Geotechnical Engineering and Technology

Geotechnical engineering and technology is a branch of engineering science that focuses on the mechanical manipulation of groundwater, earth minerals and soil. Read on to learn more about degree and licensing requirements, employment opportunities and salaries for geotechnical engineers.

Is Geotechnical Engineering and Technology for Me?

Career Overview

In general, geotechnical engineers manipulate and control surface and subsurface earth to stabilize wastes and by-products, improve the safety and stability of highways, transportation and underground construction and effectively move landfills. Geotechnical engineering and technology projects often employ field and laboratory technicians in conjunction with civil engineers and soil engineers. Common employers in the field of geotechnical engineering include contractors, design and consulting firms, energy companies, utility companies and universities.

Employment and Salary Information

In May 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the median annual salary for civil engineers, including geotechnical engineers, was $80,770. According to the BLS, job opportunities within this field are expected to increase by 20% nationwide from 2012-2022, a rate considered faster than the average for all other occupations (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Work in Geotechnical Engineering and Technology?

Undergraduate Programs

Studying math, technology and science (specifically geology, physics and technical drafting), often at the high school level, can help you prepare for a career in geotechnical engineering. Bachelor's degree programs in civil engineering can be found at some 4-year schools. Course emphasis is on the mathematical and geological foundations of geotechnical engineering, often under the auspices of civil engineering studies and field work.

Graduate Programs

Some engineering positions require a graduate degree, so you may want to consider a Master of Science, Master of Engineering or a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Geotechnical Engineering program. In addition to oral and written exams, seminars and site investigations, graduate coursework can include the study of numerical methods, geomechanics and statistical analysis. You may also learn about earthquake and foundation engineering, slope stability and geological oceanography.

Licensing

You'll need a professional engineer's (PE) license to apply for some geotechnical engineering and technology positions. Requirements include four years of engineering experience and a satisfactory score on an exam, often taken in two parts. A bachelor's degree from a program that has been approved by ABET is needed to sit for the first part of the exam, which will test your knowledge of the fundamentals of engineering (FE). The second part, the principles and practices of engineering exam, can be taken after you have enough work experience.

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