Recommended High School Courses for Civil Engineering

Civil engineers use mathematics, physics and engineering principles to design transportation infrastructure.
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Civil engineering is the profession of applying mathematical and physical sciences to provide the facilities for habitation, production and transportation in an efficient, economical and environmentally conscious manner. Civil engineers design roads, tunnels and bridges as well as large facilities like airports and water supply systems. The work of a civil engineer is closely tied to the community and impacts other people in profound ways. As a result, civil engineers need to consider not just the physical stability of their designs, but also their social and environmental effects.

1 Civil Engineering Bachelor’s Degree

Many universities offer Bachelor of Science degrees in civil engineering, though some combine the civil engineering degree with environmental engineering. The civil engineering bachelor’s degree is normally a four-year program where students begin taking design and engineering courses in their freshman year in addition to the general education, mathematics and science prerequisites. This requires students entering the program to be well-prepared in high school math and physics courses. Courses in computers or computer science help high school students get ready for the computer-assisted design programs used in civil engineering.

2 Mathematics

The core skills of a civil engineer are based in mathematics. Mathematical principles are integrated into the computer programs that civil engineers use to test the tolerances of the structures they design. High school students can prepare for the bachelor’s degree in civil engineering by taking advanced math classes while in high school. The two key areas are calculus and statistics. Many high schools offer Advanced Placement versions of these classes, which are also good exposure to college level math courses.

3 Physics

Civil engineers need to have a strong background in a variety of physics applications, including thermodynamics and fluid dynamics. These subjects help the civil engineer understand how heat, water and other forces affect the structures they are designing. High school physics courses can help students get an introductory understanding of basic physics principles and vocabulary. Some high schools offer Advanced Placement classes in physics that are helpful in preparing students for the rigor of a college-level physics class.

4 Computer Courses

The majority of engineering design is done using specialized computer programs that allow the engineer to construct and test an object in 3-D. The program can add variables like the weight and density of the materials, environmental forces like wind or earthquakes and the effects of human interactions like cars passing over a bridge. These programs are complex and require not only knowledge of engineering principles, but also experience in using computer programs. High school students can improve their computer skills by taking a class in computer science or another class that involves heavy computer use.

Kate Prudchenko has been a writer and editor for five years, publishing peer-reviewed articles, essays, and book chapters in a variety of publications including Immersive Environments: Future Trends in Education and Contemporary Literary Review India. She has a BA and MS in Mathematics, MA in English/Writing, and is completing a PhD in Education.