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Mitch,I just graduated from my Masters program for structural engineering so I feel I may have some insight on this issue. I don't believe the issue is whether or not civil engineering is considered mundane. I think generally students are at least somewhat interested in the topic when they see unique buildings, structure failures, etc. The issue instead is the future outlook on civil engineering as a profession. Especially in this period of social media, the pandemic, and the "Great Resignation", there are numerous posts on tik tok, instagram etc about how to pivot into the tech industry to chase that higher compensation and greater work-life flexibility. For all the education and similar skill set it takes to be a civil engineer, one can be a software engineer and earn 4-5x the starting salary. The nature of civil engineering generally leads us to be consultants, making us further away from the money but if we don't find a way to not only attract but also retain talent - we will be hurting in the end.
But great insight to bring up - we need to be talking about this!
Disclaimer : I love civil engineering which is why I'm still in the field but I do want to see the profession grow and take care of its own people!
Interesting thread - at least for me (now) as an educator. I think some of the comments already touch on the virtue and strength of civil engineering that as the same time is also it's dilemma (fall?). Civil engineers are inherently great problem solvers with a broad set of skills borrowing from other engineering disciplines. I wouldn't characterize this issue as necessarily bad.
I grew up in my father's CE office (back in Austria), covering everything from commercial buildings to (smaller) bridges, tribunes, sewage treatment plants, etc. - and I wanted to study anything else but CE. My mind was set on EE, since computer engineering wasn't there yet. Until I heard in a keynote lecture at a conference that I attended (on my dad's behalf) that CE is the most versatile degree that allows you to do practically anything (technical), citing a similar number of 50% of top industry professionals being civil engineers, you wouldn't have guessed that this was their core degree. Now mind that this was already well back in the last century.
While working first strictly in structural engineering, I found my passion in bridging simulations with problems in architectural engineering, and in the end wound up in academia. I still enjoy the technical diversity the major provides and how a universal understanding of applied physics allows us to do so much with it.
Now we can (and should) recruit more talent into this major, but I would not consider graduates going into other careers a failure per se ...
I've been following everyone's responses with great interest and appreciate the insight and honesty of the views that have been shared. I don't know how strategically this subject has been explored but hope that those charged with maintaining the health and sustainability of the field are following. Below is a framework - that for me - starts to put issues facing civil engineering into perspective and I hope will invite further comments as well as ideas that might help to help ensure that CE remains attractive and competitive.