Geotechnical engineering is a branch of civil engineering that focuses on earthwork and foundation systems. This field requires a great deal of training and education in fields such as geology, construction, mining, and engineering. If you're interested in a career as a geotechnical engineer, you'll need to pursue a degree in one of these fields, then gain work experience through internships or entry-level jobs. You can improve your chances for landing a job in this field by seeking out accredited training programs, then pursuing professional licensing and certifications offered by your state or private industry organizations.
Before pursuing a career in geotechnical engineering, candidates must earn an undergraduate degree in civil, geotechnical, or environmental engineering. Some states and countries require a graduate-level degree, though many United States (US) states require only a four-year degree. It can be difficult to find colleges and universities that offer programs in geotechnical engineering, so many applicants pursue a traditional civil engineering degree with a focus on earthwork and geotechnical services.
The next step in getting into the geotechnical engineering field is to gain work experience through internships or jobs. Internships in mining, geology, construction, or engineering can all be helpful for those new to this industry. These jobs allow prospective engineers to gain valuable insight into the industry, and to develop experience with soil testing, foundation systems, and different types of building materials. This type of experience also helps to expose employees to the equipment used in this field, and gives them practice with building codes and safety standards that affect the geotechnical engineer.
After two to four years of work experience, candidates can pursue a professional engineer (PE) license. Each US state has its own set of requirements for licensing, which include education, work experience, and a series of exams. A geotechnical engineer with a PE license is authorized to work independently in most areas, without direct supervision. Licensed engineers can also create or certify sets of geotechnical drawings or blueprints, and a PE stamp is required when applying for a building permit in most areas. Engineers will often find increased job opportunities and higher earning potential once they earn a PE license.
Those interested in geotechnical engineering careers can find jobs with engineering or architecture firms. Others work for earthwork contractors, surveying companies or government agencies. Mining and oil companies also employ numerous geotechnical engineers. Some even act as private consultants, taking on jobs for private and municipal clients.