Civil Engineering

What Is It?:

Civil Engineering is a profession that applies the basic principles of science in conjunction with mathematical and computational tools to solve problems associated with developing and sustaining civilized life on our planet. Some of the most common developments include bridges, buildings, dams, airports, highways, tunnels, and water distribution systems. Civil engineers are concerned with flood control, landslides, air and water pollution, and the design of facilities to withstand earthquakes and other natural hazards, in addition to protecting our environment for a sustainable future.

Students develop a focused program through advanced technical electives in chosen primary and secondary fields. There are seven areas of study which include:

  • Construction Engineering & Management
  • Construction Materials Engineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Hydrology & Hydraulics
  • Geotechnical Engineering
  • Structural Engineering
  • Transportation Engineering 

In addition to the areas of study, three cross-cutting programs can be chosen by students. They include:

  • Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure Systems
  • Energy-Water-Environment Sustainability
  • Societal Risk Management

For more information, please visit the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Courses That Introduce the Major:

  • CHEM 102/103—General Chemistry I / General Chemistry Lab I
  • MATH 221—Calculus I
  • MATH 231—Calculus II
  • PHYS 211—University Physics: Mechanics
  • PHYS 212—University Physics: Electricity & Magnetism

Students should consult with an academic advisor regarding course selection prior to the advanced registration period.

Possible Career Opportunities:

Civil engineers are employed primarily by government, utilities, architectural firms, builders, and engineering firms. There are also career options available in education and consulting. Civil engineers are often on the move-working outdoors at construction sites, in offices, and in research labs.

Civil engineers work in all parts of the country, and some spend their entire careers traveling and working on different projects. About half of civil engineers work for public authorities. In the private sector, civil engineers can work not only for traditional engineering firms, but also for telecommunication businesses, consulting firms, or even toy and athletic equipment manufacturers.

Common Career Titles Related to this Major:

(Some careers may require education beyond an undergraduate degree)

  • Civil Engineering Assistant
  • Civil Engineering Designer
  • Civil Engineering Technician
  • Design Technician
  • Engineering Technician
  • Field Technician

Enhancing Your Academic Experience:

  • Participating in undergraduate research
  • Applying for a study abroad experience
  • Utilizing resources of The Career Center
  • Joining a Registered Student Organization (RSO) related to this major, such as:
    • American Society of Civil Engineers: Spreads the knowledge of Civil Engineering to students and the community.
    • Chi Epsilon Civil Engineering Honor Society: Chi Epsilon maintains and promotes the qualities of scholarship, practicality, and sociability in the field of civil engineering.
    • Geotechnical Engineering Student Organization of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Enhances the education of students who are preparing to become geo-professionals.
    • International Water Resources Association: IWRA is a non-profit, nongovernmental, educational organization connecting professionals, students, and individuals who are concerned with the sustainable use of water resources. IWRA provides a global forum for bridging disciplines and geographies.

Related Skills:

  • Communication
  • Problem solving
  • Reasoning
  • Resourcefulness
  • Teamwork

Further Information:

For more information on what you can do with a major in Civil Engineering, visit The Career Center’s webpage: What Can I Do With This Major.

There are several professional organizations dedicated to Civil Engineering.  Their websites might be able to provide a glimpse in the world of Civil Engineering.  These organizations include American Society of Civil Engineers and American Society of Civil Engineers’ Publications.

For more information on the classes needed for a degree in Civil Engineering, visit Undergraduate Programs.