Students who are interested in studying soil mechanics can enroll in an Associate of Applied Science in Civil Engineering Technology program, a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering program or a Master of Civil Engineering with a Concentration in Geotechnical Engineering. Students in these programs might take courses in environmental science, hydrology and soil structure, as well as civil engineering classes such as hydraulics and surveying.
Applicants to undergraduate programs need a high school diploma or GED and a strong aptitude in math. To apply to a master's degree program, applicants must have a bachelor's degree and field experience, and they must submit GRE scores.
Associate of Applied Science in Civil Engineering Technology
Associate degree students in civil engineering technology focus on the construction, materials and cost analysis needed for entry-level positions or continuing education in the civil engineering field. Students acquire a foundation in structural engineering, materials, soils, environmental factors and infrastructure. Graduates are prepared to pursue professional work as civil engineering technicians or pursue baccalaureate-level studies.
In addition to general courses in computing and writing, students take courses on the following engineering topics:
- Computer-aided drafting
- Soil mechanics
- Structures and contracts
- Construction costs
- Hydraulics and surveying
Bachelor of Civil Engineering
A baccalaureate degree program in civil engineering incorporates study on environmental, geotechnical, water resources and structural engineering theories. Students study the physical properties of soil in the foundations of buildings and homes. The program educates students about the stability of natural resources and other structures.
Civil engineering students usually spend the first two years of the program studying math, basic science and other general education courses. The final 2-3 years focus on engineering coursework. Course topics include:
- Engineering mechanics
- Geotechnical engineering
- Structural analysis
- Hydrology and hydraulics
Master of Civil Engineering with a Concentration in Geotechnical Engineering
Graduates are prepared for careers in soil mechanics, environmental geotechnics or foundational engineering. Master's degree programs usually require a thesis or comprehensive report in order to complete the program; some emphasize engineering practice or research.
Students studying soil mechanics at the graduate level may customize their training according to specific interests. Classes on the following topics are generally available:
- Soil mechanics
- Earth structures
- Rock mechanics
- Soil behavior
- Soil dynamics
Popular Career Options
A 4-year bachelor's degree in civil engineering prepares students to enter professional practice. Students may have the opportunity to specialize at the baccalaureate level. A 2-year degree in engineering technology prepares graduates for entry-level positions on an engineering team. Specific roles may include:
- City engineer
- Structural, environmental, transportation engineer
- Engineering technician
- Survey instrument operator
- Soils technician
Career Outlook and Salary Info
As of May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that there were approximately 275,210 civil engineers employed in the United States (www.bls.gov). Demand for infrastructure repairs and upgrades, water system maintenance and additional water treatment plants will fuel this growth at a projected rate of 8% from 2014-2024. The BLS also reports that civil engineers earned a median annual wage of $82,220, as of May 2015.
Civil engineers must be licensed, and guidelines vary by state. However, in order to obtain a license, it is necessary to have four years of experience and pass an exam. Therefore, entry-level civil engineers generally work under supervision for several years. Graduates of associate's degree programs in civil engineering technology are not eligible for licensure.
The most relevant programs for students who want to get an education in soil mechanics are associate's, bachelor's, and master's degrees in civil engineering. While the undergraduate programs provide a more general overview of the field, master's degree programs allow students to focus their studies specifically on soil mechanics by declaring a concentration in geotechnical engineering.