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Below are frequently asked questions and answers relating to the CIVL program.

What is Civil Engineering?

Civil engineering is a professional engineering discipline that deals with the design, construction, and maintenance of the natural and built environment.

It is a very broad field made up of several sub-disciplines such as environmental engineering, construction engineering, geotechnical engineering, hydrotechnical engineering, materials engineering, structural engineering, and transportation engineering. Many of the sub-disciplines of civil engineering are themselves very broad and are made up of further distinguishable sub-disciplines. For example, hydrotechnical engineering includes water resources engineering, offshore engineering and coastal engineering. There are also sub-disciplines that bridge two or more of the main sub-disciplines. For example, geo-environmental engineering bridges environmental engineering and geotechnical engineering, environmental fluid mechanics bridges environmental engineering and hydrotechnical engineering, and earthquake engineering bridges geotechnical engineering and structural engineering. Finally, municipal or urban engineering is a very broad field that includes many of the sub-disciplines of civil engineering.

At academic institutions such as UBC, civil engineering is the name given to the academic programs that include the many sub-disciplines mentioned above. Once a graduate enters the profession and specializes in one of the sub-disciplines of civil engineering, they normally take on the name of the sub-discipline. For example, someone that practices in the sub-discipline of geotechnical engineering is usually referred to as a geotechnical engineer, and someone that practices in the sub-discipline of structural engineering is usually referred to as a structural engineer. Someone that practices in the broad field of municipal engineering is usually referred to in the industry as a civil engineer


What are the overall objectives of the program?

The objective of the UBC Civil Engineering program is to provide an outstanding civil engineering education that leads to graduates being exceptionally well prepared for careers in civil engineering and related disciplines.

Graduates of the program will have:

  • a broad knowledge base in civil engineering
  • skills in areas such as design, problem analysis, leadership, teamwork and communication
  • an understanding of the professional and ethical responsibilities of a professional engineer, and of the appropriate roles of the professional engineer in Canadian society

What options or streams are there?

The objective is to provide undergraduate civil engineering students with a broad knowledge base in civil engineering. Most of the technical courses in second and third year are prescribed. Students select five technical electives in fourth year. These can all be from one of the many available streams (sub-disciplines) to provide specialized knowledge; or can be selected so as to further strengthen the broad knowledge base.

Is Co-op work experience a good idea?

One of the easiest ways to enter the workforce is through the co-operative education (co-op) program. The UBC Engineering Co-op program gives students an early exposure to the engineering employment environment, and often leads to a full-time position upon graduation.

The majority of Civil Engineering undergraduate students enroll in the co-op program and complete three work terms over the course of their studies.

What are some of the unique student experiences?

Civil Engineers automatically become members of the Civil club, which puts on the Back to School BBQ, the Halloween Costume Contest, Beef and Pizza, and the Civil Christmas Party, as well as various other social events throughout the year. Students are encouraged to join the student chapters of professional societies such as the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering (CSCE) and the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE). There are also several Civil-specific student teams providing opportunities to gain experience in real world design, leadership, competition, and teamwork, and to create lasting memories with your fellow students. Check out the Concrete Toboggan Team, the Concrete Canoe Team, the Seismic Design Team and the Steel Bridge Team.

Where do graduates go?

Many graduates from the Civil Engineering program at UBC use the knowledge and experience they gain from the broad academic program as a stepping stone to non-engineering careers, such as in business and management, and some go on to other academic disciplines such as architecture or medicine.

Graduates from the Civil Engineering program at UBC who go on to practice as professional engineers are employed by both small and large consulting engineering companies – some providing more specialized services and others more comprehensive services; engineering companies that provide large-scale infrastructure projects; crown corporations such as B.C. Hydro; and various levels of government – municipal, provincial and federal governments, and government branches and agencies.

What about a graduate degree?

Graduates of the broad undergraduate (B.A.Sc.) degree in Civil Engineering who want to work as a specialist in one of the sub-disciplines often complete a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering with a specialization in that sub-discipline. For some sub-disciplines, such as geotechnical engineering or structural engineering, the Master’s degree is pretty much a requirement to obtaining employment.

Students who know what sub-discipline they want to specialize in often enter the Master’s degree immediately following the completion of their B.A.Sc. degree, while others spend a couple of years obtaining work experience before returning to school to complete a Master’s degree. Some engineering companies will hire B.A.Sc. graduates under an arrangement where the student completes the Master’s degree part-time while working.

Where can you get more information?

See the UBC Civil Engineering Undergraduate Handbook for more information about the program and the profession.