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FAQs for Prospective Undergraduate Students

What Do Civil and Environmental Engineers Do?
Where We Work
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What do civil and environmental engineers study?

In short, the design, construction and maintenance of the man-made and natural environments.

The long answer? Water quality and public health, disaster response and recovery, sustainability, energy efficiency and energy production, infrastructure systems (water and sewer, roads and bridges, telecommunications, power), soil and rocks, ecology, air quality, pollution, wireless sensing technology, origami engineering, waste management, and much, much more.

Our work readies the modern world for a growing, aging human population and makes life better in our communities. We are problem solvers, innovators, entrepreneurs, and global leaders. Many of our graduates work as engineers; many others do not. They’re CEOs and lawyers, doctors and bankers, entrepreneurs and consultants.

Where will I work after graduation?

Anywhere you want to, really. Our graduates find careers all over the world at places like Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, Shell, ExxonMobil, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Georgia Power/Southern Co., GE, Kimley-Horn and Associates, ARCADIS, Atkins, Schlumberger, FLUOR, Skanska, CH2M Hill, Vulcan Materials Co., Bechtel Corp., and state and federal departments of transportation.

We have alums working for Boeing, Emory Healthcare, Johnson & Johnson, McKinsey & Company, CBRE Capital Advisors, Delta Airlines, Wells Fargo, Norfolk Southern, The Coca-Cola Company, AT&T, Morgan Stanley, Microsoft, Lockheed Martin, Bank of America and Raytheon.

We have lots of others who start their own firms in engineering, technology, consulting. We even count restaurateurs among our alums.

What are the professors like?

Our professors are among the highest-rated teachers at Georgia Tech, according to course-evaluation surveys from our students. Their average effectiveness score is about 4.5 on 5.0 scale (campus wide, the average is 4.0 or a little lower).

Here’s what a recent graduate says about our faculty (and our academic advisers):

“I strongly believe CE/EnvE have the greatest and most friendly faculty and staff in the entirety of Georgia Tech. The School of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s student advising program was ranked the best in the College of Engineering. Everyone involved in the program (from professors to advisers to grad students) wants you to succeed and is willing to devote their time to making sure that happens. I really can’t say enough about the atmosphere.”

Something else to consider: our student-faculty ratio is about 20:1, pretty typical across campus and lower than most other schools in the College of Engineering.


“The atmosphere is one of innovation, collaboration and creative inquiry, and the result is world-class research that makes a difference. I can’t imagine a better setting for training the next generation of globally conscious engineers.” Joe Brown, assistant professor

Can I get involved in a research project?

Absolutely. Many bachelor’s degree students work with our world-renowned faculty members on research that’s advancing science and solving problems in the United States and around the globe. You can find more details about the ongoing research in CEEatGT here or on our faculty profile pages.

What are my minor options?

Our students pursue minors in business, computer science, foreign languages (Spanish, French and German, especially), even other engineering disciplines. Earth and Atmospheric Sciences is especially popular with our environmental engineering majors. And Georgia Tech offers minors in everything from architectural history to music to psychology.

In CEE, we’re also offering a Leadership Studies minor starting in fall 2015 with a focus on Global Engineering Leadership Development. The course work develops leadership skills, cultural competency and awareness of global grand challenges in engineering.

How hard are the classes? How long will it take to finish my degree?

Let’s be real here. You’re considering an engineering program that is among the very best in the country. So it’s not easy. That said, if you work hard, stay focused, and ask for help when you need it, you’ll do just fine. And you’ll still have time to enjoy college life and get involved on campus.

Many of our students finish their undergraduate degrees in about five years. And if you want to stay just one more year, you can think about our BS/MS program and get your master’s too.

“What I’ve found with most people at Tech is, they work really, really hard, and people are really passionate about what they do. They really believe you can make a difference. It’s nice to be around that. People have purpose and drive here.” Jessie Spruill, undergraduate student

What’s the average salary, job placement rate, and quality of life for a CEEatGT alum?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts the demand for civil and environmental engineers will grow 18% percent by 2022. That’s thanks to increased urbanization, an aging population, growing environmental concerns, rapid changes in technology and increased globalization, among other trends.

