Basic Subject Areas in Civil Engineering.

Civil engineering is a vast discipline with various subject areas. Common subject areas which a Civil engineer is required to have general knowledge of, is as follows;  


Surveying is the science of map making. To start any development activity, the relative positions of various objects in the area with respect to horizontal and vertical axes through a reference point is required. This is achieved by surveying the area. Earlier, the conventional instruments like chain, tape and levelling instruments were used. In this electronic era, modern electronic equipments like electronic distance meters (EDM) and total stations are used, to get more accurate results easily.

Construction Engineering.

Construction engineering is a professional discipline that deals with the designing, planning, construction and management of infrastructure such as buildings, highways, bridges, airports, dams, railroads etc.

Structural Engineering.

Structural engineering involves the application of maths and science to determine the appropriate type and sizes of component members required to build a structure. It involves structural analysis and Design. Structural analysis involves finding the internal stresses in components of a structure. It enables engineers understand the effects of load/stresses caused by gravity, the users of the structure, and the widely varying climatic conditions and ground conditions. Choosing appropriate materials for the structure as well as finding suitable sizes of structural components is known as structural design.

Structural engineering also involves analysis of various structures like buildings, water tanks, chimneys, bridges etc. And designing them using suitable materials like masonry, wood concrete, reinforced concrete, prestressed concrete or steel. A structural engineer should design safe and economic structures using mathematical optimization techniques.

Earthquake Engineering.

Earthquake engineering involves the study of occurrence, magnitude and behaviour of earthquakes forces and the design of structures that can resist them. It is also the study of behaviour of structures and geo-structures subject to seismic loading as well as protecting the society (the natural and man-made environment) from earthquakes by limiting the seismic risk to socio-economically acceptable levels.

Foundation engineering.

Foundation engineering involves the determination of suitable soil type and safe bearing capacities of soil suitable for foundation of buildings. It also involves the various studies required for design of pavements, tunnels, earthen dams, and canals as well as ground improvement techniques.

Quantity Surveying.

Quantity surveying deals with estimating what a construction project will cost. The determination of total cost of a construction project includes knowledge of material cost, labour cost, contract cost, contingency cost etc.

Quantity surveying also involves managing all costs relating to building and civil engineering projects, from initial calculations to final figures.

Fluid Mechanics.

Fluid mechanics involves the study of mechanics of fluids and flow characteristics in order to design and construct efficient hydraulic structures. Civil engineers are more involved in the mechanics and flow characteristics of water.

Irrigation Engineering.

Water is to be supplied to agricultural field. Hence suitable water resources are to be identified and water retaining structures are to be built. Identifying, planning and building water retaining structures like tanks and dams and carrying stored water to fields is known as water resources and irrigation engineering. Constructing canals, aqueducts and regulators form part of irrigation engineering.

Transportation Engineering.

Design of good roads involves the design of base courses, surface finishes, cross drainage works, road intersections, culverts, bridges and tunnels. Roads need suitable design of horizontal and vertical curves also. Railway is another important long way transport facility. Design construction and maintenance of railway lines and signal systems are part of transportation engineering. Design, construction and maintenance of harbours and airports are also the need of globalization era. For proper planning of these transport facilities traffic survey is to be carried out. All these activities constitute the transportation engineering.

Environmental Engineering.

 Environmental engineering is the application of engineering principles to improve the natural environment, to provide healthy water, air and land for human habitation and for other organisms, and to clean up pollution sites. It involves study of sources, causes, effects and remedial measures associated with air pollution, water pollution, land pollution and noise pollution forms, as well as supply of potable water to rural areas, towns and cities as well as disposal of waste water and solid waste.

Town Planning.

Town planning involves the design and regulation of the use of space that focus on the physical form, economic functions, and social impacts of the environment and the location of different activities within it.

New towns, cities and extension areas of existing cities are to be planned properly so that suitable communication systems, educational facilities medical facilities, shopping centres are provided along with residential areas.

Project Management.

Project management is the application of knowledge, skills and techniques to execute projects effectively and efficiently. Civil engineers are involved in managing construction projects from start to finish.

In addition to acquisition of general knowledge of all subject areas described above. The civil engineer by education and experience will go on to specialize in one or 2 of them. So it is not enough for one to say he is a civil engineer, he or she should also state subject areas of specialization in the field.