Are There Any Computer Programs or Languages I Should Know to Make My Studies in Civil Engineering Any Easier?

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If you’re thinking about earning your master’s in civil engineering degree, one of the highest paying master’s degrees, you might wonder what computer skills you will need. Although civil engineering isn’t as computer-heavy a discipline of engineering as computer engineering or software engineering, using computer technologies is integral to the work of designing structures and infrastructure systems. Some of the most important kinds of computer programs for civil engineering graduate students to know are computer-aided design software, modeling software, GIS software and the computer programming languages most in-demand in the field of civil engineering. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Computer-Aided Design Software

Design is, perhaps, the most crucial part of an engineer’s work. Although civil engineers still have a use for sketches drawn by hand, today’s engineers do a lot of their technical drawings with the help of computer technology. Computer-aided design software, or CAD software, is widely used not only in the field of civil engineering – and engineering more generally – but also in roles in hundreds of occupations, including business administration, fashion design, anthropology and archeology and carpentry and cabinetmaking.

Civil engineers use computer-aided design software to create technically precise designs of bridges, roads, stormwater management systems and more, according to O*NET. Some of the most widely used types of computer-aided design software taught to undergraduate civil engineering students are Dassault Systemes SolidWorks and Autodesk AutoCAD. Other CAD software you might use as a civil engineer, O*NET reported, includes Bentley InRoads Site, Trimble Terramodel, Mathsoft Mathcad and Bentley Haestad Methods CivilStorm.

Students in a bachelor’s degree program in civil engineering usually begin learning computer-aided design by focusing on two-dimensional design techniques and then advance to three-dimensional design work.

Modeling Software

Civil engineers don’t only use computer software to create designs of their engineering projects. They also use it for modeling, creating digital three-dimensional representations of their designs that they can use to test their designs by running simulations. Although modeling software is used in many fields, civil engineers often use a specialized type of software called building information software, or BIM. A specialized Civil 3D version Autodesk AutoCAD is widely used for modeling in civil engineering. Even more specialized software programs are used for specific aspects of civil engineering, such as the HydroCAD Stormwater Modeling System used to simulate stormwater runoff.

There is some overlap between the uses of CAD software and modeling software in civil engineering. More advanced CAD software programs with modeling capabilities can be used for both tasks, while basic CAD software may not have modeling functionalities.

GIS Software

GIS software, or Geographic Information System software, allows the user to map and analyze geographic data. For civil engineers, proficiency in using GIS software is valuable because the work they do is constrained by the natural geography and topography. Bridges, houses, airports, road networks, dams and water runoff systems are all built into the natural environment, so civil engineers have to take environmental and geographical factors into account in their designs.

One of the best-known GIS software systems for use in civil engineering is ESRI ArcGIS software.

Computer Programming Languages for Civil Engineers

At first glance, a civil engineer may not seem to have much in common with a computer programmer. However, having some knowledge of computer languages is valuable for civil engineering majors. You may not spend much of your time programming for the purposes of creation – in the sense of creating a software application or a website – but you do need to understand the algorithms and data structures used to solve engineering problems and complete statistical analyses of data. Some of the programming languages that are most valuable for civil engineers to know include MathWorks MATLAB, Python and C, a general-purpose computer programming language.

An undergraduate course on engineering computation may cover one or more of the computer programming languages.

Learning to Use the Most Important Computer Programs for Civil Engineers

If this non-exhaustive list of the computer programs and languages civil engineering students should know seems a little daunting, try not to worry. Although master’s in civil engineering programs may expect students to have at least some proficiency in these computer programs, most students learn these technical skills in college. Students typically aren’t expected to have prior knowledge of these computer programs before earning a bachelor’s, although any high school coursework you completed in computer programming or CAD can help prepare you for your undergraduate studies.

Of course, the technologies used in engineering will keep evolving long after you finish school. Civil engineers should be prepared to keep learning to use new types of computer technology throughout their careers.

Additional Resources

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Civil Engineer?

If My Undergrad Degree Isn’t in Civil Engineering, Can I Still Be Successful in the Master’s Program If I Am Strong in Math and Science?

Who Would I Want to Get Letters of Recommendation From for my Application for a Civil Engineering Master’s?

What Kind of Summer Jobs/Internships Should I Look for in Order to Apply for a Master’s in Civil Engineering?

Which Degree Is Best for a Software Engineer?

What Civil Engineering Courses Will I Have to Take for a Degree in Civil Engineering?