What is a Civil Engineering Technology Degree?

Civil engineering technology programs equip future civil engineering technicians with the knowledge and skills they need to work alongside civil engineers, who are the designers, developers, and project managers for constructing and repairing building structures and systems. These include buildings; earth and water retaining structures; roads, bridges, and tunnels; airports; railways and rapid transit facilities; canals and dams; ports and coastal systems; and systems related to highway transportation services, water distribution, and sanitation.

Students of civil engineering technology learn how to design and produce layouts and drawings of projects, typically through the use of computer-aided design (CAD) software. They learn how to read and review blueprints, calculate square footage and dimensions, prepare estimates of materials required and associated costs, conduct site inspections, develop plans and estimates for installing component systems, write technical reports, and maintain project files. In short, they learn how to become indispensable engineering assistants.

Program Options

It is important to select a program that is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

Associate Degree in Civil Engineering Technology – Two Year Duration
The associate degree is the most common credential held by civil engineering technologists.

Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering Technology – Three to Four Year Duration
Bachelor’s degree programs in civil engineering technology are designed for students planning to go on to further studies in the civil engineering field after earning their undergrad degree. These programs encompass more advanced topics and provide wider opportunities for hands-on laboratory and project-based learning.

Both associate and bachelor’s programs integrate science, engineering, and sustainability concepts with industry-specific technologies. Here are some sample core courses offered at both levels:

  • Building Methods and Materials – overview of the materials used in buildings and the methods and equipment used in constructing with these materials; materials include concrete, masonry, wood, and steel
  • Computer-Aided Drafting 1 – an introductory course in 2D computer-aided drafting, using the AutoCAD program; learning and implementing basic commands to create, edit, store, and retrieve data; skill and knowledge are developed through basic, simple drawing assignments; another component of the course is dedicated to developing print reading skills as related to construction documentation
  • Engineering Applications –introduction to Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel; Excel is used with engineering applications
  • Geomatics 1 – introduction to the survey technologist’s role in communicating land-related information to stakeholders in architectural / engineering / construction (AEC) projects; emphasis is on the efficient and accurate measurement of angles, distances, and differences in elevations and the careful recording of the data gathered; study of the theory of conducting measurements and development of practical skills of operating automatics levels, total stations, electronic data-collectors, and global positioning system (GPS) receivers
  • Mathematics – students learn to use the mathematical tools that are required in their engineering subjects, with emphasis on building science applications of algebra, geometry, and trigonometry
  • Computer-Aided Drafting 2 – further to developing an understanding of basic functions of AutoCAD, such as geometry, creation, editing, dimensioning, and annotation, students learn more advanced features of the software to facilitate drawing creation and organization, primary in a 2D setting; this will be accomplished through more involved, complex, and discipline-related projects; print reading fundamentals with construction drawings will also be introduced
  • Heavy Construction / Methods and Materials – overview of the materials used in civil engineering works and the methods and equipment used in construction with these materials; material include soils, concrete, steel, heavy timber, and asphalt
  • Highway Technology 1 – levels, stadia*, topographic, and construction survey methods; the development of profiles, cross-sectioning for contour, the placing of grade stakes and batter boards, and circular curves; drafting and calculations associated with these surveys are performed
    (*stadia is a surveying method for determination of distances and differences of elevation by means of a telescopic instrument having two horizontal lines through which the marks on a graduated rod are observed)
  • Statics – the effects of external forces on rigid bodies at rest; topics include forces and equilibrium and applications of basic principles to specific structural shapes (trusses, beams)
  • Technical Communications – communication skills for the presentation of technical information in business documents that meet client / customer needs; documents and presentations are produced in Word and PowerPoint
  • Geomatics 2 – introduction to the major steps of surveying within an engineering project: setting up project control; completing topographic surveys including terrain modeling; producing, transferring, and extracting information with digital media; staking out alignment and grades for construction work; advanced geomatics concepts such as ellipsoid, geoid, datum, projections, grids, and survey adjustments are introduced; students become proficient at using total station equipment for pickup and layout and develop confidence in the accuracy and precision of various measuring methods; AutoCAD Civil 3D is used to develop terrain and simple road corridor design used in the stakeout
  • Highway Technology 2 – introduction to principles involved in the design, construction, and operations of roads and highways, building on geomatics, computer applications, and AutoCAD knowledge; topics include road classification, level of service, interpreting topography, drainage requirements, and advanced highway geometry; AutoCAD Civil 3D is introduced to support highway design using Civil 3D Surface, Alignment, Profile, Assembly, and Corridor objects
  • Materials Testing – hands-on experience in a materials testing laboratory setting to become familiar with the mechanical properties of construction materials using ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standard test methods
  • Municipal Services – introduction to fundamental design concepts of municipal services / engineering; topics include hydraulics of pipes and channels, hydrology (precipitation and runoff), water demand, sewage generation, sewer network design and conveyance, and design of individual building servicing; also included are references to design guidance from local, state, federal, and other regulatory agencies
  • Strength of Materials 1 – the concepts of stress, strain, tension, compression, shear, bending, and mechanical properties of materials as they relate to the building industry
  • Structural Drafting – the general requirements for structural steel design drawings and shop detail drawings; drawing projects will include beam shop details and bracing details
  • Contracts, Specifications, and Estimating – overview of the various forms of contracts used in the construction industry; the style, purpose, and method of writing specifications; using the contract, specifications, and drawings, students prepare estimates of quantities of materials and construction costs for residential and industrial buildings
  • Municipal Engineering – using Autodesk Civil 3D this course teaches the principles and processes for the creation of municipal road, drainage, and services; students will select a parcel of land and produce an urban municipal subdivision design
  • Soil Mechanics – the behavior of soil and produced aggregates used in construction processes are studied through a combination of practical and theoretical methods; the material properties necessary to anticipate this behavior are determined through application of standardized laboratory test procedures
  • Strength of Materials 2 – students solve problems related to elementary strength of materials topics; further study of the effects of loads on building components; the deflection of beams and behavior of columns are also studied
  • Structures – the primary types of structures and their component elements, dead and live loads, which can be applied to a structure; using Limit State Design (LSD) concepts loads acting on members are determined, and structural elements sized
  • Calculus – calculus plays an important role in the understanding of science, engineering, economics, and business; this course focuses on the fundamentals of differential and integral calculus, with applications
  • Construction Supervision – the role of the construction superintendent with special emphasis on leadership, labor relations, construction management, and site safety
  • Foundations – soil mechanics are used to make the selection and design of typical foundations
  • Geospatial and Environmental Analysis – introduction to the concepts, techniques, and applications of geographic information systems (GIS); the focus is a fundamental understanding of data acquisition, mapping, and spatial analysis; practical examples related to transportation, environmental, and geotechnical engineering will be provided to improve student learning and provide hands-on experience
  • Steel Design 1 – the applicable codes and standards, types and properties of structural steel, and Limit State Design principles are introduced; simple structural tension, compression, and bending members are designed and detailed
  • Theory of Structures – study of determinate and indeterminate structures subjected to various structural loadings such as gravity, wind, seismic, and temperature loads
  • Reinforced Concrete Design – introduction to the design of structural members made of steel-reinforced concrete; simple beams are used experimentally to show how reinforced concrete resists bending and shear
  • Steel Design 2 – the design of steel beams, columns, and connections in accordance with codes and standards; complex connections, build-up members, plate girders, and multi-storey frames are also examined
  • Technical Report – introduction to the methods and procedures used in writing a detailed technical report

