Montana State University

Civil Engineering Option

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Have you ever wanted to repair a rough road, wished you could clean up some contaminated soil or polluted water, or dreamed about constructing the ideal building for a specific purpose? If so, civil engineering may be the career for you. 

Until the 19th century, all engineers were trained and employed by the military. As governments began to promote economic development, academic programs were established to educate civil engineers--those who would construct major public works and develop private industry. Most components of the world's infrastructure--highways, bridges, buildings, dams, ports, and airports--were designed by civil engineers. Such facilities surround us, yet few people have a clear perception of the educational requirements and professional responsibilities of the field. 

Civil Engineering at MSU

You'll be surrounded by excellent professors who have a wealth of experience, who are committed to your advancement, and who are willing to take the extra steps to make sure you get a quality education. You'll also be surrounded by a group of fellow students with diverse interests. Finally, you'll be attending one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. If the challenge of expanding and improving the world's infrastructure interests you, we're anxious to have you join us. 

Montana State University's Civil Engineering curriculum is designed to meet the requirements of the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, which accredits engineering programs in the United States. It develops the skills necessary to pursue a professional career and allows a graduate to work on projects which affect public safety and welfare and the quality of life in our society.

During the freshman and sophomore years, civil engineering students take courses in chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer analysis, engineering mechanics, material science, graphics, and surveying. 

In the junior year, civil engineering students complete basic courses in seven areas of the discipline. These courses emphasize solution of practical engineering problems and extend a student's scientific background and analytic abilities. 

In the senior year, civil engineering students select professional electives in one or two areas of most interest and take a senior design sequence. Senior design teams focus upon open-ended design problems that require synthesis from several specialty areas for effective solution and introduce students to the requirements of professional engineering practice. 

An engineer's job isn't finished until a design has been transmitted to those who will implement it, so courses in oral and written communications are included in the curriculum. An engineering student must also develop awareness of and sensitivity to non-technical aspects of society, thus courses in fine arts, humanities, and social sciences are included as well. 

Mathematics and Basic Sciences

  • Calculus and differential equations
  • Chemistry and physics
  • Earth Science

Technical Courses

  • Computer analysis
  • Graphics and descriptive geometry
  • Surveying
  • Materials science
  • Particle and rigid body mechanics
  • Strength of materials and structural analysis
  • Fluid mechanics and water resources
  • Thermodynamics
  • Steel, concrete, wood, and masonry structures
  • Soil mechanics
  • Highways and pavements
  • Construction planning and methods
  • Environmental engineering
  • Professional practice and ethics
  • Senior design
  • Professional electives

Written and Oral Communications

  • Fine Arts, Humanities, and Social Science

Professional Practice

In each civil engineering project, efforts are directed toward developing a functional, safe, and economical design. Successful solution of a problem requires an initial design followed by a cycle of engineering analysis and redesign. Design and redesign require experience, knowledge of construction methods and materials, creativity, and sound judgment. Engineering analysis demands a firm grasp of underlying physical principles plus facility with mathematics and computers. 

To ensure competence, states examine and register professional engineers. The plans for each project must be signed by a registered engineer who accepts legal responsibility for the adequacy of the design.

After graduating, the new civil engineer usually functions as part of a team, being responsible for a small part of a large project. As experience is gained, the young engineer may become registered and assume greater responsibility, supervising other engineers and, perhaps, serving as project engineer. Eventually, the engineer may either move into management or become an independent professional consultant. 

Specialty Areas

  • Structural engineers plan and design buildings, bridges, tunnels, dams, and other systems in which structural elements are used.
  • Geotechnical engineers conduct construction site surveys; design earthworks, retraining walls, and foundations; handle soil contamination problems.
  • Transportation engineers plan, design, operate, and maintain highway systems, railways, subways, airports, and pipelines.
  • Water resources engineers plan and design water collection and distribution systems; develop flood control and hydroelectric power installations.
  • Environmental engineers plan, design, and operate facilities that protect humans from adverse environmental conditions and that protect the environment from adverse human activity.
  • Construction engineers plan and supervise construction of facilities designed by other civil engineers.
  • Surveyors produce measurements that are required for civil engineering planning and construction activities.

Employment Opportunities

Most civil engineering graduates are employed by consulting firms, industrial organizations, or governmental agencies. Starting salaries are relatively high, commensurate with the educational requirements and professional responsibilities of the civil engineer. There are many career opportunities for all engineering graduates in Montana and throughout the Intermountain West.