to Major in Civil Engineering 

To major in Civil Engineering, students must take a total of 18 hours of general education classes (not including English Composition I and II). It is important that students make adequate progress in the Civil Engineering program.  Satisfactory completion of a set of fundamental courses is required before a student is allowed to take advanced courses.  Professional Component Standing (PCS) is awarded by the chair of the department when the student completes the College of Engineering PCS requirements and the CCEE departmental PCS requirements.

College of Engineering PCS Courses  
Course Number Course Title Minimum Grade
EH 101 English Composition I C
EH 102 English Composition 2 C
CH 131 General Chemistry I with Lab C
MA 125 Calculus I C
MA 126 Calculus II C
PH 201/L Calculus-Based Physics I with Lab C


Civil, Coastal, and Environmental Engineering PCS Courses  
Course Number Course Title Minimum Grade
CH 132 General Chemistry II with Lab C
MA 227 Calculus III C
EG 283 Statics C
CE 102 Intro to Civil Engineering C
CE 204/205 Surveying Fundamentals with Lab C
Science Elective Biology, Geology, or Land Processes C


Civil engineering students are required to take the Civil Engineering discipline specific Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) examination in Alabama or another state prior to graduation. All electives must be approved by the student's advisor. 

Satisfactory completion of the 131 hour program outlined in the Bulletin leads to a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. Students must also comply with the College of Engineering Requirements for a Degree, which are covered in the Bulletin under the College of Engineering.


Special Programs, Co-ops, and Internships

Students are encouraged to intern and/or co-op once they’ve completed their fundamental classes. Accepting a co-op could potentially extend graduation. Should a student apply and accept a co-op, with the knowledge of postponing graduation, they should register their co-op with Career Services so that the co-op will reflect on their official transcripts.

Civil Engineering Highlights 

The Department of Civil, Coastal, & Environmental Engineering at USA prides itself on a faculty that are excellent classroom instructors, mentors, and are involved in funded research activities (often utilizing undergraduate research assistants). The Department also enjoys strong support from the local engineering community, which results in many internship and permanent employment opportunities.


Study Abroad Opportunities 

The College of Engineering has agreements with six German Universities for exchange programs. Please contact the College of Engineering or Study Abroad Office for more information and details on the exchange program. Summer 2018, Civil Faculty, Dr. Wu is taking a group of students on a faculty-led study abroad program to China. More study abroad opportunities specific to engineering are being planned.


Academic Plan

Following an academic plan will help you stay on track to graduate in four years. 

To see a sample academic plan for this major, please click here.  Degree plans provide only a suggested schedule; make sure to meet with your academic advisor to find the actual schedule that is right for you.

For additional degree information, visit the undergraduate bulletin.


For More Information

For more information, please contact the Department of Civil, Coastal, and Environmental Engineering at (251) 460-6174 or Nani Perez Uribe at

You can find us on campus at:

College of Engineering
Department of Civil, Coastal, and Environmental Engineering
Shelby Hall, Room 3142
150 Student Services Drive
Mobile, AL 36688-0002
5991 USA Drive North


*The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on this and other majors, please refer to the USA bulletin or contact the Department/College directly.