top of page

Civil Engineering

What is it?


Possible Careers

When you see a tall building or a large bridge, do you wonder how they were built? This branch of engineering involves designing and building structures meant for public use. With a degree in civil engineering, you can work in cities improving their sanitation systems or even building their next big skyscraper!

  • Structural Engineer

  • Geotechnical Engineer

  • Construction Management

  • Transportation Engineer

  • Environmental Engineer

  • Sanitation Engineer

  • Forensic Structural Engineer

Meet an Expert

Brittany Epperson

Epperson Family -24 - Brittany Epperson.jpg
  • Attended Old Dominion University

  • Earned a Bachelors and Masters degree in Civil Engineering

  • Worked as a Project Engineer at Precon Marine for 1.5 years

  • Works at Norfolk Naval Shipyard as a Nuclear Engineer in the Reactor Servicing Division

Expert Q + A

What led you to choose civil engineering as your career?

  • My dad is a contractor. When I was growing up, I wanted to be just like him except go to school and actually design buildings instead of just build them. I had to choose between being an architect or a structural engineer. After doing some research, I found out there were a lot more job opportunities in structural engineering than there were in architecture. So I went civil.

What is your favorite part of the job?

  • Visualizing the different possible failure modes of a structure and crunching the numbers to see if the structural properties I chose actually work or not. I will look at a design and the loads that are acting on it, and picture how it will move, bend, or transfer the load. Then I will look through the manual and make sure that the formulas I'm using or the deflection that comes out in my 3D models look accurate to what I envisioned.

What has been the biggest challenge in your career?

  • Overcoming my insecurities and following my gut. I have always seconded guessed myself. I will do an analysis all the way through. Then months later get asked a question about an aspect of my design. I second guess my self and have to relook at all my assumptions to make sure I did it right. I usually do, but that moment of doubt is very nerve racking.

What kind of education, training, or background does your job require?

  • Civil Engineers, mainly structural, require a Master's Degree if you want to work in private industry and a Professional Engineering (PE) license. To obtain a PE you must complete the Fundamental of Engineering Exam and acquire the appropriate amount of practical experience under a licensed PE.

What are your main responsibilities as a civil engineer? What kind of problems do you solve and what decisions do you make?

  • Currently I design portable steel facilities that get lifted onto submarines. I also design platforms used to perform operations within the sub as well. Also, to help support operations, I design and build mockup facilities to simulate actual working conditions so mechanics can practice their skills prior to doing the actual work. My work group is currently tearing down and disposing of older facilities, so usually I get tasked with analyzing them in various levels of dismantle. This is to make sure the facilities are stable enough under various weather conditions, and won't fall down while they are being dismantled.

What skills, abilities, and personal attributes are essential to success as a chemical engineer?

  • You must be able to visualize what you're trying to build and take that mental picture and put it on paper or in a 3D model. You have to be able to picture how the structure will move or transfer load within itself. Also, as with any engineering field, you must be able to problem solve and learn from your mistakes.

Describe a typical day at work.

  • I come in to my office, check all my emails to answer any questions that came up after hours. I usually get a call from the mechanics to come down and fix some kind of discrepancy with fabrication or fit-up on a job that I'm cognizant over. They also get help from us on ordering material or getting paper work ready for up and coming jobs. We write procedures and make drawings of all our designs and work we cover. Most of my job is supporting the mechanics and helping them make our designs work.

What current issues and trends in civil engineering should girls who are interested in the field know about?

  • As in all male driven fields, girls will be seen differently. If they are quick and helpful they will forever be labeled as "helpful". But if you mess up once, it takes forever to get that image back. Ever girl/woman should be confident in they choices and decision making and stand their ground when being pushed back on. Men will try to walk over you or ignore you. Don't let them.

What advice would you give a tween/teen girl who is interested in becoming a civil engineer?

  • Take a lot of math, 3d modeling, and drafting courses. Especially the 3D modeling. More and more software is being developed to aid in modeling. Try and take as many classes as you can get your hands on.

Interested? Try This!

Beginner Craft

Advanced Craft

In this engineering challenge, you will be building a boat out of common household objects! Using your creativity and imagination, come up with an original design that can float in water. To make this project even more fun, compete with friends to see whose boat can hold the most weight!

In this engineering challenge, you will be building a bridge! Using your creativity and imagination, come up with an original design that can support itself and bear weight. To make this project even more fun, compete with friends to see whose bridge can hold the most weight!

Detailed Instructions:

Detailed Instructions:

Video Tutorial:

Video Tutorial:

bottom of page