There's a lot of satisfaction to be gained by leaving your mark on the world. For some people just getting talked about will satisfy that itch, but others set the bar higher. For example, if you pursue a career in civil engineering or architecture, you'll help construct massive projects such as bridges, dams and commercial buildings, which might stand for decades or even centuries. Women are a distinct minority in both professions, but if you're motivated enough the jobs will be there.
If you're a civil engineer, you'll build things on the largest scale. You'll have several career paths to choose from within the profession. Transportation engineers plan and oversee the construction of major projects such as roads, bridges and dams. Construction engineers help design buildings, bridges and other major structures, ensuring that they're safe and durable. Geotechnical engineers work with stone and earth to create firm foundations for the work of their colleagues, and also construct retaining walls, tunnels and similar structures. Each branch of the profession relies heavily on mathematics and computer-based modeling, so you're going to need some serious math and computer skills.
Architects are builders as well, but they're responsible for the design of new structures. You spend several years learning to design attractive and functional buildings, and mastering the regulatory process needed to get a project approved by local government. Aside from the technical knowledge needed for the profession, architects must have the networking and interpersonal skills needed to develop a clientele and win contracts. It can take many years, or even decades, to reach the highest levels in the profession.
Civil engineering and architecture are closely related. It's civil engineers who construct the roads that bring clients and customers to a building, and it's civil engineers who prepare the site for construction. Architects plan and design the building, gain the necessary permits and approvals, and oversee the hiring of contractors. Civil engineers are involved again in checking the architect's design, and ensuring that it's structurally sound and that the materials specified by the architect are suitable for the purpose.
Training and Career
Architects can enter the field with either a five-year bachelor's degree in architecture, or a master's degree. Newly trained architects spend at least three more years in internships at an architectural firm before they can take their state's architect licensing examination. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects demand for architects to grow by 24 percent by 2020. Civil engineers follow a similar path, with some entering the field after a bachelor's degree and others going on to a master's degree. New engineers must pass two exams and gain work experience before they can become certified as Professional Engineers. Employment for civil engineers is expected to grow by 19 percent by 2020.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- Civil Engineers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- Architects
- North Carolina State University: What Can I Do With A Major In...Civil Engineering?
- U.S. Department of Labor: Nontraditional Occupations For Women in 2009
Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.