If you’re interested in a civil engineering career, you might want to know what courses are in your future. An engineering curriculum is demanding and often difficult, requiring rigorous coursework in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. However, the work is also intellectually stimulating and provides the opportunity for creative problem-solving. Putting in the work needed to earn a civil engineering degree pays off once you’re able to embark on this exciting, profitable, rapidly growing career path.

Science and Mathematics Courses

To attain ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) accreditation, all bachelor’s-level engineering programs require students to complete at least one year of mathematics and basic sciences. Chemical, biological and physical sciences can all satisfy this requirement, but which science classes are most appropriate depends on the student’s area of specialization.

Civil engineering degree programs should include math courses, such as linear algebra, that cover differential equations as well as probability and statistics. Students should take a calculus-based laboratory physics course and at least one chemistry class.

Why do these science and math courses matter so much? These concepts are the foundations of engineering. Without understanding the theory and equations, students wouldn’t be able to apply these concepts to understand uncertainty, design safe systems and infrastructure and solve problems.

At some schools, students can choose specialized courses such as Probability and Statistics for Civil Engineers so that their coursework is directly related to their major and future career.

Engineering Courses

It’s no surprise that aspiring engineers need to spend a good chunk of their time on engineering classes. In fact, ABET requires accredited programs to include at least a year and a half of coursework in engineering sciences and design, which integrate science and math principles with creative application. Some examples of these courses are civil engineering systems, transportation systems, structural analysis, properties and behavior of engineering materials, elementary mechanics of fluids, geotechnical engineering, elements of hydraulic engineering and introduction to environmental engineering.

By the time students complete these courses, they should have a thorough understanding of sustainable design and professional ethics as well as familiarity with project management, business practices and public policy. Graduates of a civil engineering degree program should be able to analyze problems and devise solutions in a minimum of four civil engineering areas. They need to know how to conduct experiments and interpret research in two technical areas as well as how to design systems, processes or components in two engineering areas, according to ABET.

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


In addition to the required core courses, civil engineering students take electives, or classes that they get to choose. Often, students use these free electives to build up one or more areas of concentration within the discipline of civil engineering. Concentrations in civil engineering degree programs include Construction Engineering and Project Management, Infrastructure Materials Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Geotechnical Engineering, Structural Engineering, Transportation Engineering and Water Resources Engineering.

Civil engineering courses may come from a variety of different department, including Architectural Engineering, Engineering Mechanics and Mechanical Engineering.

Engineering Experience

If the purpose of studying engineering is to learn how to apply the theories of science and math to solve actual problems, then students need the opportunity to practice applying these concepts. Hands-on experience in engineering is very important for success both in attaining your first engineering job and succeeding at your work.

Many students choose to gain this experience through an internship or co-op program. Both internships and cooperative experience programs are meant to help students get real-world training in their field of study. Internships are shorter, normally lasting just one term, and they may be part-time or unpaid. Co-op programs are full-time paid positions and last for three terms, alternating with academic terms, so that the student completes the degree program and the co-op program in five years. Because co-op experiences are longer, students can receive more in-depth training through them and may even train in different functions within an organization.

Even if you choose not to complete an internship or cooperative experience, your real-world engineering skills will be tested before you can graduate. All ABET-accredited engineering programs include a mandatory major design experience. In the course of completing this experience, sometimes called capstone project, college seniors must develop designs under constraints that mirror real-world restrictions and meet high engineering standards.

Having internship or co-op experience is useful for several reasons, including adding to a resumé, networking with established engineers and developing skills you couldn’t learn in the classroom.