Below are frequently asked questions and answers relating to the GEOE program.
Geological Engineering is an interdisciplinary profession focused on solving engineering problems that require an understanding of the geological and natural environment. It builds on a foundation of engineering geomechanics and risk management, and integrates knowledge of geology, hydrology and the environment to provide a versatile set of skills required for the design of large civil infrastructure projects such as tunnels, dams and transportation corridors, as well as for natural resource development and assessment, environmental protection and remediation. Geological Engineers enjoy the challenge of cost-effectively solving practical problems that require the characterization and engineering of natural materials: soil, rock, groundwater. The variability of the natural environment means no two projects are alike, and the problems cannot be solved from the office alone. Geological Engineers enjoy the mix of office and field work and incredible variety of sites and applications. UBC's Geological Engineering program is highly regarded and internationally renowned for both its undergraduate teaching and graduate research. Our students are in high demand in industry. More details regarding the student experience can be found on our website: http://www.geoeng.ubc.ca/
The field of Geological Engineering has a wide scope and is relevant to almost all parts of the economy. Most of our graduates work for consulting engineering or environmental firms as specialists. Many are also employed directly by mining companies and large corporations such as BC Hydro, as well as by government agencies such as the Ministries of Transportation, Environment and Forests. They carry out investigations and designs for mines, dams, roads, railways, pipelines, tunnels and other critical infrastructure. They interact with civil engineers to design essential parts of construction projects (e.g., building foundations). They are responsible for environmental assessments or clean-up activities where pollution has occurred. They prospect for minerals, building material resources and drinking water. They carry out hazard and risk assessments and mapping for landslides and earthquakes. Given this wide variety of applications, there is a high demand in industry for our graduates.
“On any given day, I can have up to three or four different projects on the go. These can range from desktop studies to characterize site conditions, to more detailed geotechnical designs for structures, foundations, slopes and excavations for different types of infrastructure (roads, bridges, buildings, mines, tunnels, pipelines). Field work is an essential component of my work. I spend upwards of 20% of my time working in the field throughout the year.”
Compared to Civil and Mining Engineering, Geological Engineers have a more well-rounded background in rock and soil mechanics, hydrogeology, environmental contamination, field methods, site characterization, and management of uncertainty and risk in engineering design. Compared to Civil they have less structures and transportation, water and waste water treatment, steel and concrete, and construction management. Compared to Mining Engineers, they focus more on the geotechnical and environmental components of mining operations such as pit slope and underground design, dewatering and environmental impacts of drainage, and mine waste management, and less on mine planning, milling and processing, haulage, and other mechanical aspects (blasting, ventilation, equipment selection, etc.).
Geological Engineering gives you a very well-rounded geotechnical and environmental degree, covering courses in soil mechanics and geotechnical engineering through Civil, rock mechanics and natural resources through Mining, geology, geophysics and earth processes through Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, and hydrogeology and additional geotechnical courses through Geological Engineering. Emphasis is placed on several unique experiences afforded through field school courses.
A typical course load in Geological Engineering varies from 39 to 41 credits per year. This breaks down to approximately 6 to 7 courses per term, plus a two to three week field course that runs after April exams at the ends of 2nd and 3rd year.
The Geological Engineering program includes a number of technical electives that allow students to tailor their degree towards their interests. Areas of focus available to students in Geological Engineering include Geotechnical (civil construction, mining, natural hazards, tunnelling, dams), Environmental (groundwater hydrology, environmental geochemistry, water quality), Energy and Resources (mineral exploration, petroleum, natural gas, coal), and Geophysics (earthquake hazards, site characterization, exploration).
The versatility of a Geological Engineering degree means that our graduates are in high demand and have a wide selection of career opportunities to choose from, as well as possibilities for further post-graduate studies. Industries that hire our students include mining, civil construction, oil & gas, transportation, utilities, environmental and natural hazard agencies, and especially, engineering consulting companies that provide services to these industries. Day to day activities for a Geological Engineer vary widely in scope. Some may be only a short field inspection, followed by a brief technical memo. Others may involve the effort of a team of professionals and technicians, stretching over a year or more. Many projects are situated locally, others in various parts of Canada (including the North and sub-Arctic). Many Canadian consulting firms work extensively overseas and their employees travel regularly. As a Geological Engineer, you have a possibility to choose the nature of your work. Some prefer to do analytical work in the office or laboratory, others like to spend much of their time in the field. Some concentrate on local work, others enjoy frequent international travel. Senior engineers can become technical experts or may choose to focus their career on project management and business. Many start their own consulting companies. Details and student experiences can be found on our website: http://www.geoeng.ubc.ca/careers.html
“I believe that Geological Engineering is a profession focused on the building and enhancement of the necessary infrastructure to support our society, and the profession allows me to contribute to projects that provide significant value and ongoing beneficial impacts.”
“I was attracted to Geological Engineering by the opportunity to travel to interesting and remote places for work, and being able to work outside.”
Although the job market for Geological Engineering is partly tied to the ups and downs of the resource industry, the versatility of our degree adds a degree of robustness. When natural resources are in high demand, so are our students. When the resource industry is down, our students are in demand for projects involving civil infrastructure. The result is that our graduating class each year enjoys a high success rate in finding a job, with almost all working in industries related to their Geological Engineering degree.
Because Vancouver is an international centre for the natural resource industry, our students have a high degree of success in finding co-op placements that provide them with unique and rewarding experiences. These include jobs both in B.C. and the lower mainland, as well as those that involve international travel. Co-op salaries rank among the top of those for the different engineering disciplines.
Our students represent some of the best ambassadors for the Geological Engineering program…
“I was attracted to the Geological Engineering program at UBC because it offered an exceptional environment to study practical, meaningful and tangible problems. My career now involves working on projects where the challenges are broad, creating the opportunity for a dynamic work environment where innovation and continued learning is needed to develop practical solutions to complex problems.”
“I found my fellow students to be keen, driven and adventurous people. They have great perspective on the natural world around them.”
“I’ve enjoyed the strong geology background together with the cross training we get by taking courses in EOAS, Civil and Mining, which makes us really well rounded.”
GeoRox, the Geological Engineering student club, is one of the oldest at UBC and one of the most active. They organize and proudly run a number of events each year that include field trips, industry nights, student competitions, social events, and many other exciting activities. As well, GeoRox is one of the most active participants in Intramural Sports at UBC and consistently places in the top 3 disciplines within the annual Engineering Week event (E-Week). They also offer Peer Academic Coaching and Public Outreach programs.
“We have the privilege of coordinating with other Engineering clubs in the EUS as well as EOAS clubs to create a diverse atmosphere for students to thrive in and provide leadership opportunities within the UBC community. GeoRox prides itself on its ability to provide great industry contacts throughout your degree as well as exciting social events.”
Geological Engineering is a demanding program, but not in a one-sided way. You need a strong foundation in math, physics, chemistry, geology and engineering science. But that is not all. You also need to have problem solving skills and sound judgment. Above all, you need to be interested in the natural world around you. Our students are creative problem solvers, who enjoy both outdoor and office work, and enjoy travel. Geological Engineering careers involve lifelong learning.