Civil engineers design major projects such as dams, roads, bridges, water treatment systems and buildings. Because the work requires a thorough knowledge of math and engineering subjects, the basic educational job requirement is a bachelor's degree in civil engineering. Each college sets its own admissions requirements. However, taking the high school classes recommended for future civil engineers will help you get into an engineering program and make good progress toward your bachelor's degree.
Prospective civil engineers should take four years of English in high school to develop skills in writing and speaking, recommends the Society of Women Engineers. An engineer's job is collaborative, requiring the ability to communicate with colleagues, bosses, clients and the public. Civil engineers often have administrative and supervisory duties, requiring them to oversee job sites or explain tasks to technicians. On occasion, civil engineers give oral presentations to the public, for example to explain a project's environmental impact. They also need skills in written expression to write cost estimates, proposals and reports.
The Society of Women Engineers recommends two years of social studies for prospective engineers in all disciplines. History, political science, economics and similar classes help you understand the social context of engineering projects. Civil engineers, especially, design the major structures, such as bridges and roads, that ordinary people use every day. Engineers who put their designs in the context of economic and social issues can deliver results that meet the needs of both clients and the public.
Civil engineers need a strong four-year high school math program to prepare for the difficult classes in engineering school, such as advanced calculus and structural analysis. The University of Kentucky recommends taking math at least through pre-calculus, and preferably calculus. Other recommended courses include geometry, second-year algebra and statistics, if it's available. The Society of Women Engineers suggests taking Advanced Placement for your math classes, especially AP calculus and statistics.
Science classes, along with math, form the foundation for college civil engineering subjects such as physics, statics, dynamics and fluid mechanics. The University of Kentucky recommends one year each of chemistry, biology, physics and earth science in high school. If available, take your science classes as Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses, recommends the Society of Women Engineers.
Computer Science and Technology
Take computer science classes in high school to prepare you for civil engineering subjects such as computer graphics and computer design software. If your high school offers it, take a class in engineering technology to learn more about the day-to-day work of engineers. Not all high schools offer the same subjects, but some schools offer an alternative course in applied technology.
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- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: What Civil Engineers Do
- Society of Women Engineers: Suggested High School Courses
- University of Kentucky: Civil Engineering Degree Requirements
- University of Kentucky: Civil Engineering High School Preparation
- Science Buddies: Civil Engineers -- Key Facts and Information
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: How to Become a Civil Engineer
- Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images