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Unconventional Careers in the field of Civil Engineering

By Vardhan Dongre posted 07-04-2017 03:31 AM



One stereotype often attached with Civil Engineers is that in private industries they often end up in Blue collar jobs involving intense manual work. A perception is quite prevalent in the society even among many young undergraduates that Civil Engineering is all about Construction Industry where they have to deal with semi-skilled/un-skilled labors, masons, working under the sun/ harsh climate amidst bricks, cement and other construction materials. Well its true!! FOR THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY BUT NOT FOR CIVIL ENGINEERING. Having such presumptions results in poor even wrong career choices and also act as deterrent for students while deciding their field of interest. Civil Engineering is much more than that and can offer several high end rewarding careers that many young graduates aspire for. Therefore in order to dispel some misconceptions here are some of the areas within civil engineering that might offer an insight in the vast pool of opportunities that this field can offer.

Like all other Engineering streams Civil Engineering is a burgeoning field of applied science that is witnessing inexorable changes due to rapid developments in other engineering fields. Today we are witnessing innumerable developments in the field of computer science such as cloud computing, application development, better computational methods, artificial intelligence etc. that has a synergic effect on all other fields of engineering. There are many merging points between Civil Engineering and Computer Science that engages one in a highly professional and successful career:

Remote Sensing/ GIS/ GPS/ Photogrammatory (GEOINFORMATICS)

Remote Sensing, GIS, GPS, Photogrammatory are different technologies but have their strings attached to the field of Surveying. Surveying is not only based on chains and tapes infact Remote Sensing is one of the most high-tech areas that civil engineering can offer. From monitoring Agriculture, Forestry, Weather activities to surveillance for military, administrative, transport services. From conservation of natural resources, 3D mapping of mineral resources to assessment of prevalent infrastructure, enforcement of Building By-laws you name it. Remote Sensing Technology is proving to be one of the most versatile fields that offers in-numerous opportunities and has room for innovation. Several new start-ups are emerging based on new applications of this technology. Of course there are market giants in this field like ESRI and Google and several others like GE, Autodesk, Bentley Systems are also entering in this arena. In India we have the The Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS,affiliated to ISRO) which is a premier institute for research, higher education and training in the field of Remote Sensing, Geoinformatics and GPS Technology for Natural Resources, Environmental and Disaster Management under the Indian Department of Space, offers MSc, M.Tech and several distance learning and eLearning programs for professionals and students alike. Apart from IIRS there are several Centers of Excellence in this field in several IIT/NITs and other institutes for pursuing career in this field.

Application of Artificial Intelligence

AI and Civil Engineering seem like an odd match however AI is providing great applications in computations involved in civil engineering. Artificial Neural Network (ANN) is not new to the research intelligentsia but it is not much well known among students of civil engineering. From Geo-Technical to Structural Engineering ANN is making predictive computations easier with its intelligent self-learning networks. Specializing in ANN will not only provide opportunities in Civil but can also open other avenues of Engineering as well. In India, however switching to AI from Civil Engineering is not easy students usually have to take courses online or have to move out of the country to specialize yet the results are equally rewarding.

Data Management/ Computational Methods/ Design Applications/ BIM Professionals

Infrastructure projects have to deal with large amount of data pertaining to design, resource management, contracting, cost management which require people adept at handling large datas in specific softwares that are crafted for these purposes. 
Structural Engineering firms and consultancies deal with exorbitant computations while designing structures. Prior to softwares these involved manual computations but again due to developing technologies several Computational softwares like MATLAB, MathCAD, Analytica which are involved in Design of Concrete Structures, Design of Masonry Structures, Timber and Lightweight Structures, Structural Use of Glass, Computational Methods for Reinforced Concrete, Computational Building Physics, Multiscale Mechanics, Computational Dynamics, Modelling and Simulation in Pavement Engineering, Cable-Stayed Bridges, Safety Concepts, BIM-based Virtual Engineering Lab, Constitutive Modelling of Soils. A career in this area can allow one to work with world class and influential architecture, interior design, engineering, and urban planning firms in the world such as Skidmore, Owings and Merill LLP. 

Forensic Engineering and Failure Analysis 

With rapid urbanization and increasing number of large scale infrastructure, increased design sophistication, more-and-more daring construction technology, safety is becoming even more important than ever before. Forensic Engineers are expected to deliver Technical Competency, Knowledge of Legal Procedures, Detective Skills, Effective Oral and Written Communication and High Ethical Standards. In recent years, there has been an increasing expression of interest in the world, about a graduate program in Forensic Structural Engineering. Professional engineering groups as well as insurance companies, government agencies, architects and lawyers have been looking for programs that could provide an integrated education on the forensic aspects of structural engineering practice.

Apart from these there are several opportunities in the fields of Transportation and Traffic Engineering,  Sustainable Infrastructure, Green Building Industry, Smart Infrastructure for Smart Cities. Involving all these in one post might have made it too longer for a read, if you found this post helpful and would like to know more about other opportunities let me know for an another post. 




07-13-2017 09:16 AM

@Sandeep Barwal Artificial neural networks is an interdisciplinary subject more of a tool that helps in solving various different engineering problems which could not be solved by the usual modelling and statistical methods. These are networks that are inspired by the biological neural networks that make our brains and nervous system. Neural networks have been used on a variety of tasks such as computer vision, speech recognition, machine translation, social network filtering etc. Just like the human mind these networks are initially trained using available data, they learn the pattern and adapt. In Civil Engineering they are mostly used for prognosis, prediction of behaviour of Structural elements, In Hydrological Predictions and Analysis like runoff prediction streamflow analysis, Flood Routing In Geotechnical Engg for soil performance analysis, pile capacity prediction, modelling soil behaviour, site characterisation, earth retaining structures, settlement of structures, slope stability, design of tunnels and underground openings, liquefaction, soil permeability and hydraulic conductivity etc. You can use MATLAB for learning and using ANN, it has a good library of commands on ANN.

07-13-2017 05:09 AM

Hello Vardhan,

Good Article. Can you pass on some more information on  Application of Artificial Intelligence. I am interested in this.