About 80 percent of our graduates land jobs immediately after graduation, and many of them secure positions even before they finish their degree. And that doesn’t account for students who stick around for grad school. The typical entry-level salary a civil or environmental engineer falls between $57,000 and $60,000. The median salary for all levels of CEEs was $82,700 in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What are my options to study abroad? Can I study abroad my first year?

You can study abroad anywhere you like, and CEEatGT will pick up some (or all) of the tab. We have a $4 million endowment called the Joe S. Mundy Global Learning Endowment specifically earmarked for undergraduate international learning experiences. We’ve sent more than 120 students to 60+ countries with the fund. It’s available each semester. Some students use it to study at Georgia Tech-Lorraine in France; to participate in Tech’s Pacific Program in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji; or to travel for field work with one of our faculty members. If you can find the study abroad opportunity, you can apply for Mundy funds to help pay for it.

“I chose our School because of the potential I saw for working on engineering projects in the developing world. In my four years at Georgia Tech, I’ve gone on seven trips to five different countries, most of them for projects and research that I found through CEE. Working on international projects has taught me valuable lessons, rounded out my engineering education, and informed my decision on where to start my career. I now look forward to putting the skills I learned in CEEatGT to work as a water resource engineer.” –Lily Ponitz, doctoral student

Should I Co-op or intern? What’s the program like in CEE? How do I apply?

We think doing a co-op or internship is a great way to expand your education (and make some money along the way). It typically takes a little longer to graduate if you want to co-op, because you alternate semesters as a full-time student and a full-time employee. But we hear from students all the time who have jobs lined up after they graduate because of their co-op work or because they interned with a company and proved their abilities. Georgia Tech works with more than 1,000 employers across the country and overseas to place our co-op students. Students apply to the Co-op program as early as their first semester as a freshman through the Georgia Tech Center for Career Discovery and Development.

Where will my classes be? Is there a spot to study?

Our classes are spread out across half a dozen buildings on campus, but the heartbeat of CEEatGT is the Mason Building. Fresh off a $13 million renovation, Mason has state-of-the-art classrooms and labs. And it features the mother of all study lounges, our Student Commons, where you can work alone or grab one of the group project rooms to throw your ideas up on the whiteboard. Students also love to congregate in the Mason lobby, where we have lots of seating and power outlets, plus abundant natural light.

How does CEEatGT compare to other civil and environmental engineering programs?

Pretty favorably. U.S. News and World Report ranks our undergraduate civil engineering program No. 3 in the nation and our undergraduate environmental engineering program No. 6.

While we’re one of the smaller schools in the Georgia Tech College of Engineering, we’re among the largest civil and environmental engineering programs in the country. In fall 2014, we enrolled 1,122 students, about 40 percent of those women (we have more women enrolled than any other program in the country, by the way). About 20 percent of our students are under-represented minorities, but we still have the second-highest number of African-American and Hispanic students enrolled, compared to other CEE programs.

“At the end of the day it’s all about the students – giving the students the best experience that they can get, exposing them to the different domains of transportation, and providing them opportunities to meet people and present their work at various forums. It really comes down to the student experience, making them have a great time here, learn a lot and be able to carry the Georgia Tech message to wherever they go. Their success is really our success.” –Ram Pendyala, Frederick R. Dickerson Chair and professor

What organizations can I join?

Take your pick, depending on your interest. We have student chapters of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Association of Environmental Engineers and Scientists, Chi Epsilon (the civil engineering honor society), Engineers Without Borders, Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, Geotechnical Society and Institute of Transportation Engineers.

How can I meet with a CEE adviser?
How involved are the advisers?

Undergrads can contact our Undergraduate Student Services Office to schedule a time to talk to one of our advisers. Grad students can check out the Graduate FAQ page or contact our Graduate Student Services Office.

Our advisers rock — they’ve been ranked the best in the Georgia Tech College of Engineering. They’ll answer all your questions and make sure you stay on track to get your degree. You’re required to meet with them as an incoming freshman and before you graduate. And if you get into trouble academically, you’ll be required to meet with them so they can help you get back on track. We all work really hard to make sure our students succeed, and the reality is that work pays off: the vast majority of our students maintain an A or B average.