By Sidney May
When Civil Engineers enter the workforce, their initial goal is to obtain as much experience as possible. Another major objective is to take and pass the PE Civil exam. Many Civil Engineers decide early on, probably before graduation, what their specialty or depth subject will be. This decision is usually guided by their interests, the classes they chose in college, a subject at which they are proficient, where they’ve gained experience during an internship, or it can be simply where they happen to find full-time employment after graduation. For some Civil Engineers, none of the previously mentioned is very helpful. They still find themselves pondering over which depth subject is best suited for them.
Here are a few tips to help you decide if you are unsure about which depth subject to choose:
The famous quote goes, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” This statement holds true and is extremely applicable when selecting your depth subject. Developing a plan as early as possible is key. If Civil Engineers find themselves leaving college and still being unsure of their specialty as they enter the Engineering field, they should look to gain experience across the various depth areas if they can. For example, taking advantage of job shadowing programs or job rotations within various departments of a company is a good way to get hands-on experience. If this option is not available, Civil Engineers should plan to rotate companies early during their career to discover what their depth interest are. Typically, when an Engineer is unsure of their specialty, they should expect to change companies or job assignments every 3-5 years.
Another tip for determining your depth subject is to select one based on your interests. Throughout your career, you will be asked many times why you chose to be a Civil Engineer. This question should always guide you to what specific part of Civil Engineering sparked your initial interest and keeps you engaged in continuous practice. Typically, when you are interested in a particular subject, you are motivated to read, research, ask questions, learn, and problem solve. Being engaged and interested in a subject undoubtedly increases your chances of passing the PE Civil exam and ultimately leads you to becoming a subject matter expert.
Lastly, you should spend time talking to professionals within the industry and let them help you set career goals and decide which depth subject and career path is best for you. You should also spend your own time reading and researching to better understand your capability and level of commitment to a specific depth subject.