Degrees Similar to Civil Engineering Technology

A degree in architecture will appeal to individuals who have an interest in and appreciation for both the sciences and the arts. This is because architecture is itself the art and science of designing and engineering structures and buildings. It is a field with a foundation in creativity, technology, and social and cultural trends.

Architectural Engineering Technology
These technology programs teach the engineering skills required to assist architectural engineers in their work. Common classes are computers for engineering technology, architectural design and construction methodologies, structural systems, strength of materials, and technical drawing.

Building Inspection
Degree programs in building inspection prepare students to work as building inspectors, who ensure that construction and renovation projects meet building codes and standards, zoning regulations, and contract specifications. Students learn how to recognize construction defects in areas like building foundations and frames, electrical wiring, plumbing, insulation, heating systems, drainage, and sewers.

Civil Engineering
This degree field is focused on the processes of design and planning of civil infrastructure like roads, tunnels, bridges, dams, railroads, and airports. In their work, civil engineers are concerned with such things as how much weight a structure can support and the environmental issues presented by construction. The emphasis of civil engineering degree programs is math, statistics, engineering systems and mechanics, building codes, and statistical analysis.

Construction Engineering Technology
Majors in this field learn the basic engineering principles and technical skills needed to assist construction engineers. The duties of a construction engineering technologist may include developing drawings from preliminary concepts and sketches; preparing construction specifications, cost and material estimates, and project schedules and reports; conducting field surveys or inspections; or performing other technical functions.

Drafting Technology
This degree field teaches students to use computer programs to create specialized drawings that are used in engineering, construction, and manufacturing.

Surveying Engineering
Students of surveying engineering learn how to use geometry, algebra, trigonometry, and various technologies to measure and map land surfaces and their features.

Urban Planning
Degree programs in urban planning teach the processes involved in designing communities, towns, and cities. Students learn how to make decisions about the need for and placement of infrastructure like roads, highways, tunnels, bridges, airports, railroads, dams, utilities, parks, and other urban projects. Coursework includes environmental planning, which considers environmental, social, political, and economic factors.

Skills You’ll Learn

Students of civil engineering technology gain a considerable set of soft skills that are very transferable to any field of work:

  • Ability to work independently or as part of a team
  • Ability to work well under time and budget pressures
  • Analysis / Problem-solving / Design thinking
  • Attention to detail
  • Budgeting
  • Communication / Relationship-building
  • Creativity / Imagination / Vision
  • Drawing / Computer-aided design and drafting (CADD)
  • Mathematical skills
  • Planning and organization
  • Presentation
  • Project management
  • Spatial Reasoning / Visualization

What Can You Do with a Civil Engineering Technology Degree?

Graduates of civil engineering technology programs go on to work for:

  • Municipalities and cities / public works and transportation
  • Consulting engineering and architectural firms
  • Construction contractors
  • Federal and state agencies
  • Building equipment contractors
  • Water treatment facilities
  • Telecommunications and power development
  • Testing laboratories: concrete, asphalt, soil, irrigation, hydraulic

They occupy positions in various areas, including:

  • Design and construction
  • Interpreting and preparing specifications, drawings, and/or instructions
  • Infrastructure maintenance and rehabilitation
  • Project estimating (quantities and costs)
  • On-site quality assurance
  • Project management or supervision
  • Environmental protection
  • Technical sales

Common titles include:

  • Building and Construction Inspector
  • Civil Engineering Technologist / Technician
  • Concrete Plant Supervisor
  • Construction Estimator
  • Corrosion Technologist
  • Drafter
  • Highway Inspector
  • Investigator, Structural
  • Network Coordinator
  • Public Works Manager
  • Supervisor, Architectural Technicians
  • Technician, Measures
  • Technician, Road / Road Traffic
  • Writer, Construction Specifications


See which schools are the most and least expensive.

Read about Tuition