Most students seeking a master’s in civil engineering, one of the highest paying master’s degrees, have some extent of internship experience before applying to graduate school. If you’re thinking of pursuing this graduate education in the future, it’s important to start thinking about internships early on in your undergraduate career. You want to find an internship opportunity that fits into the area of civil engineering that most interests you, since this internship may set the stage for the career path you pursue and even your future graduate studies. Internships in any aspect of civil engineering, including construction engineering, transportation engineering, structural engineering and environmental engineering, are valuable to prospective graduate students.
Internships in Construction Engineering
Many undergraduate civil engineering majors find themselves interning in the field of construction engineering. Whether you work with private construction firms or in a government agency, you will use your knowledge of engineering principles and practices both in the field at construction sites and in the performance of in-office project management tasks. Your job duties may encompass everything from coordinating with contractors and tracking files, materials and project progress to surveying the site and overseeing construction workers to ensure quality and safety.
You won’t be sent to a construction site with no training and told to oversee the project. The more experience you have, the more extensive the job duties required of an intern will be. You may be responsible for more independent work as your internship goes on.
Transportation Engineering Internship Opportunities
Another big area of specialization within civil engineering is transportation engineering. Not to be confused with automotive engineering, transportation engineering refers to transportation infrastructure and systems, not the mechanical components that make up cars. An internship in transportation engineering would likely place you in a state or local department of transportation, the transportation arm of an engineering firm or an engineering consulting firm. In any case, your work may encompass everything from performing engineering calculations to doing research on policy and planning. Transportation engineering encompasses the infrastructure and systems used in all forms of transportation, from highways and roadways to rail travel and air travel.
The goal of transportation engineering projects is generally to end up with a transportation system that is as safe, economical, efficient and environmentally friendly as possible.
Internships in Environmental Engineering
There is so much overlap between civil engineering and environmental engineering that many schools combine these disciplines into one department and major. If your civil engineering interests lie in solving environmental problems like pollution, waste treatment and water purification, an internship in environmental engineering could be the first step toward your career. Internship opportunities in environmental engineering exist with private engineering consulting firms as well as government agencies and nonprofit entities.
Your work in an environmental engineering internship will depend a lot on what kind of problem your organization is aiming to solve, with interns working on spill prevention projects handling tasks somewhat different from those who focus on wastewater treatment. However, you can expect your job to require you to use technical skills in gathering, calculating and analyzing data as well as hands-on work in coordinating and managing projects.
Students may also look for internships in related areas, including water resources engineering and geotechnical engineering.
Structural Engineering Internships
Structural engineering may sound a lot like construction engineering, and it’s true that there’s a good deal of overlap between these two aspects of civil engineering. The main difference is that structural engineers are more concerned with designing a sound, strong structural frame of a building, bridge or other piece of infrastructure than with the actual methodology of construction techniques and construction project management, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. In structural engineering, there is more of a focus on design calculations and how designs will meet codes and regulations.
Structural engineering internships are often offered directly with engineering firms. Most structural engineering interns assist with designs, including both performing calculations and creating drawings. You might also be responsible for turning those drawings into actionable construction plans and for researching relevant building and construction codes. As a structural engineering intern, you may also have some opportunity to handle some project management work.
Your internship experiences likely won’t end upon getting into graduate school. Some master’s in civil engineering programs include an internship or applied research project as a required part of the curriculum to make sure students gain hands-on work experience.